Fourteen years ago I was in Atlantic City to see Vinny Pazienza challenge the undefeated super-middleweight champion, Roy Jones Jr. Pazienza lasted six rounds, but what was more memorable was his ring walk. When he came into the arena wearing a costume that made him look like Little Red Riding Hood, I turned to Tom Hauser and wondered, "Does he have any idea how ridiculous he looks?"
Back then Roy Jones would have considered himself above such hot-doggery, and I found myself thinking back to that night when as I watched the promos for Saturday night's show in Biloxi and saw RJ staring from my television set wearing a wig that was supposed to represent Captain Hook, but made him look a lot more like Alice Cooper on a PMS day.
"God," I thought. "I hope he's not going to wear that into the ring."
He didn't, but he might as well have. For the ten rounds it lasted, Jones not only disrespected Jeff Lacy, he disrespected boxing.
Against a thoroughly outclassed opponent, Jones spent most of the evening in a running conversation with his next opponent, Danny Green, exchanging pleasantries with the peanut gallery seated at ringside, and otherwise hamming it up, often with both arms dangling at his side. Periodically he ducked away from Lacy's increasingly futile punches, and from time to time he would become engaged enough to throw a blinding flurry of punches, most of which would land.
A referee with any stones would have ordered RJ to cut the crap and stick to boxing, under penalty of disqualification, but you knew you weren't going to hear a peep out of Keith Hughes.
On one level Jones' display might be viewed as a virtuoso performance, but if you remembered how outclassed RJ himself had been in his 2008 fight against Joe Calzaghe -- and his three losses on the trot in 2004-05 -- it would be pretty difficult to arrive at the conclusion that the 40 year-old former four-time champion was "back." It was more a case of having found a fly he could pull the wings off of, and making the most of the opportunity.
In most boxing matchups demanding pay-per-view prices there are questions to be answered, but in the case of Jones and Lacy there was really only one: Which of the two was more shot. And that one was answered resoundingly.
Lacy bled from a cut from the third round on, both his eyes had both nearly closed by the eighth. The issue had to be a runaway on the scorecards -- we had given Lacy the first but not a single round afterward -- but in the end, it was not Hughes but the corner who finally put a stop to the ugliness in the ring.
This in itself might have been less noteworthy had it not been a regular occurrence on this Saturday night at the Beau Rivage. Four different Mississippi-appointed referees worked the four fights slated for the PPV portion of the card. All four bouts were predictable mismatches that could have and should have been stopped earlier, but four different cornermen had to throw in four different towels to do the job of the four referees because the four referees would not.
Jones, whose record rose to 54-5 with the win, will now have some more mileage at the box office. (Lacy, eight years younger and 25-3, will have none.) It was Jones' second win since last year's Calzaghe debacle (in which he scored a knockdown in the first round and then lost each of the remaining 11), and everything seems to point to his next outing coming against Danny Green in Australia.
Australia isn't far enough away.
Those pre-fight promos in which Jones wore the fright wig also included a voice-over by a talking head who flogged the $35 PPV by noting that Jones had been named "Fighter of the Decade" by the Boxing Writers Association of America. They just didn't say which decade.
Here's the more sobering aspect: In 2003 Jones achieved one of the more remarkable achievements of his career when he moved up to win the WBA heavyweight title from John Ruiz. Later that same year he won a disputed majority decision over Antonio Tarver in a fight that it demanded a rematch.
He hasn't beaten a single opponent of consequence since.
But you'd probably better not tell the Australians.
Green, now 27-3, warmed up for their Rumble Down Under with a fifth-round TKO over his outgunned opponent, Julio Cesar Dominguez, perpetuating a trend for the Argentinean, who is now 20-6-1 and has lost every time he has ventured outside metropolitan Buenos Aires. Dominguez' cornermen finally had to jump into the ring to stop a bout Fred Steinwinder III would not. (In fact, Steinwinder may have protracted the one-sided affair by administering a standing eight-count in a fight whose rules had specifically excluded the standing 8.)
But then it was a bad night for referees all around. Gary Ritter, who worked B.J. Flores' bout against Epifanio Mendoza, was apparently the only man in the building who failed to notice that the Columbian had thrown his shoulder out and was fighting with his left arm dangling uselessly at his side. There's no telling how long it might have gone on like that had the Mendoza corner not run up the white flag at 1:19 of the fourth.
Flores, in any case, remained unbeaten at 24-0-1, while Mendoza, 29-8-1 overall, lost for the fourth time in his last five outings.
In the opener of the TV portion of the card, Minnesota junior lightweight Jason Litzau knocked down Verquan Kimbrough so many times we lost count. (I think it was five, but referee Randy Phillips called a couple of them slips.) In this one more than any of the others, the referee's judgment could have resulted in permanent damage, because not only did Phillps make Kimbrough keep getting back up, but never showed the slightest inclination to stop it himself before the fighter's corner took matters into its own hands.
Litzau is now 25-2-2, Kimbrough 21-2-2.
Who wins the WBO Middleweight title fight Dec. 19th?