Love, Fear and Roy Jones Jr.
By Martin Wade (September 7, 2005) 
Photo © HBO
Fear: The agitated feeling caused by anticipation or realization of danger. An uneasy feeling that something may happen contrary to ones hopes.

October 1st is around the corner for Roy Jones Jr., by safe prediction on that night someone’s legacy will be forever enhanced (or tainted) in the eyes of boxing fans. In each fight against childhood antagonist Antonio Tarver we were treated with the unexpected from each man. In fight one Roy Jones exhibited the grit to pull out a close decision when it was obvious from the onset that his former glitz had betrayed him. Fight two showcased Tarver; a fighter of destiny chasing down (through the media), prophesizing (got any excuses tonight Roy?) and then finally vanquishing the myth of Roy Jones with a single left hand in the second round.

Since that historic punch grounded boxings man-meteor both fighters have tasted defeat at the hands of Glenn Johnson. With no young lion on the light heavyweight horizon to instigate purging, Jones and Tarver remain at center stage, preparing to sort out the emotional cesspool that is the most compelling rivalry in boxing.

On paper, this fight looks like a route in favor of Tarver due to the way Glen Johnson manhandled Jones in September 2004, demoting Roy to analyst duties for HBO. The WBC even (albeit suspiciously) mandated the Pensacola quicksilver undergo brain scans (in light of the nature of his last two knockouts) to validate clearance for this final installment with the ‘Magic Man’. I’m of the belief that each fight involving bitter rivals tells a different story; each fight has a central theme that dictates the outcome. The third fight between Ali and Frazier was tainted with the specter of death. Joe made it clear that he was ready to bring brutal closure to the trilogy and end Ali’s derisive chatter forever. Joe pledged to dissect Ali’s heart (because there’s no turning back), which ultimately led to Eddie Futch’s decision to salvage Joe’s long-term health.

Roy and Antonio together compel us like Ali and Frazier because they bring out the best and the worst in one another. Both warriors have acknowledged the need for closure; both want to settle accounts once and for all. Having tasted the canvas decisively Roy Jones is the fighter whose mental approach will gauge how the events of October 1st will unravel.

In my humble opinion the theme for Jones/Tarver 3 will be that of Love and Fear, the two sponsoring human emotions that color all that we do. All other motivations are simply byproducts of the two. Each man negated money by quick agreement and their level of achievement is without question. Anger and resentment is old territory for both men, therefore only love and fear remain.

In life fear is a constant due to the fact that we are all subject to change, we are often forced (despite our fear) to adjust. Often we enter into certain situations fearing the worst but nevertheless we tend to do the things that we must do. For Roy Jones Jr., a man defined by doing exactly what he wants to do, this is a situation beyond alien to him. For the first time in his career Roy Jones is doing what he must do. There has to be an element of fear in that. Pugilism, already rich with violent consequence is a difficult enough proposition – now inject the reality that this is a man who is financially solvent and beyond his prime years. Luckily for Jones fear is a companion, just one that he hasn’t taken into the ring with him since he gave up 30 pounds to John Ruiz in 2003.

Cus D’Amato theorized that the fighter who properly utilized his fear was the one that would emerge heroic. He watched Floyd Patterson become immobilized by the menace of Sonny Liston and later (from his afterlife) watched Michael Spinks assume the same haze at the hands of a young Tyson. Once Buster Douglas pulled back the curtain on Tyson an almost legendary inferiority complex was exposed which cemented a psychological blueprint. Ali was indeed frightened and stressed by the reality of fighting Sonny Liston as evidenced by his elevated heart rate at the weigh in. Later mythologized as the first of many mind games by ‘The Greatest’, the truth is probably closer to the youngster being able to galvanize his emotions into heightened reflexes. Poor Sonny did scare the kid…into being faster than he already was. Even George Foreman out sizing Joe Frazier in height and weight admitted to fear being the governing emotion in the most devastating display of power that boxing has ever witnessed. Sugar Ray Leonard was goaded into anger in his first fight against Roberto Duran to disastrous results.

Roy Jones Jr. entered the second fight with Tarver angry and resentful of the course his career had taken. Before the first fight Roy fully intended to cash out at heavyweight by playing keep away with Evander Holyfield. But instead a year later found himself listening to additional hyperbole from the prolific orator. This was certainly an ‘I hate my job’ moment for boxings reluctant genius. Ever wonder why the moment you become bitter at a job you get fired for something outrageously sloppy? Attitude, children, Attitude. Roy Jones Jr. in both fights with Antonio Tarver was too pompous to be frightened and thus learned the flipside of the anger coin. Now, after being removed from his faculties twice, Roy Jones is sufficiently scared of his Tampa, FL. ‘homie’. The lingering question is, how will the fear manifest itself.

- Love -

When there’s nothing behind you but wall and your well past the usual defense mechanisms that get you by, the only thing left is your loved ones. We all have people that we acquaint ourselves with, but there are only a few that we would call on in an alley fight. For me that person was my cousin Troy, to the point that he would periodically ask me if anyone was bothering me. The people that love you know your weakness, and more importantly they know what you are capable of. Alton Merkinson (respectfully) was perfect to steer a ship that consisted of one exhibition of kinetic athleticism after another. Roy Jones Sr. is the perfect choice for the fighter in winter, a son in need of his father for the first time in his illustrious career. Whatever the outcome, Roy can depend on his father to inspire, challenge and, in worse case scenario, to shield.

For years Roy Jones Sr. sat watching his son grow in stature, content with the background but no more than a call away in times of distress. He allowed himself to be portrayed as boxing’s Joe Jackson just as long as he and his son knew the truth about the bond they shared. Roy Jones Sr. even sat by and watched his son lose maintenance of his gift through lack of focus and preparation. Just as long as ‘little Roy’ won (and thus remained happy) ‘big Roy’ stayed in his place. Now the son will stand off against Antonio Tarver and father time, both threatening to destroy what remains of his confidence. If Roy Jones emerges victorious, anger and ‘getback’ will get all of the credit but love and fear will have provided the essential fuel.

Eerie similarities: There’s a certain pound for pound Picasso, blessed with lightening speed and potential who says that Roy Jones is a thing of the past. Imagine this, if Roy Jones wins in October he will be the ‘man of the moment’ with PPV buys topping his history making performance against John Ruiz. As of this writing this gifted young pugilist just dissected an overmatched, lovable Italian American opponent, is currently pricing himself out of dangerous fights with southpaws and insincerely challenging much bigger men. Not to mention the liberation from father/trainer, clothing lines that you can’t find, a record label in stagnation and taking a stab at fighter management. To make matters more disconcerting is the fact that this great young fighter’s last real pound for pound ‘statement’ came in 2001! To say you are more relevant than an older fighter is normal, the law of the jungle. But to say those things while ‘becoming’ that older fighter is something fans should make note of.
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