Where Would Roy Jones Jr. Rate As An All-Time Great If He Were To Retire Today? Part 2 0f 2
Juan Angel Zurita (June 24, 2004)
In Part 1 of this two part series, Juan Angel Zurita assessed Jones’ all-time standing in each of the divisions he has won titles in. Part 2 confutes propaganda which is often used to bolster Jones’s all-time rating, discusses pros and cons which affect Jones’ all-time rating, and finally rates Jones as an all-time pound-for-pound great.
Before anyone can attempt to objectively assess Jones’ rightful place in boxing history, a few pitfalls must be avoided. Below is a bulk of propaganda which Jones’ most ardent, misinformed, and blind supporters regularly try to sell.
1. Roy Jones Jr. only has one loss.
Did I miss something? I do recall watching Jones disqualify himself after viciously hitting Montell Griffin several times while he was already down in a fight where Griffin was giving Jones many fits. Boxing rules are in place for a reason and Jones broke a major rule on that night. The disqualification was totally just.
2. Roy Jones Jr. is special because he didn’t lose in the early or middle part of his career several times like a lot of highly regarded hall of fame fighters.
Of course not. Jones comes from an era where many fighters are babied. Many all-time greats who lost a handful of times before hitting their prime or during, lost due to a number of reasons.
a) Rookies: A few of these all-time greats turned pro as kids with no amateur careers whatsoever. Others turned pro at 18-21 yet still didn’t manage to rack up decent amateur careers. You basically see a lot of old timers with early and mid career losses because they were learning their trade as professionals. As we all know, Jones had an extensive and impressive amateur career.
Examples: Baby Arizmendi, Henry Armstrong, Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore
b) Level of activity: While these kids and rookies were learning their trade as professionals, they were also fighting at an insane rate. Look up the records of Sugar Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, Ezzard Charles, Archie Moore, Willie Pep, Sandy Saddler, and many other old time greats and you’ll see that they sometimes fought several times a month or every other month. They’re level of activity was unreal.
c) Bring ‘Em All On: Jones didn’t always fight the best his division(s) had to offer, and it could be argued that he dominated for so long for that very reason. Many all-time greats fought the best around because that’s what it was all about. Fighters wanted to prove that they were the baddest hombres in the ring. With that mentality, it’s no wonder they were often bested. That’s what happens when you fight at a rampant rate against the best of your time.
d) Poor Management & ‘The Times’: Again, Jones comes from an era where top talents are often times carefully managed, and he was no exception. Can you imagine how much greater certain all-time greats would appear on paper had they had the luxury of fighting a string of handpicked opponents throughout their careers?
Another important factor that contributed to losses on the ledgers of some all-time greats were ‘The Times.’ Black all-time greats like Joe Gans and Henry Armstrong were reportedly coerced to throw fights numerous times. These black greats who were stuck in racist America basically had no choice. These are only several examples.
In a nutshell, Jones’ record looks much prettier than many all-time greats because he fought less often (huge understatement), didn’t consistently take on the most dangerous fighters, and was managed a lot better during vastly improved social times.
3. No other all-time greats have ever dominated for as long and consistently as Jones and with far less losses.
Refer to # 2.
4. Roy Jones Jr. is in a league of his own because he’s defeated 17 current or former world champions.
This feat is truly deceiving. With Oscar De La Hoya’s recent victory over Felix Sturm, he now has 17 victories over current or former world champions, counting the WBO. However, is anyone arguing that he’s one of the greatest fighters to ever lace ‘em up? Today, we have four boxing organizations with four titles apiece per division. The dilution of titles has lead to misleading accomplishments like this one. C or D level fighters with good management and connections can pick up a title these days. Can you imagine if there had been four titles per division when Robinson and Armstrong were around? With their fighting mentalities, they would’ve probably racked up 60-70 wins over current and former boxing champions. Okay, maybe that’s a bit too much, but you get the picture.
5. Jones completely dominated four Hall of Fame legends in Hill, McCallum, Toney, and Hopkins.
Let’s examine these victories:
Virgil Hill: Virgil Hill was coming off a loss to German Dariusz Michalczewski.
Mike McCallum: Mike McCallum was a 39 year-old, blown-up junior middleweight.
James Toney: A truly impressive victory against one of the top three pound-for-pound fighters of that time.
Bernard Hopkins: Jones didn’t exactly dominate Hopkins. It was a close, competitive, fight which took place before Hopkins hit his prime. We’re talking about the same version of Hopkins who was given hell against Segundo Mercado in their first fight. Hopkins wasn’t even a champion back then.
6. When Jones defeated John Ruiz for the WBA Heavyweight title, he joined Bob Fitzsimmons as the only other middleweight champion to win the world heavyweight crown.
Hogwash! Jones defeated a heavyweight titlist. If Jones really wanted to join Fitzsimmons in that rare class, he would’ve had to defeat Lennox Lewis, the true lineal heavyweight champion during that time. Diluted titles cause frequent headaches.
7. When Jones defeated John Ruiz for the WBA Heavyweight title, he joined Bob Fitzsimmons, Gene Tunney, and Michael Spinks as light heavyweight champions who went on to win the world heavyweight crown.
Hogwash part 2! Fitzsimmons, Tunney, and Spinks actually defeated the linear and true heavyweight champions of their day. Diluted titles can also cause heart attacks.
8. Roy Jones dominated every weight class he’s won titles in.
At middleweight Jones beat Hopkins when Hopkins was but a mere top five ranked middleweight. Hopkins wasn’t the badass we see today. He was still learning his trade. Take a look at Hopkins’ first fight with Segundo Mercado and you’ll see that he wasn’t the same fighter.
Jones did in fact defeat the best super middleweight around when he defeated James Toney, but he did not dominate the rest of the weight class. He didn’t defeat Frankie Liles, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Tim Littles, Michael Nunn, or Gerald McClellan.
As a light heavyweight champion, Jones feasted on a lot of third tier fighters, he never defeated the linear champion, Dariusz Michalczeski, nor did he ever dominate Antonio Tarver. Against the latter, he barely squeezed out a win in their first fight and was knocked out in the rematch.
Roy Jones Jr. never officially dominated an entire weight class. The closest he came to accomplishing that feat was at light heavyweight, but he missed his opportunity by failing to conquer Michalczeski.
9. Jones’ place in boxing history should not be affected by the fact that he didn’t face Vassily Jirov, Dariusz Michalczeski, Bernard Hopkins (rematch), Frankie Liles, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Michael Nunn, Gerald McClellan, and Julian Jackon, because he would’ve beaten them silly.
Wasn’t it a foregone conclusion that Curry would beat Lloyd Honeyghan?
Wasn’t it a foregone conclusion that Tyson would squash Douglas and Holyfield?
In recent times, wasn’t it a foregone conclusion that Shane Mosley would out-speed Vernon Forrest? There was all this talk about Mosley bypassing Forrest to dominate the junior middleweight division. Surely, Forrest had no business in the ring with the return of ‘Sugar’. What were they thinking?
Ironically, many believed that Jones defeating Tarver was a foregone conclusion as well. Tarver had lost to Harding and many felt he’d be no match for Jones. Tarver nearly defeated him in the first fight and finished the task in the rematch. Go figure!
If you’ve followed boxing long enough, you’d know that boxing doesn’t work that way.
Styles make fights and when you consistently take on the best, you’re bound to run into some problems even against fighters that you’re suppose to destroy on paper.
Justly, Jones’ place in boxing history should take a hit for failing to fight all of those fighters. It’s not just one or two opponents we’re talking about. There are more than a handful of them. It’s not absurd to think that several of those fighters could’ve upset him.
Rating Roy Jones (Pros)
* Spanning four weight classes (three of the original eight), Jones dazzled the boxing world with his flash and skill, picking up titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight.
* Taking into account the list of fighters he didn’t face, we must also take into account those he did manage to defeat. He dominated several current and future Hall of Famers more convincingly than all of their previous or subsequent opponents.
* James Toney, a great fighter in his own right, has never been dominated like Jones dominated him. We’re talking about a fighter who has since proven himself at cruiserweight and who is now attempting to take over the heavyweight division.
* Virgil Hill was still quite formidable when Jones became the first man to knock him out with a picture perfect body shot.
* Since his loss to Jones, Hopkins has gone on to establish himself as the most dominant middleweight since Marvin Hagler. He hasn’t lost a fight since losing to Jones and has racked up a record 18 defenses at middleweight. He’s currently rated as a top three pound-for-pound fighter. For what it’s worth, The Ring Magazine currently rates him as pound-for-pound #1.
* Say what you will about John Ruiz, but he’s currently a top five heavyweight and has given many top heavyweights fits. Fighting him was a calculated risk, but an impressive performance nonetheless.
* Jones was not quite ‘The Fighter of the 90s’ but close to it. I grant Pernell Whittaker that distinction. Second best is not bad at all though considering that I rate Pernell Whittaker as one of the top fifteen fighters to ever step into the ring.
Rating Roy Jones (Cons)
* Roy Jones Jr. has been an exceptional talent throughout his career, but his reluctance to consistently test himself, damages his all-time standing. If he would’ve had the same mentality as Ray Robinson, Henry Armstrong, or Roberto Duran, he might’ve cracked the top ten. However, that’s all mere speculation. Those fighters actually took on the best and prevailed more often than not while in their primes. Jones cannot boast the same.
* When he did take on a few top quality opponents, he faired very well, therefore, it’s difficult to understand why he was so reluctant to consistently face the best. Why did he take an eight year break between Toney and Ruiz? Maybe he knew something that we weren’t aware of?
* Jones’ all-time standing is further damaged by the nature of his struggles with Antonio Tarver. Sure, he was 35 years-old, but so was Tarver. It also doesn’t bode well for Jones that he struggled and lost to the best light heavyweight he ever faced. Tarver gave boxing historians a bit of insight as to how Jones would fair against the taller, more powerful, all-time light heavyweight greats.
* Jones was still considered the top pound-for-pound fighter by many when he barely scraped by Tarver in their first fight. Likewise, he was a heavy favorite, and still the perceived pound-for-pound head honcho when he was knocked out in two rounds in the rematch.
* Can anyone think of the last time the perceived pound-for-pound king was knocked out with one punch? Can anyone think of the last time an all-time great fighter was knocked out with one punch while still at the top of the pound-for-pound ranks? And please don’t mention Lennox Lewis. He’s not an all-time pound-for-pound great and he was never at the top of anyone’s pound-for-pound list. Further, Jones was never known for having a tender chin like Lewis. That makes his knockout loss even more devastating.
Jones’ Rating Per Division (Summary)
Middleweight # 10
Super Middleweight # 1
Light Heavyweight # 7
Jones’ All-Time Rating
First off, it should be noted that I have two all-time ranking lists. The first includes fighters from all eras, dating back to the late 1800s. The second I call my ‘Modern’ list and it typically rates fighters who fought from the 1930s to the present. I put more emphasis on my ‘Modern’ list because I find it difficult to rate fighters from eras where there is limited video footage, and because this list focuses on eras post full-integration.
Rating Jones as an all-time great is still a bit perplexing. One has to find a balance between the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s not easy.
Per my estimation, if Jones were to retire today, he’d definitely crack the top 35 on my first list without hesitation. He’d probably fit somewhere between the late 20s and early 30s. Top 20 is a deep stretch. Those slots are reserved for the elite core who consistently tested themselves against the best of their time. Most of those slots also happen to be dominated by boxers who fought at a freakish rate. Conversely, on my ‘Modern’ list, the picture looks a bit different. Jones rates somewhere between 22-25 due to the omission of several pre full-integration greats.
In closing, this article hypothesized on how Jones would rank all-time if he were to retire today, but since he isn’t really retired, his all-time rating could still improve or suffer. To improve it, he’ll have to avenge his knockout loss to Antonio Tarver in impressive fashion. Jones proponents have always argued that Jones has never had any real competition because he was simply too great to be tested. Well, finally a ‘test’ has arrived. Greatness is often defined by how a fighter reacts to adversity and this test may ultimately define Jones’ place in boxing history. Should he avoid Tarver or suffer the same fate in the rematch, his all-time standing could suffer.
That said, these ratings are tentative since a boxer’s place in boxing history cannot be fully understood until years after he’s left the boxing scene. And as we know, the final chapter of Roy Jones Jr’s illustrious career has yet to be written. The boxing world shimmers with the anticipation of its release.
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