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Hopkins, Jones and Tarver; One Time for the Fans
Feb 17, 2004 By Brent Hedtke
The sport of boxing appeals to its’ fans for a myriad of reasons. For some, two men risking their lives with nothing, but their fists satisfies a sadistic hunger but from the safety of their homes or a balcony seat. For others, the intellectual aspect of the sport can be as stimulating as a brutal knockout and as aesthetically pleasing as a great ballet, albeit with a little more blood. It is for this reason that every boxing fan has a personal favorite fight. A fight that stands out as the template for what the sweet science can be when all the right components come together.

For me it was when the great middleweight champion “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler moved up 15 lbs. to take on undefeated light heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. At this point you might be saying to yourself “Gee, I don’t remember that fight, are you sure it happened?” If you didn’t see it that’s probably because it took place in one of the most underrated fight venues of all time: my mind. And unfortunately, that is where most of the great fights have been happening lately.

By now we have all hopefully come to accept the sanctioning bodies and the alphabet titles they hand out as a hindrance to our sport and rely solely on the titles and rankings of the Ring Magazine to determine who stands where. And right now Roy Jones, JR. stands at the top of the heap followed closely by undisputed middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins.

Hopkins and Jones have shared the one and two spots for the better part of the new millennium and have left little room for debate about their talent. Their careers have run parallel since their 1993 encounter in which Jones, JR. emerged victorious against a very green yet game Hopkins. Since then they have dominated their division(s) and talks of a rematch seem to always be in the air. Now, nearly 11 years later, a rematch finally seems possible. At this point the only thing separating the two is 15 lbs. and a little guy from Florida named Antonio Tarver.

Last November, Tarver gave Jones the closest thing to a loss he’s ever experienced with the exception of the DQ against Montell Griffin which really doesn’t count. Tarver has since clamored for another chance at Jones and Jones seemed more than happy to get the image of Tarver pinning him against the ropes and landing clean right hands to his face out of the minds of the viewing public. It seemed the only thing that could get in the way was money and I’ll save you the suspense, it did.

With each fighter possessing a business savvy that won’t allow either to take a back seat the fight was ordered to go to purse bid. During these negotiations Tarver and Hopkins made it a very apparent that they will not be subscribing to each others fan club. The two biggest mouths south of the heavyweights entrenched themselves in a war of words that would make Quentin Tarantino blush and climaxed with Tarver’s guest host appearance on last weeks Friday Night Fights. (It will be really interesting to see what Hopkins has to say during his guest hosting spot next week.)

Suddenly, there was a whole new angle added to this story. Just when a Hopkins/Tarver fight was starting to look very promising the WBC ordered Jones to defend his title against Tarver or he would be stripped of it. Good news for Tarver, bad news for fight fans. If Jones defeats Tarver again, what need would there be for Hopkins to fight him?

It’s time for Roy Jones, JR. to set an example for all fighters and tell WBC where they can stick their title. We all know that titles give you a little more leverage at the negotiating table, but at this stage of the game no one cares. 17 divisions x 4 major titles = 68 champions. That sounds like a heck of a lotta work to remember who’s who and I think I’ll stick with “The Ring” champions.

Hopkins has said in the past that the reason he makes his mandatory defenses against the Morrade Hakkars of the world is because if he doesn’t he will be stripped of his titles. I only have four questions for him. Yeah? And? So? What? If he and Jones are truly fighting for history then they must remember that it is the fans that remember the history and often times the ones who record it.

So, the simple solution goes something like this. Jones vacates his WBC title and allows Tarver and Hopkins fight at whatever weight they agree on. This would allow for the winner to face Jones in what would be one of the biggest fights in history. If Hopkins defeats Tarver then Hopkins/Jones would be a fight to determine the best Pound for Pound fighter alive. Now, I’m not a tennis fan, but if the #1 and #2 players in the world were playing each other and American Chopper wasn’t on, I’d probably watch it. A Jones/Hopkins fight would interest even the most fringe boxing fans and would be huge for the sport.

Also, if Hopkins fights Tarver that would give Oscar De La Hoya a chance to take one or two tune ups at 160 lbs. in preparation for a megafight with Hopkins that the Golden Boy has claimed he wants (but has shown little interest in trying to solidify.)

If Tarver defeats Hopkins it will prove that his first showing against Jones was no fluke and the public clamoring for a Tarver/Jones rematch would be even bigger than it is now.

Both Hopkins and Jones have cemented their place in the Hall of Fame. Right now though, it is their chance, quite possibly their last, to secure their place in the hearts of the fans. There has been plenty of talk about how we can improve our sport. It is not up to Senator John McCain or Teddy Atlas to form a national commission. It is not up to HBO to instate the Ring Magazine Champions as their own and promote them as such. It is up to the fighters to make the best and most competitive fights out there regardless of the terms. If Hopkins, Jones and Tarver don’t fight each other it will confirm to us all that styles don’t make fights, dollars do. And that is a scary thing.

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