Last Five Fights: Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins

With the 17 years in the making rematch between Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins coming about in just four short days, let's look back at the last five fights for both fighters. This is going to be a fight week feature for all major fights from here on out, or if you don't want to consider this fight "major," all interesting enough fights. And, well, the last five fights feature for this one might be more relevant than just about any other.

We'll start with Roy.

Fight 1: Felix Trinidad (W-UD-12 / January 19, 2008)

Jones turned 39 three days before this fight at Madison Square Garden, paired up with former welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight titlist Tito Trinidad, who turned 35 nine days before the bout, and hadn't fought in nearly three years. He had been essentially retired by Bernard Hopkins in 2001 (he fought once more in Puerto Rico in 2002, then returned in 2004), and then announced his retirement after being similarly embarrassed by Winky Wright in May 2005.

The event was a money grab. Don King infamously grossly overcharged for ringside seats to the event, which predictably he had trouble selling. But the show did quite well on pay-per-view, turning in 500,000 buys. This was pretty significant, and spoke to the brand power of both Trinidad and Jones, the latter of whom was still rebuilding his career after three straight losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson -- which included two ugly knockouts -- in 2004-05. After those fights, Jones picked off Prince Badi Ajamu and Anthony Hanshaw on small pay-per-view events.

This, of course, has been a recurring theme for Jones since the horrific loss to Johnson in '05. Lose to good fighters, rebuild some on easy marks, claim to be "back," lose to a good fighter again, rinse, repeat.

Jones did dominate Trinidad, and to this day I feel Roy sort of "carried" Tito through the 12 rounds. When he turned up the heat, he was obviously too big and strong for Trinidad, and even too fast. Roy at 39 was still fairly quick, especially compared to a bloated and rusty Trinidad. Hell, Roy at 41 still has speed. This fight was a physical mismatch. Jones, though old, is just a bigger man than Trinidad, and also was still in fighting shape. Trinidad was too little and clearly didn't carry 170 pounds well at all. Trinidad has not fought since.

Fight 2: Joe Calzaghe (L-UD-12 / November 8, 2008)

Hopkins had lost to Calzaghe earlier in 2008, and Joe returned to the States to pick the bones of another faded legend, though this time he wasn't doing it to a guy who was the Ring light heavyweight champion, who had been looking good in recent fights

Like in the Hopkins fight, Calzaghe was knocked down early. But while Hopkins made a go of it all night, Jones did not. Roy was clearly outclassed by Calzaghe, who at times even toyed with Roy. It didn't help Jones that his corner had absolutely no idea how to deal with a cut, as evidenced in that photo above and to your right. They did as bad a job on the cut as any corner could have. Roy was hung out to dry with that thing, not that it would have really made a difference.

Roy did fight bravely through the blood, and showed that he still had plenty of guts. But I also feel that, like the Trinidad fight but backwards, Calzaghe "carried" Roy a little bit. Joe's hands had become so fragile that he couldn't really punch with much authority by this point, but he could have abused the cut more than he did and get it stopped. He didn't. Instead, he cruised to a decision.

This fight is notable for a couple of things:

  1. Easily the worst HBO "24/7" in the history of the series;
  2. A firm confirmation that American audiences didn't give a hoot about Joe Calzaghe. The show did less than half of what HBO figured it would on PPV, and less than half of the Jones-Trinidad bout from earlier in the year (500K was their projection, reportedly). The show did 220,000 buys on PPV.

It was also the last time Calzaghe fought, but for different reasons than Trinidad.

Fight 3: Omar Sheika (W-TKO-5 / March 21, 2009)

The famed March Badness show (read the live thread if you have some time to kill). Sheika, a journeyman who had had a few big fights years back, had been out of the ring since September 2007. He had losses on his sheet to Calzaghe, Markus Beyer, Jeff Lacy, Scott Pemberton (twice), Eric Lucas, Thomas Tate, and an early career points loss to can Tony Booth. In other words, Sheika was old, rusty, and never really got over the hump in the first place.

So the fight was a sham, no better than the Ajamu fight or the Hanshaw fight, and I'd even throw the Trinidad fight in the same league except Trinidad is a big name. But whatever. Jones slapped Sheika around some, but couldn't discourage him in the slightest. After four rounds, I had Roy up 4-0, and then it was stopped in the fifth by referee Tommy Kimmons. It was an awful stoppage, as Sheika was looking right at Jones and still fighting. He wasn't hurt one bit and certainly wasn't in any real danger. He wasn't fighting very well, but it was a very early hook.

I ranked this fight as the eleventh-worst TV fight of 2009 in December. Overall it was a pretty wretched night of fights for both boxing and MMA.

Also noteworthy: though the stoppage was, in my view, incredibly premature, this was Jones' first win inside the distance since he'd beaten the tar out of Clinton Woods in 2002, which I consider to be the last of the "true" Roy Jones performances. (The heavyweight fight with John Ruiz was something of a novelty, and he was never the same after.)

Fight 4: Jeff Lacy (W-RTD-10 / August 15, 2009)

I got married on this day, so I couldn't be truly in the moment watching the fight, as I didn't watch it until the next afternoon when I got home. Jones looked very good, and earned some rave reviews. "He's back!" they said. I gladly noted that Jones had indeed looked sharp, but argued that he was certainly not back.

For starters, Lacy was not on the radar at 168 when Jermain Taylor dominated him out of that division, and he's just plain not good anymore. He's not a fringe contender, he's simply not any good. Lacy had come into this fight with this for recent output:

  • The terrible beating at Calzaghe's hands
  • Fights against Vitali Tsypko (MD-10), Peter Manfredo Jr. (UD-10) and Epi Mendoza (MD-10), all of which he won but you can argue well that he lost
  • A one-sided loss to Taylor
  • Another tight win against Otis Griffin (MD-10)

So who did Jones really beat? He beat a guy who at 32 was even more washed up than Roy Jones. Lacy hadn't looked good since beating Scott Pemberton before he was made to look like a scrub by Calzaghe. It had been years. This was not any better than Sheika or Trinidad.

Fight 5: Danny Green (L-TKO-1 / December 2, 2009)

I said right after this fight happened that I had the feeling they'd still do the rematch with Hopkins, and that I was OK with it. I still am. I didn't really have that much interest in it before, and Jones getting stopped by Green in one round dropped that even more, but hey, I'm still buying the fight.

I'll say this. Having watched the fight several times at this point, you can certainly argue that the punch that put Roy down was behind the head, and that the referee maybe stopped it a bit early. You can argue that. I don't think it was an early stoppage. Yeah, Roy wasn't being hit, but Roy Jones had been in pro boxing by this time for 20 years and seven months. He knows you have to punch back or risk being stopped. He initially made no excuses, then made some excuses about Green's handwraps (weeks later), and since has just kind of ignored that the fight ever happened.

So what are we looking at with Roy Jones Jr.'s last five? Three wins that I think are fairly meaningless, the second-worst beating of his career against Calzaghe, and a one-round stoppage loss against Danny Green. Jones is 41 years old now, frighteningly well past his best days, and really hasn't even been competitive against a top opponent since 2003.

The look back at Hopkins' last five is after the jump.

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(Photo by Nick Laham / Getty Images)

Bernard Hopkins has, by any measure, had a remarkably better last five fights than Roy Jones Jr., which is a plain fact. How much better, though?

Fight 1: Antonio Tarver (W-UD-12 / June 10, 2006)

Here's one thing worth pointing out immediately. You'll notice already that we have to go back to 2006 to trace Bernard's last five, while Roy's go back to just 2008. True, the quality in opposition for Roy and Bernard is way different, but fighting is fighting, and Bernard's done less of it. Honestly it probably doesn't mean anything at all, but it's there.

Hopkins, 41 at the time, was fresh off of back-to-back disputed losses to Jermain Taylor, who had ended his lengthy reign as middleweight champion of the world. So instead of dwelling on that too much, Hopkins decided to jump all the way up to 175 pounds and face the legit light heavyweight champion of the world.

And since there's no other way to describe it, let's put it the way it is: Bernard Hopkins kicked Antonio Tarver's ass from pillar to post that night. After the fight, Tarver even said that had Bernard "felt like it," he could have stopped him. Tarver would also later suspect that his water had been drugged, but that's less notable.

As an aside that has nothing to do with Hopkins, Tarver was on one hellacious run at this point. He had avenged his loss to Eric Harding, then fought Montell Griffin, then Roy twice, then Glen Johnson twice. He then fought Roy a third time, then fought Bernard Hopkins. God knows I've made my fan's feelings on Tarver clear over the last four years or so that we've had this site running, but the man didn't duck anybody. (Well, until Danny Green.)

This was a shocking result at the time. I know it's pretty recent historically, but boxing has indeed made some new fans, or brought some back, in the last three years or so. I think the level of awe that surrounded Hopkins' complete domination of Tarver might get lost in the annals of time. This was stunning. Hopkins was 41, jumping up two weight classes, and fighting a guy who had been about as good as anyone in recent years. And Bernard destroyed him. Tarver himself was 37 at the time, but kind of a young 37, with only 27 pro fights.

Fight 2: Winky Wright (W-UD-12 / July 21, 2007)

Bernard took over a year off before accepting a challenge from Wright, who agreed to fight Hopkins with a 170-pound catchweight. Wright was clearly not comfortable at the weight, and it doomed him. He looked heavy, and he was. Like Trinidad, 160 was sort of pushing it for Wright, and 170 was clearly way too much for him. He put up a pretty game fight, but Hopkins was just better, bigger and stronger, and in much better shape. Bernard had beaten Winky before they ever even got to the ring. He had the fight won while the two were in training camp, but nobody pays $50 for training camp reports of, "Actually, Winky looks kinda flabby at this weight, and I don't suspect he's going to have much of a chance to win."

Fight 3: Joe Calzaghe (L-SD-12 / April 19, 2008)

There are people that will swear Hopkins deserved this win. Judge Adalaide Byrd scored it 114-113 for Bernard. I just do not agree. I scored it 117-110 for Calzaghe on the first viewing, and then 116-111 on a second viewing. I was definitely on the high end of pro-Joe cards, but God help me, I just cannot see Bernard having won this fight, and I've tried to find rounds that I could score differently, just to argue with myself, which I like to do.

Calzaghe ran Hopkins ragged. Bernard is noted for his fanatical attention to conditioning, his work with Mackie Shilstone, and all that, but Calzaghe made him look his age for once. Jermain Taylor had similarly done this, but I thought the two Bernard-JT fights were exceptionally close, and thought this was obviously Calzaghe's win, and that he fully deserved the victory. He had Hopkins breathing heavy and going into the reserve tanks. He had Hopkins confused at times. He was just a better boxer on this night.

Would it have been the same if you put them prime-versus-prime at 168 pounds? I don't know. Calzaghe would always have been a tough style match for Bernard, but Bernard definitely ranks higher on my brain's silent "greatest of the era" list. I do know Calzaghe wouldn't have tired a younger Bernard as easily.

Fight 4: Kelly Pavlik (W-UD-12 / October 18, 2008)

A month before the Calzaghe-Jones PPV flopped, this one did, too. But one of those fights (Joe-Roy) is all but forgotten as anything more than Calzaghe's last fight and the idea that he took an easy name mark to the bank, while the other (this one) is remembered as yet another master class performance from an all-time great, once again just when no one thought he could do it again.

Look, Bernard Hopkins is 45 years old right now. He's going to fight Saturday at 45. He was 43 when he took on the 26-year-old, unbeaten (34-0, 30 KO) middleweight champion of the world in October 2008. And like the Tarver fight, there's no other way to put it. Bernard Hopkins kicked Kelly Pavlik's ass from pillar to post. He mauled him, gave him ten boxing lessons over the course of 36 minutes in the ring, and to a great degree, burst Pavlik's bubble. Kelly Pavlik is a real good fighter, but it's two years later almost and he still hasn't quite shaken this loss in the minds of the public.

Two things I'll never forget about this fight:

  1. Hopkins' goosebump-inducing staredown of press row after the fight;
  2. Hopkins literally giving Pavlik boxing advice after the fight. He wasn't cocky, he was telling Pavlik that he could be better than he already was if he worked harder.

Fight 5: Enrique Ornelas (W-UD-12 / December 2, 2009)

Hours after Jones was knocked out by Green, Hopkins casually beat former fringe middleweight contender Ornelas in Philadelphia. It wasn't much to get excited about, but it shook the ring rust after over a year off. About on par with Jones' win over Lacy, I'd say. Ornelas is a brave, tough fighter, but he's well below Hopkins' class and isn't a light heavyweight.

The key to Bernard's last five: never, ever count out Bernard Hopkins. Doubt him at your own peril (heaven knows I have), but never assume he can't do it.


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