How much better is Roy Jones than every fighter in his division? Reggie Johnson, one of the few remaining legitimate challengers at 175, not only couldn't win a round tonight, but he could barely land a punch. Jones outclassed Johnson over 12 rounds this evening... thrilling us, and occasionally boring us, along the way.

Give Reggie Johnson credit, he was ready for this fight. Trained down to a fit 171 (175 through the ropes), Johnson looked to be at his sharpest in the opening 30 seconds of the fight. Coming at Jones, he flicked a quick jab and swung wide body punches at Jones when he got in close. That this was no Ricky Frazier was evident until Jones threw the first meaningful punch of the night.

That punch, a lightning right hand lead, crashed into Johnson's jaw and sent him sprawling on the canvas. On his feet before the end of the count, Reggie was on wobbly legs as Jones swarmed on him, albeit usually throwing one punch at a time. No matter that Jones wasn't putting together his combinations yet: His punches came from all angles and seemed to shoot out of nowhere. And as Jones began warming up, things only got worse for Johnson.

In the second round Johnson, bleeding from a cut sustained in the first, again pressed the attack. Seeking respect from Jones brought none, as Roy now began unleashing his punches in bunches. Quadruple left hooks, body shots from both sides, and a devastating lead right all landed at will for Jones. And when Johnson successfully began to duck the right, Jones immediately adjusted, dipping his knees and coming up with the punch onto Johnson's chin. Johnson fought back gamely, landing 11 punches in the round...the most he would land in any round for the night.

In the third, Johnson kept trying to get things going, and again when pressed, Roy Jones would fire back with fury. His speed nullified most anything Johnson hoped to set up, and a crisp left and right again sent Reggie on his back. Johnson got up and Jones swarmed him. Looking to end the fight, Jones battered Johnson with spectacular punches, including snapping uppercuts that nearly took off Reggie's head. The clock ticked down, and somehow Johnson again survived the round.

At this point, the fight looked over. When Johnson stood up to begin the fourth, his legs did not look fully under him and his will had clearly been broken. But when Reggie opted not to come forward in the fourth, Roy let him off the hook. Yes, Jones still was hurling wicked punches at Johnson, but he never pressed for the knockout. Instead, he spent the next several rounds showboating. Sticking out his chin, looping bolo punches, and uncorking some of the most rapid combinations of the night, Roy spaced out his attacks in such a manner that Reggie could survive.

Given such an opportunity, Reggie seemed unwilling to provoke Roy, and the fight lulled into a one-sided exhibition. Jones seemed only interested in putting the hurt on Johnson when Johnson tried the same. Since Johnson was doing nothing of the sort, landing only 1 punch in the 5th, 2 in the 9th and 3 in three other rounds, Jones was equally content to simply box him. And so, like so many recent Roy Jones performances, with an opponent too intimidated to fight, Jones coasted to the final bell.

If a light heavyweight is ever going to be beat Roy Jones, this is how he will have to do it: survive the opening rounds, show passivity and lull Roy Jones into the sleepwalking that defined the late rounds of tonight's bout. Once in that mode, when Jones is content to gesture to the crowd and throw only the occasional punch, is when he makes mistakes. Once the opponent can conjure up the boredom-with-boxing that Jones professes, he might be able to capitalize. But Reggie Johnson only got the first part right.

Through the later rounds, Jones was detached, coasting, and lulled into a slower pace. Johnson couldn't do a thing about it. With blood running into his eye, and Jones retaining his superior handspeed throughout, Johnson was unable to time Jones for the punch that would turn it around. The closest he came was a solid overhand left followed up by a substantial right jab that both caught Jones in the 9th. Stung but not stunned, Jones temporarily woke up, and let his hands go for the final minute in the round. Johnson paid dearly in this time, as Roy fired punch after punch through his guard.

Not surprisingly, Johnson never again made such a bold attempt at victory. Returning to survival mode in the tenth and eleventh again put Jones back on cruise control, and the crowd booed it's disapproval when it seemed Roy could end the fight any time he wanted to. One particularly loud chorus of boos in the eleventh again woke Jones up for half a minute. But with Johnson offering nothing in return, not even in the final round when it was clear a kayo was his only chance, the two men seemed to silently agree to stroll to the final bell.

When the scores were announced, there was little surprise. Roy Jones lifted Reggie Johnson's claim to the light heavyweight title with all three judges scoring 120-106. A complete shutout.

Now the unified IBF/WBA/WBC champion, Jones (40-1/33) again thrilled us and bored us, made us cheer and made us yawn, and made it look easy throughout. Having so easily dispatched of Johnson, it remains to be seen if Jones can even be interested enough to fight in the division again. Although he talked of fighting Evander Holyfield after the bout, a move to heavyweight seems unlikely for the fighter who once turned down $8 million to take on bloated heavyweight fraud Buster Douglas. Now faced with mandatory defenses from three separate organizations, Jones may move up, may fight them all or may retire (something he's hinted about for awhile now). Only one thing is for sure: Roy will do what Roy wants to do. All we can do it sit back and watch.

-The undercard bout, an IBF 130 lb.title bout between defending champ Roberto Garcia and Jones' crony Derrick Gainer, was scrapped at the last minute when Garcia pulled out of the fight. Arriving in town from his native California, Garcia and team were stunned to learn that the IBF had assigned three judges hailing from the Gulf Coast region from which Gainer calls home, and that the Mississippi Athletic Commission had approved it. When his protest to add geographically neutral officials was denied, Garcia turned his back and walked away from the fight, a career-high $400,000 payday, and perhaps his title. Although he felt he was being set up to lose by the potentially biased jurors, the IBF may end up stripping him of his title anyway for failure to defend. It's the kind of publicity that the IBF, which is under federal investigation for racketeering, would probably prefer to avoid.

.....Chris Bushnell


© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.

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