“When he shows up in the ring and the moment moves him, he’s as good as it gets…” Larry Merchant comments on Roy Jones Jr, prior to Jones’ fourth round stoppage of Virgil Hill.
The once unbeatable prize fighter went down with an almighty thud! The four weight world champion’s instincts were to get up, but his body was let down by the one thing that had secured his greatness his brain. Does this analysis sound familiar? It does to Roy Jones Jr, because it has happened to him - TWICE!
Roy Jones has always spoken about himself in the third person, as if he was the physical specimen that controlled his all conquering spirit. He knew how good he was and he made damn sure that everyone else did as well. His performances were solo attractions and consisted of such artistry and grace that you wondered if anyone could be better.
He was more gifted than Robinson! He carried more firepower than Leonard! He was more versatile than Ali! This is not to say that he was a better 'fighter' than any of these former champions, but in terms of athleticism and natural talent, he was king. I always looked upon him as a renegade, sort of like the Bruce Lee of boxing. He was way before his time and a tremendous gift to his profession, who beat quality fighters effortlessly.
Sure there are embarrassing mismatches included in his half century of pro fights, but he solidified his standing and that is a fact. Anyone who tells you that Tarver unlocked the door on all of his weaknesses and that his previous forty nine opponents were inept need to brush their teeth, because they are talking sh#t! I will always believe that Jones’ decline was his own doing and that the ego which fuelled his whole career killed him as an athlete.
It was ego that made him drop back down to light heavyweight and fight Antonio Tarver. It was ego that made him opt for an immediate rematch. And it was ego that set him up for the kill against Glen Johnson. After winning a heavyweight title at around 200lbs, he opted to lose 25lbs of 'muscle' in his mid-thirties to make a fight that was going to do nothing for his legacy. He took more punishment from Tarver than he had in his previous twenty outings, but still managed to take a razor thin decision. Having not learned his lesson the first time round, he put his body through the same torture and got flattened with one punch, after five minutes of action. The subsequent defeat, at the hands of Johnson, merely closed the casket. The Jamaican would have been completely outclassed two years ago, as sure as Sunday follows Saturday.
It wouldn’t take the most outrageous cynic in the world to say that Jones has lost his last three fights. In fact a lot of fans would state that as a fact. So something clearly went wrong after Roy came back to 175lbs. Tarver is a fine fighter, but he is no legend in the making, despite what he tells you. There is no facet of Tarver’s game which strikes me as incredible, although he is huge at the weight and has very good power. What else had he done in his career that suggested he had the makings of a giant killer? He was late into the professional ranks and Jones was an established champion when Tarver made his debut. He had to settle for a split decision against Reggie Johnson and was taken the full twelve rounds by a jaded Montell Griffin. Hardly the stuff legends are made of!
I make the case that physiological loss, combined with the biggest ego in the world knocked out Roy Jones before Antonio Tarver did. In the last year Jones has lost the cut texture of his physique, his reflexes, his general awareness, his timing and his punch resistance. The bottom line is that a man in his mid-thirties cannot legitimately build himself into a full heavyweight and then drop back to 175lbs, without inflicting major damage upon himself. Do you think that Michael Spinks considered dropping back to light heavyweight after he defeated Larry Holmes at around the 200lb mark?
It was suicide and Jones paid the price for an ego that got out of control.
Roy has effectively allowed his critics to feast on a washed up 175lb carcass, which they have been dying to do since his championship reign began.
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