Ice cold can of Ensure.
Orthopedic boxing shoes.
Let’s get ready to grumble.
On Saturday, the first significant fight of the new year will be taking place when aging legends Roy Jones, Jr., 39, and Felix Trinidad, 35, square off at Madison Square Garden. In a bout that would have been both more meaningful, and likely more lucrative, when the fighters were in their prime several years ago, the bout still manages to captivate interest due to the marquee names involved. The mythic stature of each fighter still creates a compelling storyline. So, in the biggest showdown of old-timers since Grumpy Old Men, boxing fans eagerly await to see who the better man is. If the exchanges between Jones and Trinidad are half as brutal as those between Lemmon and Matthau, it might turn out to be a decent fight after all.
The game plan for Trinidad has already been laid out by Jones conquerors Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson. Trinidad needs to maximize his opportunities to land a big punch while avoiding return fire. This will occur by crowding Jones the way Tarver did in their first encounter, and the way Johnson did in his knockout victory against Jones. Jones’ advantage in handspeed will be less apparent in close quarters in this type of smothering, physical fight. However, this game plan does come with a risk, as Jones will be firing back, as he did when he put Anthony Hanshaw on the canvas while Hanshaw attempted to corral Jones.
The strategy for Jones is relatively simple as well. He needs to dictate the pace of the action and, in turn, disrupt Trinidad’s offense. Three of Trinidad’s prior foes effectively neutralized his potent attack with different tactics. De La Hoya managed to thwart his offense with aggressive boxing and movement. Bernard Hopkins disrupted Trinidad by making it a rough, physical fight. Winky Wright was successful by keeping his jab in Trinidad’s face all night long. Simply put, Jones needs to be first in every exchange and keep the fight in the center of the ring, where his handspeed will be a significant factor.
Of the two, Jones seems more capable of executing the winning game plan. In fact, when he faced off against John Ruiz, Jones had to implement a similar strategy. Obviously, the 2008 version of Roy Jones is not the same as the 2003 version that dominated Ruiz, but against Anthony Hanshaw, Jones showed that he still has a little left in his tank. Assuming he’s not drained from making 170 pounds, Jones should be able to execute such a simple strategy against a smaller man. He is, quite simply, the fighter with more options in this matchup.
Contrastingly, Trinidad seems ill equipped to fight the type of physical battle he would need to be successful. Interestingly enough, in the only rough fight involving Trinidad, he was on the wrong side of a mugging when Hopkins knocked him out in 2001. Considering Jones is bigger and stronger than Hopkins, this fight plan seems to be a tall order for Trinidad. If unable to pressure Jones, Tito must resort to Plan B: swing like hell and hope he hits something. With only a puncher’s chance against the bigger man, Trinidad’s hopes for victory will likely diminish quickly.
Jones has openly predicted an early knockout of Trinidad, but it’s difficult to envision him playing the role of terminator when he hasn’t had an early KO since his 1999 stoppage of Richard Frazier. His last knockout of any kind came in 2002 against Clinton Woods. The guess here is that Jones will be more patient than he is letting on, ensuring that he is taking as few chances as possible. Frustration, and ultimately despair, will set in for Trinidad by the middle of the fight. By round eight, Jones will have pummeled Tito into his third retirement this decade.
Prediction: Jones KO 8 Trinidad