In late 2002, Roy Jones Jr. signed to fight WBA Heavyweight world champion John Ruiz. Soon after questions arose about Jones, why is he doing it? And why would he risk it? Was it for the money, an estimated 10 million? Was it the irresistible urge that goes with having been a champion? Was it merely ego or a grab for a higher place in boxing history? Jones was already an established musician having established Body Head record label, a film actor and professional basketball player. To answer these questions, a look back is required at what makes the sometime enigma, and other time superstar of Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones Jr. was born on January 16, 1969, in the small Florida city of Pensacola, USA. At the age of 6 young Roy began boxing under the watchful eye of his father Roy Jones Sr. a Vietnam war veteran and small time pro boxer who came from a family of 13. As a youngster Jones was filled with serious potential due to a combination of physical ability, desire and the hard training regime his father had set. Jones worked his way up through the junior amateur ranks, and in 1988 earned a place in the United States boxing team for the Soul Olympic Games.
After fighting through the preliminary stages, Jones earned a place in the gold medal bout against Park Si Hun. Jones was in complete control of the fight, almost hitting the Korean at will with lead left hooks and counters, but in one of the greatest robberies in the history of the sport, the Korean received a gift decision- and along with it the gold medal. As a show of good faith, Jones received an award for the best boxer of the competition, presented at a special ceremony by 50 Korean monks. After an investigation, two of the judges that scored the bout were banned from officiating in competition again.
Subsequent of the injustice in Soul, Jones said he would never fight again. But after returning home to Pensacola to a heroes welcome, and receiving hounary gold medals from across his homeland: Jones made the decision to turn pro.
On the 6th May, 1989, Roy Jones Jr. made his professional boxing debut against Ricky Randall at the Pensacola Civic Centre. Jones weighted 157lb for the bout, and stopped Randall by TKO in round 2.
Although launching his professional career with a series of wins, Jones found himself in a position whereby his career was stalling- fighting in county fairgrounds and running at a financial loss. Jr. was being steered by his fathers cautious management, with title fights being offered but turned down, without Jr. knowing- it seemed Jones was watching the parade go by.
Things came to a head when Jones Sr. shot- and killed- one of Jones bull-terrier dogs after the passionate breed bit a little girl. Jr. instantly sacked his father as trainer and manager and proceeded to hire his former Olympic trainer Alton Merkerson, and decided to take care of managerial issues himself.
With Jones being his own manager via setting up promotional group Square Ring Inc., he secured a shot at the vacant IBF Middleweight (160lb) world title. Jones would take on future great, at the time 22-1, Bernard Hopkins. Without the press or publics knowledge, Jones entered the fight with a broken right hard, and despite his absence, Jones relied on his fathers character building training from early years to carry him through his most important bout thus far. Despite the injury, Jones proceeded to win a unanimous decision, 116-112 on all 3 cards to win his first world title.
After making a defence of his middleweight title against Thomas Tate, Jones next challenge would come in the form of IBF super middleweight champion James Lights Out Toney. Toney- at the time- was regarded as one of, if not the best, pound for pound fighters in the world. Jones went into the bout a certain underdog, but in the end defied all critics- and even non critics- predictions by making Toney look inferior on way to a unanimous decision to make Jones a now two time world champion.
Jones proceeded to defend his IBF super middleweight crown, and on June 15, 1996, completed the incredible feat of playing a minor league professional basketball game, and defending his boxing world title(against Canadian Eric Lucas) on the same day. Jones marked himself as being a supreme athlete, a black superman.
Jones next challenge was to move up to the 175lb- light heavyweight division. After defeating Mike McCallum to gain the WBC Interim world title recognition, Jones was scheduled to fight stocky, 26-0, Montell Griffin to allow a stamp stating three time world champion. What eventuated was a controversial and melodramatic two fight series. Jones would lose his undefeated record by hitting Griffin while the opponent was deemed down for the count, and therefore disqualified. Jones came out in the second fight possessed like one of his game fighting roosters(Jones breeds and trains fighting cocks), intent for revenge, and what resulted was pure cock fight, with Jones dismantling Griffin in 1 round leaving no doubt as to whom was the superior fighter.
After negotiations fell through to meet faded former heavyweight champion Buster Douglas, Jones decided to make a run at cleaning out the light heavyweight division. Before unifying titles, Jones took on a big light heavyweight, and former champion, Virgil Hill. Many expected Jones to be overpowered by Hill, but Jones stopped the fight in round 3 with a body shot reminiscent to that of the sound of a shot gun, and consequently breaking Hill's ribs.
To unify the light heavyweight belts, Jones would need to get past WBA champion Lou Del Valle, in which Jones would go on to do- albeit after being put on the canvas by a shock knock down- in a unanimous decision.
On June 5, 1999 Jones would defeat Reggie Johnson to claim the undisputed- WBA, WBC and IBF- light heavyweight championship of the world. Jones won the fight by a 12 round decision, although after a stunning performance in the first two rounds it seemed Jones merely carried his opponent the distance- a habit which Jones would continually be criticised for.
Jones defended the undisputed title against a list of light heavyweight contenders, a group of fighters which critics labels no bodies. However, it was more a case of Jones making these world class fighters look like nobodies- such was Jones superiority.
After being urged on by not only the Jones naysayer, but a challenge to keep himself motivated, Jones took the ultimate plunge and announced that he would fight WBA champion John Ruiz for the heavyweight championship of the world. Jones, the former middleweight, would give up some 33 pounds to Ruiz, coming in as a virtual cruiserweight at a relatively small 193 pounds- many though that Jones would crumble after being hit by the punch of a heavyweight. Despite these thoughts, Jones went on dazzle the reigning heavyweight champion with pure handspeed that had arguably never been seen before in the heavyweight division. Jones defeated Ruiz by a unanimous decision, 116-112, 118-110 and 117-111 to claim the heavyweight world title. Along the way Jones became a four division world champion and the first middleweight claim the heavyweight title in over 100 years.
After reaching the boxing pinnacle, and cementing a place in history, Jones made the somewhat unusual decision to drain himself back down to light heavyweight to fight Antonio Tarver. Jones would defeat Tarver by a majority decision, and given that it was the closest that anyone had come to Jones: the result was publicly disputed.
In the late stages of his career Jones took a return match with Tarver. Whether by aging abilities, effected by weight loss or Tarvers right hard; Jones suffered the first real loss of his professional career via a second round knock out. Jones went on to suffer two more losses, a stoppage against Glengoffe Johnson and by decision in a third fight with Tarver.
Recently Jones started a comeback- still believing he had something to offer- with an impressive victory against Prince Badi Ajamu.
The legacy Jones leaves behind is that he will be remembered as the greatest natural athlete to ever lace on the gloves: exhibiting freakish speed, both of hand and foot, superb coordination and a near physically perfect physique.
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