A Reflection Of Greatness

By Tom Donelson, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: December 24, 2009

IOWA CITY (BASN) — Roy Jones Jr. at his peak was a Picasso in the ring. A man who easily avoided getting hit while nailing his opponents with blurring fast combinations.

He rarely got hit and his two masterpieces came two nearly nine years apart — his victory over James Toney and his victory over John Ruiz. The victory over Toney was Jones at his best.

Toney was one of the better pound for pound fighters over the past decade and at his peak as a Super Middleweight. Jones embarrassed Toney as he found himself hitting air with Jones always seemed just out of his range.

Jones countered with blistering combinations and Toney never was able to get into a rhythm. Over his career, Toney proved to one of the better defensive fighters, a fighter who could avoid his opponents harder blows while countering with his own scorching combinations but he could not touch Jones or avoid his punches.

Nine years later, Jones dominated Heavyweight champion John Ruiz.

Jones played matador to Ruiz’s bull as he consistently avoided Ruiz bigger punches while nailing him with quick rights. Jones’ brilliant ring generalship showed a boxer at his best and at the age of 34, Jones was at the top of the boxing world.

From this point, Jones career slipped down from the Mount Olympus of boxing to mere mortality. In his first fight after Ruiz, he fought a tough bout against Antonio Tarver and going into the last two rounds, the fight was all tied up.

Jones attacked Tarver and he played defense, giving Jones the final two rounds and allowed him to keep his lightweight championship. In the rematch, Jones won the first round but in the second round, a Tarver straight left beat Jones’ effort to counter with a left hook.

It was a case of straight punch beating a more round house punch. Jones collapsed and got counted out. His comeback fight against Glen Johnson was complete disaster as Johnson pounded Jones, who looked lethargic.

From this point of Jones’ career, he looked merely human. While most of us are familiar with Jones’ career after his loss to Tarver, it was his career up to his fight with Ruiz that impresses.

Throughout the 90’s and early part of this decade, Jones dominated the lightweight division just as if it was his personal property and his only lost a disqualification against Montel Griffin.

In a fight that he was winning, Jones knocked Griffin down but for extra measure, he added one more punch while Griffin was down on the ground. Jones lost his fight but he avenged his lost with a spectacular knockout against Griffin and equally impressive was his knockout victory over Virgil Hill.

In a fight that appeared close over the first three rounds, Jones slipped a right hand to Hill’s side and he fell to the ground. Just like that, Jones threw one of the most vicious body shots in boxing history.

Many of Jones’ detractors would argue and quite correctly, that he fought in one of the weaker era for light heavyweights. For many of Jones’ critics, they view his career as incomplete and he was perfectly happy to fight “his mandatory challengers” to keep what titles he had in his possession.

For many years, Jones never seemed ready to challenge himself and his critics viewed his domination simply the results of being in the right era.

When Jones defeated Ruiz, this changed many critics’ minds but his lost to Tarver followed by his lost to Johnson merely reinforced in the minds of his critics that he may have been overrated.

Jones in many ways resembled Muhammad Ali in the sense that he depended upon his athletic skills as oppose to sound technical skills. Ali often broke boxing rules and Jones did as well.

He lead with right hands or left hooks as oppose to left jabs to start his combination but his hand speed allowed him to get away with tactics that would have impaired others.

When his speed left him, his tactics hurt. One reason that Bernard Hopkins have managed to have a longer career at the top was due to his technical skills.

Fighters like Toney and Hopkins were master boxers who had textbook skills whereas Jones athletic skills proved decisive. As Toney and Hopkins got older, they still remained masters of the ring and capable of beating elite fighters.

This past summer,. Jones looked like the Jones of old against Jeff Lacey as his combinations blurred against Lacey’s head. But against Daniel Green, he simply looked old.

Jones has been a top ten fighter over the past few years but he ceased to be an elite fighter of old. When he moved up against elite fighters like Joe Calzaghe, he lost. Calzaghe was his last great shot at being the Roy Jones of old and for one round, he looked the part as he knocked Calzaghe down in the opening stanza.

After that, Calzaghe simply beat Jones to a pulp, showing that age finally defeated Jones. Green merely reinforced that Jones greatness has long slipped in the past and Jones was no longer a champion. Age had conquered Jones.

Jones was one of the more athletic fighter to enter the ring and for much of his career, very few could match his hand and foot speed. Outside the ring, he joined Calzaghe and Oscar De La Hoya in setting up his own promotional company.

Jones was not just a boxer but a businessman and he still have much to contribute to the world of boxing as a promoter. His place as one of boxing’s greats is now undisputed and time wears on, our memory will not be a one round defeat in Australia to Danny Green, but his masterpiece over James Toney as the essential Roy Jones.