The first fight wasn’t particularly pleasing to watch. There was none of the great moves, stunning blows or quirky defensive moves often associated with the marquee fighter. It had lulls in action, with the main attraction appearing drained early and choosing to lie up on the ropes open to attack. There was none of the great moves, stunning blows or quirky defensive moves often associated with the marquee fighter. His opponent was willing, but tentative when action shifted to center of the ring and let a huge upset slip away from him.
So why has the boxing world been anticipating the rematch since it was announced this past March?
The reason is simple, the name Roy Jones, JR. A man who has consistently been in boxing’s pound for pound rankings for ten years, appearing unbeatable against world class fighters like Bernard Hopkins and James Toney along with winning titles easily in every division he has competed in. RJJ has ruled for so long many wondered if there was a challenge for him. Enter Antonio Tarver.
Had the Don King labeled “Black Superman” finally met his “Bizzaro Superman” in Antonio Tarver and was he holding fists full of Kryptonite?
Antonio Tarver has always been driven by Roy Jones, JR. and credits Jones’ bad decision in the Olympics for motivating him to return to boxing. Last November, Tarver looked to step out of his shadow and be recognized as the best light heavyweight competing today. The tall southpaw with quick hands and long reach had earned his shot by forcing his way up the ranks to capture Jones’ vacated titles, but more by hounding Roy at press conferences and getting under his skin, telling anyone that would listen he would beat Jones including the four division title holder himself.
Few gave him a chance of winning or even making the fight competitive, but he proved them wrong and showed up appearing confident, ready to win and most importantly, not intimidated by the test before him. Tarver wasn’t dominated by his adversary and in the early rounds, controlled RJJ. He stood in front of him, landing hard shots while avoiding Roy’s counters. Tarver would leave Roy with a badly swollen eye and looking like a beaten man, on top of nearly handing him his first legitimate loss if not for Jones stepping up in the final two rounds and stealing back the fight.
The excuses, the protests and a call for vindication.
Results of the fight left many fans divided on who had won and even more wondering where RJ was. The alter ego of Jones was promised to make an appearance and dispatch Tarver in the same brutal fashion that Montell Griffin was subjected to last time he appeared. But he never appeared and in his place a drained, tired looking Roy showed up. Even before the fight began Jones had told HBO analysts that he only felt like a “six” at best and afterwards claimed that losing twenty six pounds of muscle had taken its toll.
Excuses aren’t anything new in boxing almost every boxer with a bad performance has used one, but looking at Roy’s appearance and actions made this one seem credible. His body didn’t look strong and his skin had a sallow appearance. He also claimed to be unmotivated for this fight since he was looking to face Mike Tyson, and had not properly taken the weight off. To top it off, he was said to be suffering from an abscessed tooth that prevented him from obtaining proper rest.
While he may have had valid reasons, many fans at ringside weren’t buying any excuses other than Roy had finally met his match in a faster, inspired Tarver who outworked him. That his age had finally betrayed his legs and he couldn’t pull off the slick moves he depended on throughout his career. Claims also went up that he was given the benefit of biased judging and for the first time in his career he heard the catcalls of a crowd who felt the decision was wrong.
The biggest voice in this protest was naturally Antonio Tarver, never at a loss of words he maintained that he won the fight and Roy’s marked up face proved it. Although he was not without excuses himself when asked why he stopped fighting in the mid rounds and why after hurting Jones in the tenth he let last two rounds slip away. He states that he had become complacent with his domination and felt he had done enough to win, but the judges had stolen it from him.
The calls for a rematch soon went out. The need for satisfying answers to an indecisive fight demanded and vindication for either of the two fighters.
The winner and new / still Champion!
Roy Jones, JR. is not known for granting rematches to boxers he has beaten. His feeling is “I beat them what’s left to prove?” Obviously by granting a rematch he is acknowledging that it wasn’t a convincing enough win and wants to redeem what is his worst professional showing. He has an ego to satisfy and leaving this unresolved with fans thinking Tarver got the better of him allows him no peace. He has received credit for showing championship mettle by sucking it up in the final rounds, but only a decisive victory will let him retire peacefully.
Tarver isn’t without his own self-esteem issues to deal with, knowing that he let a chance at superstardom slip from his grasp by not pressing the attack. He envies Jones, JR., covets his success and will to the best of his ability not let another shot slip away. He has the tools to make a successful ruler of the light heavyweight after Jones, JR. has gone, but without a win over him, he may never find peace.
Both fighters are at very different levels of their respective careers, but the match carries the same degree of importance for each. For RJJ it’s to wind down a legacy of a champion while Tarver is looking to start his own. Look for each fighter to bring their best.
Roy Jones, JR. is the better man regardless of what happened in the last fight, with more talent and a naturally gifted boxer. He made some wrong training choices and it almost cost him, Roy’s too smart to let it happen again. It won’t be easy, mainly because Tarver is a difficult opponent, but RJJ will fight a different fight this time. Look for him to stay of the ropes and challenge Antonio in the center. Tarver may talk, but he is unsure and tentative when Roy controls the ring and lacks the experience along with discipline to be effective enough to win. If he couldn’t knock Roy out with all the opportunities he received in their first meeting, how can he expect to beat a top notch Jones?
Unanimous decision- nine rounds to three for Roy Jones, JR.
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