If all you saw Saturday was the highlight of Glencoffe Johnson's knockout of Roy Jones Jr., then you're surely shocked.
Seeing Johnson's right hand carom off of Jones' cranium, and watching the former longtime pound-for-pound king crash to the canvas, was a sight that was even more stunning than “RJJ's” May knockout loss to Antonio Tarver.
But, as Saturday's showdown for the IBF light heavyweight title wore on, it became more and more apparent that Jones' demise was inevitable. It is also obvious we'll never see the fighter who dominated a decade's worth of middleweights, super middleweights and light heavyweights again.
A grocery list as to why Jones lost so convincingly Saturday.
Jones was too timid: Aggressiveness has never been a staple of Jones' attack, but, in his prime, he never appeared terrified of being clocked: He was just so fast he could punch freely without consequence. Saturday, he appeared gun-shy to the point of fear as he flinched and turned away every time Johnson so much as feinted. He was forever moving backwards, and when he did connect, he rarely put his body into the punch. Simply, Jones was reluctant to commit to his punches. Why? Because the last time he did that, Tarver caught him with a counter left that he never saw. So he tried to punch while moving backwards – which is like trying to lose weight on Twinkies.
Jones was out of shape: Jones' game is using his speed and skill – which can only be properly utilized in the middle of the ring. Saturday, Jones voluntarily backed into the ropes because he didn't have the legs to box in ring center. You can say all you want about Jones growing old, but, when he unleashed an occasional flurry, he sure seemed to have the old ability. He just didn't have the endurance to sustain it. In his prime, Jones was so good, he didn't have to worry about being in shape. Saturday, he figured he could get by against a limited fighter as he did in his prime. He figured wrong.
Jones didn't realize the strength and size of Johnson: Johnson appeared much bigger than Jones and, when they began trading punches, seemed much stronger as well. It was just a year-and-a-half ago that Jones had moved up and beaten heavyweight John Ruiz. But, unlike Ruiz, Johnson used his physical superiority. He ran at Jones and muscled him to the ropes and pounded his body and roughed him up on the inside. He hit Jones with haymakers and was in condition to fight that fight for 12 rounds. Further, against Ruiz, Jones knew he had to stay away, and so he trained his legs accordingly. He apparently didn't train much for Johnson, and was forced to go to war against a bigger man. And that has never been Roy Jones' fight.
Jones displayed a lack of focus – again: Contrast the two ring entrances. Johnson entered the ring subdued and concentrated on the task at hand. Jones' entrance was standard Jones fare: Playing to the crowd, sneering and pumping his fists. Once the two got in the ring, it was obvious which of the two fighters had prepared for a boxing match and which had better memorized rap lyrics. Once again, Jones was so talented in his prime, that he could do pretty much as he liked before fights. Even play a basketball game. At age 35, he actually has to do as other fighters do: Prepare and concentrate. He did neither against Johnson.
Jones didn't listen to his corner: Again, another faulty Jones trademark that ultimately bit him on the tail. How many times between rounds did Jones virtually ignore trainer Alton Merkerson to listen to that mysterious hanger-on at ringside who always seems to have his attention during fights? Well, the hanger-on certainly didn't have the right advice this time. Maybe Merkerson actually had some good suggestions for his charge. If he did, Jones certainly wouldn't know it.
Jones' heart wasn't in it: Merkerson himself admitted that perhaps Jones wasn't properly motivated. No kidding. If he wasn't inspired for Tarver, he sure wasn't going to be fired up for Johnson. Who knows what Jones wants – but being a boxer appears to be near the bottom of his list. Conversely, Johnson is a veteran who has never really received his due. He was willing to die in that ring, and his preparation and focus proved it.
In the end, the right man won the fight Saturday. The man who sacrificed in training and paid his dues. Johnson will be rewarded with perhaps the biggest payday of his career against Tarver. Jones? He's done. Not necessarily because he's suddenly lost it overnight. But because he's not willing to sacrifice. He's not willing to listen. He's not willing to change.
Ultimately, it was that unwillingness to acknowledge shortcomings and face reality is what ended a great career Saturday in Memphis.