The Renaissance of Roy Jones Jr.
By Luke Dodemaide (Sept 30, 2005) 
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Pugilism at it’s most perfect, boxing at it’s most breathtaking, the sweet science at it’s most sublime; however you go about describing the classy career of Roy Jones Jnr, there can be nothing but praise for skills that -in his prime- saw boxing appear as beautiful as ballet as a four divisional world champion and the fighter of the last era. In the context, Roy Jones was to boxing what Michael Jordan was to basketball.

Just as Jordan could get the most fanatical of football followers to change channels during Monday night football to watch his high flying heroics, Jones, at his very best, could get the most unlikely of boxing watchers to turn their heads compelled to admire his many merciless mosaics in which he worked over the likes of Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Virgil Hill, Montell Griffin and John Ruiz during his most priceless of sittings in the squared circle, a human alchemy of both an athletic and aesthetic nature.

Over history, many fighters have transcended the boxing world and the sporting world into American popular culture. But rarely have any between the ropes then transcended this fistic arena into that of the artistic world, in fact I believe there have been less than half a dozen; heavyweight champion Jack Johnson at the turn of the last century, five time middleweight king Sugar Ray Robinson in the fifties, ‘The Greatest’ of all time, Muhammad Ali in the sixties, five divisional champ Sugar Ray Leonard in the eighties and Roy Jones in the nineties and- for a period- earlier this millennium.

But if Roy’s time in the ring has predominantly been a Muriel of beauty, his last two fights have been nothing short of a nightmare of horrendous proportions for the famed fighter as on consecutive occasions, not only has Jones returned to the dressing room without the championship belts in which he cherishes, but he has also boasted bruises, black eyes and, worst of all, a somewhat battered legacy.

It took one left hand from Antonio Tarver to suggest a shattered invincibility before a nine round beat-down at the hands of Glen Johnson confirmed it.

And despite all the criticism and pleads of the sports most respected scribes, faithful fans and devoted boxing purists, wether you scream in wonder or wail, these pleads have fallen on deaf ears as Jones’ comeback is now inevitable. He has announced he is making a return to the sport of boxing this Saturday night in Tampa, Florida against his arch nemesis, undisputed linear light heavyweight champion, Antonio Tarver. Clearly it takes more than consecutive stoppages to knockout an ego.

In only eighteen short months Jones has fallen from the sports greatest fighter, it’s greatest artist to it’s greatest punch line. Never has a fighters shortcoming been highlighted to the extent of Jones’ as replays of his losses continue to cruelly and consistently light up boxing forums around the world.

So can Roy rise from the rubble?

Will these thirteen months outside of the ropes see Jones’ body finally stabilise after the excessive weight loss post- Ruiz? Allowing him to operate as he once did, returning him to the upper echelons of the boxing world.

A Roy Jones renaissance of sorts.

Hell it took the first Jordan comeback that fateful failure of losing the six game playoff series against the Orlando Magic in the ’95 postseason to serve as his base point en route to rising, reclaiming and realising his past glories the next year, winning the championship and taking not only his legacy, but the team’s to new and previously unthinkable levels, going 70-12 in the regular season.

How ironic should it be that in Roy’s attempt to reconstruct his legacy he should be facing a man billed as the “Magic Man”?

Though they share the same year of birth, Antonio Tarver’s career and current standing is something that starkly contrasts that of Roy Jones’. While Roy’s roller coaster has only just began to descend after a career that saw it fly- for the most part- more vertically than a plane in full take off, Tarver’s career has only just begun to ascend after a much rockier route to recognition. But though their careers have followed very different directions, on October 1st- for the third time- their paths will again cross.

Will Roy relive his recent reoccurring nightmares between the ropes? Or will the Tampa crowd witness the rebirth of a legend? The common thought amongst the boxing community is that rebirth- for Jones- can only come with reform. At 36, it has become clear Jones can’t do the same things he could at 26, wether this suggests an Ali-esque reinvention is uncertain, as is the question over if Roy Jones’ ego will allow himself to consider such a potentially disheartening task? At least the style of Antonio Tarver will accommodate the time and perhaps comfort to settle in and implement this alternative strategy, more then hustle and bustle of Glen Johnson’s approach would anyway.

But hey, if Roy Jones stubbornly sticks to the same formula he has followed his whole career, it still doesn’t automatically equate to another ‘L’ on his resume.
I still think Jones is capable of performing at least to the same level of his first meeting with Tarver, and lets not forget he was looking pretty good for four minutes and forty seconds into the rematch. If Jones is still going to use the same blueprint, then his speed is surely the most vital and important aspect of the bout, not only offensively but defensively as well. If Roy continues to hold his left hand lodged by his side like a gun in a holster, he must be prepared to slip, duck and dodge Tarver’s artillery while perhaps being aware he is going to take a good shot or two.

Against Glen Johnson, Antonio Tarver placed much more emphasis on outside effectiveness, and expect him to do more in the centre of the ring against Jones than he has in their previous thirteen and half rounds together, he is after all the bigger and rangier man. It was Roy’s superior skills, speed and experience that allowed him to dominate the centre of the ring in the first fight, but I believe the assumed diminishing of Roy’s skills will give Tarver the confidence to trade leather at times other than when Jones is entrenched in the corners. The addition of such tactics could bring technical aspects to the bout equating to a subtraction of action for the Tampa crowd. However the slowing of proceedings could play into Jones’ hand, with the sting out of the fight Jones will have more time to oil up his rusty parts.

Though if all goes to plan, Jones may opt for a more aggressive approach at the first bell, his ego may even suggest he attempts to blitz Tarver through the opening stanza or two, a strategy more associated with an earlier model Jones Jnr in which would see him quickly assert authority while testing the capabilities of his opponents under his lightening quick arsenal. If he is successful in commanding the respect once given to him without question, he will be able to – once again- dictate the pace of the fight.

Roy’s ability to come out with aggression and attack Antonio Tarver – as well as pretty much his overall ability over the entire course of the fight- will be mostly decided by father time and how intent he is on tightening the reins on Roy Jones as he again advances in age. Much of this question over age, it can be assumed, will be answered in the opening three minutes on the bout, a round in which I think it is essential that Jones wins.

Tarver may be fighting a somewhat fading fighter, but he by no means is fighting a mere shadow of a champion. I believe Jones’ still got game. And if I’m going to draw a last correlation with Jordan’s career, he ain’t playing for the Wizards just yet.

Antonio still has to bring his A-game to again beat Roy Jones. Because on the right canvas, I think Jones can still paint a masterpiece.
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