Finally! Roy Jones is back where he belongs: in the ring.

After a nearly nine month absence from the squared circle, Roy Jones returned to take on light-heavyweight icon Virgil Hill. What took so long? Since his last bout, in which he nearly decapitated Montell Griffen for blemishing his record, Jones has announced he was going to move up to heavyweight. Then he wasn't. Then he was on HBO's "Chris Rock Show" claiming he would fight at cruiserweight first. Then he wasn't. Then he was going to fight Hasim Rahman because George Foreman wouldn't. Perhaps he would fight Jeremy Williams for $5 million? Nope...Roy wanted $10. James "Buster Seams" Douglas? Yes, no, yes, and finally no. Finally, out of nowhere, Jones accepts a challenge from Virgil Hill. Forget that a year ago this would have been for the undisputed light heavyweight title. This is 1998. This fight was to see who was the best 177 1/2 pounder in the world. Huh?

Because Jones is no longer the WBC 175 pound champion (or maybe he is?), Jones contracted the fight with Hill at 177 1/2 pounds. He also contracted to weigh in the day before the fight. Until yesterday. On Friday Roy was saying that the proper weigh-in time was 6:00 a.m. on the morning of the fight. The reason: Jones accused Hill of steaming down to make weight and was fearing the extra hours would allow Hill to rehydrate himself back to 185. Let's forget that Roy himself claimed on HBO broadcasts that he used similar tactics against Toney, and that his own walk-around weight was 190. Roy claimed he was just barely able to get UP to 177 1/2. After some standing off which seriously threatened to cancel HBO's expensive live broadcast, the fighters weighed in. Can't anything with Roy Jones Jr. be easy?

Yes. The fight itself.

Roy Jones, despite the above contradictions, was the smaller man in the ring tonight. He was shorter, had a smaller reach, and was clearly outweighed by his opponent. But the North Dakotan champion was no match for the force of nature named Roy.

Hill began the fight sticking is best and only weapon, a deliberate and stinging jab, into Roy's midsection. He landed several of these punches until Roy decided to fire back. Displaying speed that is downright shocking, Roy was able to land his patented lead left hooks and blistering lead rights onto Hill's chin by the end of the opening stanza. Jones' heavy hands continued to land and set the pace through the second round, as Hill gamely pressed on with his plan to alternately jab Jones' body and head. The third round provided some glimpses of excitement as both fighters traded flush blows and corresponding shaking heads to indicate that the punches didn't hurt. Although Roy easily won all three rounds, Hill was beginning to settle into a rhythm. His jab was about as effective as it could be against Jones, and he was having some success in cutting off the ring.

But in the fourth, Virgil Hill's persistence was not enough to protect him. Jones fainted a lead left hook, and Hill dipped to avoid the nonexistent punch. Roy then buried a right hook to Hill's side that ringside doctors claim fractured Hill's ribs. Virgil crumpled to the floor in excruciating pain. He was able to make it to his feet by 9, but was still noticeably cramped over by 10 giving referee Fred Steinwinder III no choice but to wave the fight over. Jones KO4

Hill (43-3), who was not interviewed by HBO, was shown sitting in his corner after the fight complaining that Jones had hit him in the back. But replays showed that the punch that ended it was a legal blow to his side. At the post fight press conference Jones (36-1, 31) said, "I haven't heard a sound quite as devastating as that. I don't know if I hit bone, but if I did, it broke. I almost broke my hand.

After the fight, HBO gave Roy Jones a check for $500,000 and a three year contract extention. For their part, the WBC, which at one point had stripped Jones, has instead labeled him a "champion in recess", thus making Graziano Rocchigiani the "interim champion". Roy said this week that he would work with HBO to set up a fight with the German light heavy and clear the confusion. But when is anything with Roy Jones Jr. quite so simple?

.....Chris Bushnell


© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.

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