We’ll Wait A Little Longer.

By Jerold Wells Jr.
Updated: October 7, 2005

MINNESOTA—-When can we say that we have witnessed greatness? When can we say that our eyes have witnessed an occasion so momentous that will live for years in the hearts and minds of men? When can we say that a singular, significant juncture in history has transpired before our eyes and that we were privy to it and will never forget it?

I consider my sports life to be about 13 years. I was born into the sports world during the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain. My first great sports memory is that of the Dream Team and all the hoopla which surrounded the greatest collection of basketball talent our nation, yes even our world, had ever witnessed. Jordan, Johnson, Bird, Barkley, Drexler, Mullin etc. I was born into greatness.

In the span of time from then to now I’ve witnessed four Professional Basketball dynasties, (Bulls, Lakers, Spurs and Comets) two Professional Football dynasties, (Cowboys and Patriots) and the revival of three of college football’s most storied programs (Oklahoma and Southern Cal). I’ve watched the Boston Red Sox beat the Yankees and the curse in the same season. I’ve watched a college freshman lead his team to the Men’s College Basketball glory (Carmelo Anthony) and I’ve watched a young woman define dominance to the world of Women’s College Basketball (Diana Taurasi). Despite these great feats, I still desire the filling of a particular void in my sports life.

If generations are to be measured by the supremacy of their most bright and shining superstars then my generation has many to look to for definition. Michael Jordan’s preeminence goes beyond the time frame into which he was born. Similarly Barry Bonds’ ability to rule the baseball diamond is spectacular regardless of era. Emmitt Smith, Michael Johnson and Lance Armstrong have also showed us that the pursuit of greatness has not been abandoned.

All of the above mentioned are brilliant objects on the timeline of sports achievement and they will by no means cease to astonish sports fans for years to come. But, just as the eyes of man are never satisfied, I yearn for more. In all my getting I want another still. To be perfectly honest I envy the generations before me and that envy hinges on this one thing: I believe my generation lacks a great prizefighter. A boxer who’s skill, savvy and simplistic dominance transcend time and space. We have no Dempsey, Marciano or Louis. We have no Robinson, Leonard, or Frazier. We have no Duran, Foreman or Hagler. We have no Ali.

Purists refer to the sport of boxing as the “sweet science.” Much like a mixture in a science experiment, a grand champion is heterogeneous concoction or one made of many ingredients. He embodies charisma, ability, showmanship and the heart of lion. He always rises to a challenge and is his most dangerous after facing defeat. People speak of his greatness because he literally fights to remove all thoughts of anything less. I’ll stand here today and proclaim we have no such champion.

Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins all embodied certain aspects of an all time great but could not combine in ring performances with the intangibles necessary to arrive at the correct blend. Tyson’s ferocious yet short-lived reign of terror, Lewis’ pre-eminence and classiness, De La Hoya’s appeal and showmanship, Hopkins utter control of his weight class and take all comers approach. Despite those traits, each one fell short where champions before them did not. They could not, for one reason or another, put together the kind of career, loaded with key performances and classic fights that defined greats of other eras.

There is a fighter who could have achieved such a feat. One who could have eternally placed his name in the pantheon of champions we esteem highly. Roy Jones Jr. could have been that fighter. That generation defining character who made himself a legend. Could have, should have……didn’t.

On the heals of his third consecutive loss and his second to Antonio Tarver, Roy Jones Jr. is as close to retirement as he’s ever been. Some say he should retire now, after a loss, his legacy already cemented.

The Roy Jones Jr. we see now is should retire. Still young at the age of 36, Jones has plenty of life left to live and even more money to enjoy. He is an entrepreneur in many different areas of interest and seems to enjoy his out of the ring existence.

That being said, the closest thing to an all time great I’ve seen in my sports life shouldn’t retire. The man with ungodly foot and hand speed, knock-out power in both hands and the ability to thoroughly defeat any challenger brave enough to challenge him shouldn’t hang up the gloves. The champion who knows vocational valleys (’88 Olympics, Montell Griffin) as well as the mountaintops (multiple titles in multiple weight classes) should not end a spectacular career with losses and uninspired fights.

In all honesty I do not know if Roy Jones Jr. can summon up the kind of performance that will make him an all time great, a true warrior. A Hagler-Leonard type fight or an Ali-Frazier III “Thrilla in Manila.” Is his heart there? Can he put his body through the rigorous training it would take to condition himself to perform as he once did? Only Roy Jones Jr. knows that.

In every sport I care to review, I’ve witnessed all time greats; players who have distinguished themselves as one of the best to ever do it….Karl Malone, Tony Gwynn, Jerry Rice. Players who made their mark by consistently being one of the finest competitors in their sport. Players who removed all doubt of their greatness. I want badly for Roy Jones Jr. to do the same…..I’m just not sure he can.

And that my friends pains me to no end.