Jones and Hopkins

By Tom Donelson BASN Staff Writer
Updated: May 22, 2011

Roy Jones Jr.

Roy Jones Jr.

IOWA CITY, IOWA–Bernard Hopkins faced Jean Pascal in the feature fight of the weekend; Roy Jones, Jr. fought Dennis Lebedev in Moscow and far from the maddening crowd. Hopkins was center stage at the age of 46 whereas Jones was invisible to much of the boxing world. In the 1990’s, Hopkins was working on dominating the Middleweight but he was not considered a top tier fighter whereas Jones was one of boxing’s biggest star. When the two men faced each other in 1993, Jones athletic skills proved decisive as he won an easy decision and Hopkins toiled in unanimity until 2001 when he faced Felix Trinidad and even in that fight; Hopkins was the afterthought and underdog. On that night Hopkins gave us glimpse into the new decade where at the age of 36, he gave Trinidad a boxing lesson.

Jones high water mark came in 2003 when he defeated John Ruiz for Ruiz version of the heavyweight division. From that point, Jones never was the same as he fought a tough fight against Antonio Tarver to win a close decision in a fight that Tarver lost more than Jones won. (Jones had to win the last two rounds to snatch victory from a possible defeat.)

In their rematch, Tarver knocked Jones out in the second round and from that point, the Jones mystique died as in one brief moment, Jones went from being one of boxing best pound for pound to an old fighter who will spend the next decade trying to recapture his youth.

Hopkins continued to impress even in losses. He lost two close decisions to Jermain Taylor but in defeat, people started to realize that even at his advance age; Hopkins was one of this generation better fighters. He lost another decision to another Hall of Fame fighter ,Joe Calzaghe, but he had impressive victories including schooling Kelly Pavlik and defeating Antonio Tarver.

Jones continued his downward slide as he lost to Antonio Tarver a second time, a twelve round shellacking at the hands of Calzaghe, knock out losses to Denny Green and most recently, Dennis Lebedev. Least we not forget, Hopkins got his revenge with an easy decision victory over Jones.

Why Hopkins still one of the top light heavyweights, whereas Roy Jones has drifted into opponent status? The reasons are several folds. The first is that some fighters are a freak of nature and seem to carry their ability late in their careers. Archie Moore and George Foreman still had skills that carried them into their 40’s and Hopkins may just be similar in his athletic genes. Another reason for Hopkins maintaining his abilities late in his career was his attention to details. While Jones depended upon his athletic skills and never learned the nuance of the sweet science, Hopkins worked at every aspect of boxing and improving his technical skills. He studied his sport and brought a old school intensity to the sport. The final reason is that Hopkins kept himself in top shape year around.

For Hopkins, boxing was a full time sport inside and outside the ring. As an executive of Golden Boy, he is a promoter but he is also one of Golden Boy better assets in the ring. Hopkins viewed boxing as a 24/7 business.

Jones, like Hopkins, is a promoter and occasional television analyst but he never studied the sport like Hopkins, so when he got older, he did not have the same scientific skills that Hopkins developed years earlier.

Hopkins smarts showed up on the ring; never allowed the rage that swelled inside him to get the better of him. If Hopkins comes into a fight angry or mad like the Trinidad fight or the recent Pascal’s bout, he never allowed that anger to effect what happened in the round. He maintained his discipline and never losing his composure.

Roy Jones had long lost those skills that propelled him among elite fighters whereas Hopkins knowledge of the ring allowed him to keep up with younger fighters. In reviewing the both Pascal fights, the one thing become clear; Hopkins was the smarter and more skilled fighter. Pascal had all the physical talent but he did not have the ring smarts to take advantage of those skills. He never pressed his advantage and he allowed the older and wiser Hopkins to control the pace while never seemingly able to figure out how to consistently score against the older Hopkins.

Pascal lost because he never learned the nuance of the sport and depended upon his athletic skills just as Jones did early in his career. Hopkins never quit learning about the sport and even now, he comes into every fight prepared as he studies his opponent.

Jones is but shadow of his former self, who should simply say good bye to a great career but Hopkins still have a few more rounds left. One fighter was the great Olympic star with all the gifts that the boxing gods could provide and the other fighter came up the hard way without the buzz or great athletic skills. The Olympic star, Roy Jones, went to the top of Mount Olympus but he quickly slid down the slope back to mortality. Hopkins is still climbing Mount Olympus and has yet to begin the final trip down the mountain.