Jones Jr - Johnson / De La Hoya- Hopkins: A September to remember
By Jim Cawkwell (September 28, 2004) 
Photo ©Mr.Will/
Necessity is the mother of invention. Therefore, I keenly anticipated a reconstructed Roy Jones Jr. since such an occurrence was never more greatly desired. Glengoffe Johnson however was not pondering his soul in search of some divine reincarnation to guide his fledgling legacy as the IBF light heavyweight champion. Johnson resembled a bemused spectator during his ring-walk, his eyes soaking in each bewildering moment offered to him by a fanatical response from the Memphis audience. Dubbed the 'Road Warrior', Johnson, a refreshingly humble realist ascended the ring steps to enter the ring before a member of his camp somewhat comically reminded him to face the audience that had paid to see him as well as the return of the superstar Jones. Johnson gingerly indulged a deviation from his routine and raised his arms towards them, probably, as reckoned by most observers, for the last time as a champion.

Johnson’s initial onslaught appeared to be fueled by adrenaline absorption, a futile offering the superior athlete in Jones would surely weather through the rope-a-dope, quickly finding a way to punish such petulance. Johnson threatened Jones’ decidedly subdued demeanor with less fervor in the second round with a tantalizing tactical shift. Incredibly, Johnson, the journeyman champion, began to execute a perfect strategy to bring down boxing’s superman. Keeping Jones at an ideal range, Johnson stepped forward with jolting body jabs followed by overhand rights seemingly oblivious to the once formidable threat of Jones’ lethal counterpunches. Johnson’s ambition grew with each round as his consistently educated pressure dominated Jones. Jones resembled a fighter whose mind was doubtlessly flying through the calculation of possibilities while simultaneously enraged at the stubbornness of his grounded physicality, unable to realize any of them.

The end of so many things arrived suddenly in the ninth round just as the customary surge through the championship rounds only a thoroughbred like Jones could navigate en route to victory seemed inevitable. Johnson made a routine lunge towards Jones, receiving no response he thrust himself into the most crucial right hand he had ever thrown. Jones’ body paralyzed on impact and was finally condemned to its resting place by an obligatory follow-up hook from Johnson. There, alongside Jones’ limp and battered body lay the legacy of a future hall of fame career, the hope of his supporters and the possibility of another colorful confrontation with consensus champion, the ever-loquacious Antonio Tarver. Visibly shocked, Tarver was perhaps searching for Don King on the speed-dial of his cellular phone and the possibility of some future compensation against a King heavyweight champion in the wake of Jones’s demise.

The wonder of Johnson’s victory is sweetened by the fantastic symmetry and irony that the drama of the last week in boxing has revealed. Middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins reached the summit of his distinguished reign in Las Vegas against Oscar De La Hoya last Saturday in the same round as Johnson reached his. However, the last laugh belongs to Johnson. Just as Hopkins stole Johnson’s unbeaten record in their fight in 1997, now Johnson has denied Hopkins the one thing he finally desires, the chance to rectify his own loss to Jones, the pain of which has been appreciating for a decade.

The Golden Execution

"Just because you are paranoid, it does not mean they are not after you." However, Bernard Hopkins never intended to afford anyone the remotest chance of denying his greatest victory. De La Hoya earned a measure of redemption to shadow his lackluster effort against Felix Sturm by standing his ground, but Hopkins executed his nineteenth defense and basked in the warmth of ultimate vindication. Hopkins had previously alluded to De La Hoya’s resolve against hurtful body attacks, a tactical indication that paled against his macabre throat-slashing gestures. Now in hindsight, his words accentuate the power of his achievement.

With Felix Trinidad long gone in his native Puerto Rico, my inner conspiracy theorist knew that De La Hoya would lose his rematch with Shane Mosley almost exactly a year ago. Victory would have allowed De La Hoya to depart gracefully, but boxing was not ready to lose its superstar or the revenue he generated and sure enough, in defeat, De La Hoya’s insatiable thirst for glory was desperate for a resolution. Regardless of his position as a businessperson at the helm of his promotional company and reality television show, the blood of a warrior boils beneath his sanitized and expertly marketed exterior and in Bernard Hopkins, there was no greater conquest in his search for absolution.

Although the 'Golden Boy’s' record does not quite sparkle as it once did due to the infliction of four losses, at least two of those were contentious enough to dismiss. Now he has suffered a stoppage defeat but perhaps its manifestation in the esteemed company of Hopkins is still not enough to begin his demythologization. Of course, De La Hoya’s millions could buy him an undeserved rematch with Hopkins, a notion that would appeal to his competitiveness but would be nonsensical to the boxing world considering Hopkins’ emphatic conclusion of affairs. In the event of his retirement, my hope is that De La Hoya is remembered as a great fighter, a warrior that did not indulge his status to evade risk but gravitated towards it, placing himself in harms way in the name of greatness.

Bernard Hopkins should certainly round up his tally of consecutive middleweight title defenses to twenty before trying to engage more marquee name fighters, safe in the knowledge that his accomplishment is not one that will be equaled soon. I believe that Hopkins represented the zenith of De La Hoya’s career. Oscar De La Hoya is a man who has everything except that grand sense of closure to his career that will remain elusive and certainly impossible to patch together in another redemptive effort with Mosley or an uninspiring dance with Ronald 'Winky' Wright. Glengoffe Johnson has a logical appointment with Antonio Tarver to decide the argument of precisely who is the best light heavyweight in the world. Finally, the day has arrived when the great Roy Jones Jr. cannot contribute to that dispute. It is sadly ironic to note that despite Jones’ best efforts to evade excessive punishment through his ring-craft or strict negotiations, it found him in the end anyway.

Roy Jones Jr. once asked a Pensacola crowd if they wanted some "get back". Then, in a state of total denial, it was a question that he was determined to answer. Unfortunately, as in all walks of life, sometimes the answer you get is not always the answer you want.
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