Roy Jones Jr. and the road back
By Rob Scott (September 20, 2004) 
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This past weekend we witnessed the superfight for the middleweight championship. This week we won’t see a superfight, but we will watch with super-interest as three division champion and former pound-for-pound kingpin Roy Jones Jr., 49-2 (38), makes his first return to the ring since his surprising knockout loss to current WBC light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver.

What a difference a year makes. At this time last year Roy Jones was the reigning WBA heavyweight champion and considered the best fighter in all of boxing. After winning the heavyweight title from John Ruiz, the thorn started to poke Jones in his side. That was when Antonio Tarver put his Roy Jones fight quest in full drive. At the Jones/Ruiz post fight press conference, Tarver publicly challenged Jones to stay at light heavyweight and face him. Tarver was the 175lb champion after winning the titles Jones vacated when he moved up to heavyweight. Prior to Jones relinquishing his light heavyweight throne, Tarver was the #1 contender and wanted nothing more than to win the titles from ‘The Man'. To who ever would listen and most of all to Roy himself, Tarver expressed his desire to face Jones. Whether it was pride or his competitive nature that had surfaced, Jones vacated the heavyweight title to drop back down to light heavyweight to face Tarver for his crowns on November 8, 2003.

When these two finally faced in each other, Tarver, gave Jones the toughest fight of his career. Jones escaped with a controversial majority decision win and was again the 175lb champion. This tough fight was a precursor of things to come. The WBC ordered a return bout with these two locking up on May 15, 2004. This was a night that Jones would love to forget as Tarver, who goes by the moniker of ‘The Magic Man’, looked into his bag of tricks and took full advantage of the situation to remove the judges from the equation and win by second round KO. A swooping left hand from the southpaw knocked Jones out and off his 175lb and pound-for-pound perch, leaving the 35-year-old Floridian to put the pieces back together again.

On a weekend that is sandwiched between the Hopkins/De La Hoya and Trinidad/Mayorga pay-per-view superfights, Jones starts the comeback process as he faces Glengoffe Johnson for the IBF light heavyweight title. While there is still faith in Jones as a competitor, there is a curiosity as to how much his first real loss will affect him. Did Tarver, 22-2 (18), tap in to the confidence of the former champion? Will Jones show any apprehension in this upcoming fight? We’ll see if any changes have taken place in his psyche as he takes the first steps in climb back to the top.

Some feel that Tarver has indeed tapped into the confidence of Jones by the fact that he is going after the IBF titleholder instead of facing the real champion. That could be the case or it could be a case of intelligence. After Shane Mosley lost to Vernon Forrest, he took an immediate rematch; after Vernon Forrest lost to Ricardo Mayorga, he too took an immediate rematch; while both did better in those return bouts, they still lost. Jones has chosen to take this fight instead of going back into the lion’s den. Another factor that has stifled a Tarver/Jones rematch is the businessman in Jones. Jones wants no less than a 50/50 split for a third fight. He feels that Tarver will not receive the money he will make fighting him if he faces anyone else. Tarver feels that he has taken a backseat to Jones for too long and wants the big piece of the pie. Don’t despair, however; whatever has to be done, this fight will take place at some point in 2005.

Even before these fighters faced off, Tarver had extreme self-confidence. With his win over Jones, Tarver truly feels that he has what it takes to beat Roy again and prove he is the better man. Jones has always thought he was a champion, but now is the time that he has to show it with someone that is true competition. Never before did we see anyone get under Jones’ skin like Tarver did before their fight. This is soul-searching time for the former champion. Jones has to realize that all the greats have lost. It is how these fighters handled those losses that have contributed to their greatness. Before his fights with Tarver, Jones just relied on his athleticism and obvious skills. In Tarver, he is finally in with someone that requires more than skills to beat – he needs skills coupled with a plan.

His comeback is a plan that starts with Glengoffe Johnson and leads to Antonio Tarver. Jones realizes that his blueprint has to be top notch if he is to redeem himself and beat the man that many feel has his number.

“What’s gonna be your excuse tonight Roy?” was what Tarver asked Jones seconds before the bell rang for their rematch; none can be made for yet another loss. With this in mind, Jones aims to prove that he still has what it takes and eventually show ‘The Magic Man’ that this last year has all been just an illusion.
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