With the Jones-Hopkins rematch coming in just two days, Jim Amato looks back at a stopover period of Roy Jones Jr.'s career, and makes the case that the best fighter in the short history of the super middleweight division was in fact Roy Jones.
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The super middleweight division was conceived by the IBF in 1984. On March 28th of that year, rugged Murray Sutherland pounded out a fifteen round decision over Ernie Singletary in Atlantic City to become the first titlist of this bastard weight classification.
The WBA began to recognize the weight class in 1987. The WBC followed suit in 1988. Somewhere along the line the lightly regarded WBO also gave this division its blessing. In all fairness, the creation of the 168 pound class had some merit. The jump from middleweight to light heavyweight is a serious challenge. A few have accomplished the feat, but other great middleweights like Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler avoided the issue.
Little by little, the division began to take hold. Since 1984, though, the division has been graced by some great, great boxers. Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and James Toney all held a piece of the title at one point or another. Iran Barkley, Nigel Benn and Michael Nunn among others were recognized titleholders.
Who was the best 168-pound boxer since the inception of the weight class in 1984? Many will favor Joe Calzaghe because of his numerous title defenses. It would be hard not to say Leonard or Hearns as their classic battle at 168 lbs. ended in a controversial draw. Really, neither boxer spent a lot of time in this weight class, certainly not enough to make a major impact.
For my money, the most formidable super middleweight titleholder was Roy Jones Jr. In the two years he held the crown he made six successful defenses, all by knockout.
Roy won the title by defeating unbeaten James Toney. This much anticipated super bout took place on November 18, 1994. Toney had won the title in 1993 with an impressive stoppage of Iran Barkley. Entering the Las Vegas ring to face Jones, Toney sported a 44-0-2 record. The fight wasn't even close. Jones scored a flash knockdown over Toney in the third round. Roy then proceeded to walk off with the title by scores of 119-108, 118-109 and 117-111.
In March of 1995, Roy blitzed the capable Antoine Byrd in a single round. Then in June he dominated the popular Vinny Pazienza. The bout was halted in six rounds. Then Roy took out veteran contender Tony Thornton in three rounds. In 1996, Roy belted out the game and hard punching Merqui Sosa in two. Rough and tough Eric Lucas was next, and his grit and determination took him into the twelfth and final round when the bout was finally stopped. In 2001, Lucas would win the WBC version of the title. In his sixth and final defense he took out unbeaten Bryant Brannon in the second. One month later Roy would beat Mike McCallum for light heavyweight honors.
Taking the Toney fight and all six of his defenses into account, the combined record of Roy's opposition was an astounding 208-21-7. That should clearly show how dominant Roy was at this weight. Could Roy have beaten Leonard, Hearns or even Calzaghe at this weight? It's a good question, but it is plain that nobody other than maybe Calzaghe dominated like Roy did at 168 pounds.