Tarver vs Jones: All The World’s A Stage
By Jason Petock (October 12, 2005)  
Photo © Lamar Standish HoganPhotos.com
Unlike the rest of the world, I did not have the luxury of seeing Antonio Tarver vs. Roy Jones Jr III when it originally aired on October 1 on HBO PPV. This being said, I do have HBO and was able to see the fight in its semi-entirety (minus pre-fight buildup and ring walks) this past weekend on October 8 when it was re-aired for the rest of us slackers. Many media and pundits said after this fight that it was lackluster, boring and uneventful. I’m going to be the anti-hype of this equation and offer in my humble opinion that it was a good fight in retrospect. Both men came to fight, although several would argue that all Roy Jones Jr. did was run for 12 rounds, more or less. Jones’ reflexes were still intact however, and although he didn’t dazzle us like he used to when he reigned supreme, he did land the best punch of the entire bout, a hammering right hook that bounced off Tarver’s dome with accuracy and precision in the 9th round, his best round of the night.

Granted this fight wasn’t on the same caliber of other noted trilogies of boxing that we have seen in times past. But even so it was a professional prize fight with two valiant warriors giving their all (even if it appeared to the average eye that they weren’t). In our stiff criticism and heightened expectations of our boyhood heroes we tend to forget that much like the rest of the world, and I know you’ll find this hard to believe, they are very much like us. They are human. And in being human they also have the ability to feel pain, have an off night, become injured and even feel sad. They don’t work in office buildings, they don’t push papers for a living and they don’t punch a clock. They fight dammit. They do what we only wish we could do and then some. Take that into consideration the next time you slight someone who had an off night or didn’t perform up to YOUR expectations. Boxing is hard enough without all the excess that we provide it.

So what did Tarver vs. Jones III tell us about either man, and where each is going in his career? Unlike those who are rushing to sweep Roy Jones Jr. under the rug as fast as they can, I’m going to offer you a different slant on things. I think he still has a couple of fights left in him to be honest here. As ridiculous as this might sound it’s not that far off if you think about it. He still has razor sharp reflexes and the problem that he’s currently facing is far from physical, it’s mental. We all remember what happened to sensation ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley when he suffered his first devastating losses. He became a shell of his former self and had to rebuild himself back up into the dynamic fighter that he has always been. A cracked ego is a hell of a thing and no one knows this better than a professional fighter. A loss is hard to take when you never lose and all of a sudden everyone and his brother is saying you’re a has-been.

While Antonio Tarver clearly won against Roy Jones Jr. in this last fight, and he should be commended for his struggles in the fight game and eventual Championship, he looked really stiff legged and drained in the latter portion of this fight. He’s a great rangy fighter and deserves all the credit in the world (as does ANY man who is brave enough to step into the ring and bare his soul for entertainment), but he looked awkward at times and even apprehensive, as did Jones. It appeared that his conditioning was lacking somewhat, although I think it was more to do with the pace that Roy set for him while on his bicycle avoiding any damage. I don’t think Antonio thought he would be chasing Roy for 12 rounds.

We have all heard Roy Jones Jr. say time and time again that the hunger just isn’t there anymore and I believe him. He said it again at the end of this fight, and you know a guy who’s fought his entire life since being a child and has accomplished the things that he has in his lifetime deserves a break. He got robbed at the Olympics (which should give him his gold medal already, they do it for every other sport – why not boxing?). Maybe the ability to demolish his competition isn’t a goal for him anymore. Some would suggest that it’s not his ability but rather his level of opposition. I don’t believe this. I feel that Roy Jones Jr’s heart isn’t in boxing anymore and he’s become, for lack of a better term – bored. That still doesn’t mean that I don’t think he has a few more battles left in him, I do, like I stated earlier.

Now I’d like to address a few things that happened during the post fight interviews. Did anyone besides me see the sincere respect and gratitude that both men showed each other? Tarver told Jones, “Way to go Champ.” Then when Antonio Tarver was interviewed by Larry Merchant he offered the following in defense against Merchant’s forceful onslaught of Jones: “You have to step into our shoes to understand what’s going on in the ring. Give the man credit. I can’t see like you. I fought one of the greatest fighters in the world.” Why is it that the fighters themselves are often the ones giving their opponents more respect than the interviewers who are merely middleman between the fighters and the fans? Could it be that they understand how hard boxing is and the amount of dedication and hard work it takes to become a fighter, while the rest of us just pretend to know even a 1000th of what that’s like? I think it is.

I’d also like to address some closing comments that were made. I’m not going to mention any names but here’s a taste of what they said concerning Roy Jones Jr: “He was a great fighter in his time. He made a lot of money and had a great career. But his performance was embarrassing.” Embarrassing? Embarrassing to who? Not every fight can be Ward vs. Burton, Barrera vs. Morales or Hagler vs. Hearns. But to say that a fighter fought an embarrassing fight has to be the biggest insult there is. What was embarrassing about Jones’ performance? The fact that he showed up in shape, ready to fight but didn’t suffer unnecessary punishment like you expected? Or was it that he didn’t get KO’d for a third time and his skull didn’t bounce off the canvas? I love boxing just as much as the next man does, but if the only reason people (meaning media) felt that Jones did poorly was because he didn’t throw punches and was cautious, then maybe they’re watching the wrong sport. They also said that no other fighter in history has been so pathologically cautious in his career. I think Jones’ cautiousness made him the superstar that he became and eventually hurt him in the end in some ways. I’d personally rather see him functional still and doing commentary on HBO than in a hospital bed or worse.

Whatever Jones or Tarver do for the rest of their respective careers I wish them the best of luck, health, happiness and continued success. They deserve that much.
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