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Jones vs. Tarver II – No Excuses Accepted

Mar 11, 2004  By Tom Gray

The formal announcement has not been made yet, but the rumors are already flying regarding the hottest rematch in boxing between the WBC Light Heavyweight Champion, Roy Jones, JR. and the challenger, Antonio “The Magic Man” Tarver.

There has been a PPV date of May 15th set aside and a press conference is expected shortly to set the stage for a repeat of their controversial clash, which took place in November of last year. I thought Jones did just enough that night, scoring the fight 115-113 in his favor, but he absorbed far more punishment than he ever has before and looked old and drawn after the fight.

If the whole fight was judged as one round, then I would have had Tarver a clear winner, but unfortunately every round was judged 10-9 and although Tarver dominated sessions, he scored the same amount of points as Roy did when he edged a round. If ever there was to be a case for reviewing the scoring system in boxing, then this fight was a perfect opportunity to put one forward.

I had picked Jones to obliterate Tarver in the first fight, because I thought he was the better fighter and Tarver’s mouth seemed to be getting him into more and more trouble. The 33 year old Tarver had been tailing his Florida rival for years, heckling him at every opportunity and it was clear that a major grudge had developed. I recognized the possibility of a problem with Roy dropping back down to 175lbs, but I didn’t think it would matter. Tarver would be KO’d regardless.

Instead Tarver fought a great fight and Jones was put under heavy pressure in a lot of rounds. No opponent had managed that and there weren’t too many who were brave enough to try. Usually when Jones goes to the ropes, his opponent is rendered completely ineffective because the champions’ radar is almost impossible to breach. Not in November! Tarver blasted clean straight punches through the guard, scored effectively with body shots and uppercuts and even wobbled Jones on a couple of occasions. He just fell short at the end, but will Roy be troubled as much in the sequel?

Tarver had a superb amateur background and is the only American to win the Pan-Am Games, national championships and world championships in one year, followed by a Bronze Medal at the 1996 Olympics. He has fought stiff opposition lately including a revenge win over Eric Harding and a near shut out of Montell Griffin, leading up to his career best performance against Jones. He’s over six foot tall, carries dynamite power in both hands and his enormous reach (79 inches) makes his southpaw jab a huge problem for anyone. He also has a strong team behind him, led by celebrated trainer and former two time world champion, Buddy McGirt.

Jones has had twice as many professional fights, but is two years older than the charismatic Tarver. There are many who think that he is starting to flounder and the Tarver fight was the beginning of the inevitable end. I’m not so sure. I saw Jones at the weigh in prior to his fight with Tarver and he looked positively ill, there is no way that he could have recovered by fight time. His physique wasn’t cut, his eyes looked black and his skin was ashen. The man I am describing incidentally has been called one of the best athletes in the world on countless occasions. Sound strange?

My take is that Roy Jones, JR. tortured himself to make weight and this had a major effect on the outcome of the first fight. I think that Roy wins the rematch, but he will never look awesome against Tarver because the styles don’t allow for it. The second fight will be similar to the first at long range, but the champ’s back will hardly ever touch the ropes and Tarver will struggle for success on the outside. The four weight world champion will be sharper and his trademark power shots will land with more frequency.

Jones has said that he is feeling comfortable at his old weight class, but don’t be surprised if a catch weight issue develops. My feeling is that Tarver will have his work cut out for him no matter what happens and this time there will be no controversy or excuses.

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