On the sadness scale, it’s nowhere close to Joe Louis earning chump change as a pro wrestler, but there is something a little bit sad about 40-year-old Roy Jones fighting Omar Sheika in the Pensacola Civic Center, and there being any possibility at all that Sheika had a shot to beat the Hall of Fame shoo-in Jones.
Nothing against the venue, or Sheika, but seeing Jones, and recalling where he’d fought, and who he’d beat, the smallness of the event on Saturday was palpable. At least it was to me…but Jones looked like he was grooving as he strode to the ring to glove up against Sheika, and the Pensacolans in attendance didn’t seem to be lost in a haze of nostalgia. And all can agree there was at least a hint of drama as the bell rang to kick off the first round, as fight fans had to wonder if maybe this would be Jones’ last stand, if maybe Joe Calzaghe had absconded with a vital piece of RJJ’s arsenal in their November near-massacre, and left him with a journeyman’s compromised chin and reflexes.
By the end of the bout, after the ref had stopped a bloodied Sheika from taking any more blows in the fifth round, the drama was gone. In its place was hope, and among real rabid Jones fans, certainty. Jones was back, the diehards said, and even the non-disciples had to admit that his hand speed was present, and his work rate was peppy, and that there is no reason that Roy Jones, at age 40, shouldn’t keep taking fights of this ilk, against opposition of this dubious caliber, for the near future.
Sheika didn’t like the stop at all, but after a right hand opened the cut, ref Tommy Kimmons got ready to yank the leash. The time of the stoppage was 1:45, and for his trouble, Jones was presented the NABO light heavyweight belt.
Sheika (from New Jersey; 27-8 coming in; a loser in all four title shots), age 32, weighed in at 175 pounds. Jones (from Florida; 52-5; 173 ¼; eight-time champion in four divisions) smiled as he was introduced to the hometowners. This was his first bout in this building since 1999, when he took out Rick Frazier. To his credit, I’m not sure his abs looked any worse on Saturday than they did in ’99.
In the first, he leapt in with the left hook, and the fans grinned and cheered, recognizing the master’s patterns. He shoeshined off the ropes, and then raised his hands to give a shoutout to the appreciative mass. He almost dropped Omar with a left hook, and Jones fans told themselves that Roy is back, and ready to rematch with Calzaghe! In the second, Omar tried to get some momentum his way. But Roy roared back with right-left hook combos. His check hook bamboozled Omar every time. In the third, Roy worked some jabs, as he took some advice from his dad in his corner in between two and three. Omar landed a hook, to let Roy know he wouldn’t fold in homage to the local hero. Jones wasn’t just posing and potshotting, by the way—his work rate was none too shabby. In the fourth, he hit the somewhat plodding, upright Omar with jabs, and the crowd was juiced. He stared into the crowd and winked as he slipped Sheika shots.
In the fifth, Sheika was still there. But he kept eating blasts, as the fans oohhed and ahhed. Sheika developed a cut on the bridge of the nose, and ate a few shots unanswered, when the ref stepped in abruptly and halted the bout. The crowd booed when they realized that the ref had ended the bout. Not the right call, and I am one to back the ref 95% of the time. Sheika’s legs were still there, he’d still been looking to land a big equalizer bomb, and though his chances were slim, he had a chance.
Jones said he liked having his pop in his corner, and said he'd take two days off from training to let his hands rest, and would then be back in training. TSS U, who should Jones fight next?
BJ Flores (from Missouri, living in Las Vegas; 22-0 coming in), a new signee to Roy Jones’ Square Ring Promotions, took on Jose Luis Herrera (from Colombia; 16-5 entering, all 16 by KOs) in a cruiserweight tussle. Flores snaps a solid jab, and Flores ate a couple jabs himself in the first. Flores worked the body well, and he hurt Herrera, who was on jello legs, at the end of the third. Flores, who ended with a mouse on his left eye, manages the distance between he and his foe well. The Colombian acted a bit too much like a sparring partner to have any shot, really. The judges had the final say: they scored it 98-92, 99-91, 99-91 after ten for Flores, now the NABsomething junior heavyweight (not a typo) champion. He broke a knuckle on his left hand cracking it on Flores’ noggin, he said afterwards.
Jeff Monson (27-8 coming in) of Washington, an anarchist extraoardinaire, met chubby Roy Nelson (13-3 entering) in a heavyweight MMA match which unfolded right before the boxing main event. There was a ton of grappling, and both guys landed some bombs standing. It went to the cards---the judges saw it 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, Monson. I, and the crowd, didn’t agree.
In an MMA bout, Bobby Lashley dominated Clay Guida, but had to power out of a guillotine choke that almost had him tapping. Lashley, the former WWE standout, rose to 2-0 with the UD win, while Guida went to 17-20.
---Colonel (and why in God’s name is this pronounced “kernel”?) Bob Sheridan called the show, with Kimbo conquerer Seth Petruzzelli on MMA, and Nate Campebll for the boxing.