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The Case Against Roy Jones, Jr.
by Adam Pollack
In the beginning, there were only reasons to like Roy Jones, Jr. He was an Olympian who was robbed of his gold medal. At the beginning of his career, he took care of business in the ring, stopping most of his opponents. People forget that about Roy. His knockout wins over Ricky Stackhouse (who fought ten with Duran), Jorge Vaca (who beat Breland), and Art Serwano were brilliant and devastating. I couldn’t wait to see a Roy Jones fight. Speed, reflexes, power, and punch volume. Seeing him look so great in the beginning only led to my disappointment in his performances later in his career because my expectations were so high. I knew when Roy was winning boring that he had a whole lot more to give.
Some criticize Roy because he is a braggart. It has been suggested that some of the distaste for Roy is cultural. Blacks generally have less problems with Roy talking about how great he is. As one of my friends has said, you aren’t going to meet many black guys who say Roy Jones Jr. "flaps his jibs too much" about himself. After all, Ali wasn't liked very much in the beginning when he was bragging. However, Ali was an original and his talk had comedic edge to it that was charismatic and promotional. When Jones does it, it is just plain unnecessary garbage which actually detracts from his status. Roy is so good that a humble demeanor would actually increase the public’s admiration for him. In that respect, he should take a page out of the book of Sugar Ray Robinson, the man for who’s pound for pound greatest of all time title Roy is competing.
However, Roy was an egomaniac even early on, and although I don’t necessarily care for that stuff, it didn’t really bother me because his performances in the ring backed it up. My criticism of Roy isn’t that he is a braggart, but that when you brag that much, you need to back it up more than he does. Roy sets up high expectations when he talks about how great he is, but his performances in the ring do not back him up in the way they can and should. Unlike Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad, who give us everything they have in every performance, more recently Jones does the bare minimum to defeat his opponents.
On his way up, he convincingly decisioned Jorge Castro (a future champion) and stopped top contenders Glenn Thomas, Percy Harris, and Glenn Wolfe. Some believe that starting with his title winning effort against Bernard Hopkins, Jones began to display his cautious safety first minimalist style. However, I was not very critical of him because Hopkins was a strong puncher who hadn’t lost a fight since a four round decision in his pro debut. Besides, it was his first title fight, and that can be difficult on a young fighter. I think you have to give Roy a pass on that one because he defeated a very good fighter. He followed that up with a dull fight with Malinga until the clean knockout of a future champion. He also easily stopped Thomas Tate, another fighter who gave almost everyone but Roy hell.
At supermiddleweight, Jones was awesome and probably the best ever at that weight. Jones easily and brilliantly defeated James Toney in what I consider the best performance of his career, despite the fact that Toney was poorly conditioned. You cannot blame Roy for Toney’s mistakes. The way Jones was on that night, Toney wasn’t going to beat him even if James was at his best. His early stoppages of durable Tony Thornton (who went 12 with Toney), Merqui Sosa (who stopped Prince Charles Williams), and Bryant Brannon (undefeated at the time) solidified his pound for pound status.
However, it was about that time that he threw in the dud with Eric Lucas in which he played basketball before the fight. Roy, people want to see you perform at your best in the ring, not your worst because you are tired. If you want to challenge yourself, make it a challenge against the best fighters available. This fight was a harbinger of the beginning of Roy’s blue period. Again, what made it so bad was the fact that the fans’ expectations and admiration had risen so high because of his brilliant performances that when Roy began his lazy period, it hurt so much more.
His fight against an almost forty-year old Mike McCallum was a dull and uninteresting 12 round decision for the "vacant" "interim" light-heavyweight title. Jones actually made McCallum look good. Yes, McCallum was an all-time great at junior middleweight a decade and more earlier, but he was an old man fighting a brilliant fighter in his prime. This should not have been such a struggle. Quite frankly, it wouldn’t have been all that bad if it looked like Roy was doing his best but that McCallum was giving him hell. Rather, it looked as if Roy was doing the bare minimum to win the fight. He wasn’t there to entertain or to be a great fighter who maximized his potential - he was there simply to pick up a win by doing the least.
Roy followed the McCallum fight with Olympian and top undefeated contender Montell Griffin. Despite Griffin’s credentials, I predicted that Griffin wouldn’t go past two rounds, and he shouldn’t have. Jones again fought his one punch at a time lazy style he exhibited in the McCallum fight and made Griffin look good, laying on the ropes for a substantial portion of the fight. Finally, Jones caught Griffin in the ninth and dropped him. However, when Griffin was on the canvas, Jones hit him with a lead right and followed with a left hook.
One punch while a man is down is understandable in the heat of the moment when you have your punch momentum going. However, there is no excuse for the second punch. The disqualification was proper. I could have forgiven Roy, but what has most marred his image in my eyes is the way he handled and continues to handle that defeat.
Rather than admitting that he made a tragic mistake, Roy believes he did nothing wrong and that he got jobbed. This was no Seoul. For a man who provided intelligent commentary on fights with HBO to say something so stupid like "well I had to hit him while he was down because he could have got up and hit me" as his excuse made it all the more shocking. To this day Roy has not provided a more intelligent or mature reflection upon his mistake. The truth is Roy put himself in a frustrating scenario because of the poor way he fought the fight and then his self-imposed frustration lead to his doing something regrettable. I believe that scenario has left a bitter taste in the public’s mind regarding Jones and that he has never been totally forgiven because he has never sought contrition for what he did, and because the boring, minimalist, less than full effort ring style that in part got him into that mess continues to rear its ugly head.
Jones followed up the first Griffin fight with a devastating first round knockout of Griffin in the rematch. Boxing fans were again high on Jones because they saw how brilliant he could be; they saw what had attracted them to him in the first place. However, indirectly, the fight proved the criticism regarding Roy’s ring style in that he could have and should have done that in the first Griffin fight.
Jones then scored a strong body shot stoppage of former champion Virgil Hill. However, talk began regarding who was the true light heavyweight champion. Jones fought Hill only after Hill had lost his title belts to undefeated Dariusz Michalczewski. Because Hill was considered the true champion at the time, Michalczewski’s defeat of Hill made him the true linear champion. True, Jones did eventually unify all the official title belts, a worthy accomplishment in an era where that is almost unheard of. However, because he didn’t fight Dariusz, a bit of the luster was missing.
Jones didn’t even fight Michael Nunn, another former champion who the public would at least recognize. Instead, he fought men like David Telesco, Richard Frazier, Richard Hall (who had been beaten by Rocky Gannon), Otis Grant, Reggie Johnson, and Derrick Harmon Yes, some of these men were good solid fighters, champions and top contenders, but quite often Jones again utilized his uninteresting, cautious, minimalist style in defeating them. We recognized Jones’ ability, but we questioned his passion. One fight I think you have to give Jones credit for is the Lou Del Valle fight. Jones fought hard and even got dropped. It was a pretty good fight and I compliment Roy’s effort in that one. However, his inconsistencies have been like a tease.
I was expecting that for Jones’ first pay per view in quite some time that he would want to give a strong performance to the fans who had forked out additional money to see him perform. How wrong I was. His abysmal performance that night convinced me to never again pay to see Roy Jones fight, and that includes his upcoming destruction of Julio Gonzalez. The bottom line is that Roy is content to win boring. I know Roy can do much more, but he won’t. I was not critical of Pernell Whitaker because he was not blessed with power. However, Whitaker used what he had to the best of his ability. He boxed, but he threw a lot of punches and gave it what he had. When I watch Roy, I always have the impression that he is doing as little as possible. Therefore, I feel cheated by his performances.
Jones talked for the longest time about how he was going up to heavyweight, but he never did. He wouldn’t even fight old man diabetic coma Buster Douglas. Hell, he hasn’t even fought all the best super middleweights and light heavyweights that are out there right now. Jones wouldn’t accept a rematch with middleweight Bernard Hopkins unless Hopkins signed a rematch clause with very favorable terms for Jones. Therefore, his heavyweight talk had the aura of a wag the dog distraction from the pressure being mounted upon him to fight men like Michalczewski, Hopkins, and Nunn.
I do not believe Roy should go up to heavyweight either, because he couldn’t deal with the power. Hell, I don’t think he could beat Vasily Jirov at cruiserweight. Quite frankly, it is unfair to ask a man who is a natural middleweight/super middleweight to add that much weight. However, it was Roy himself who did the talking about fighting heavyweight and then didn’t back it up. In contrast, Felix Trinidad talks about moving up and will move up. When Jones stops him, it won’t be a great accomplishment, but just a good big man beating a good little man.