Roy Jones Jr. was knocked silly.
It wasn’t supposed to happen, not like this. You don’t expect guys as gifted as Jones to lose until they’re 40 and over-the-hill. And when they do get beat, it’s not supposed to be like this, not with their bell rung and their legs gone and their legend disappearing on the heels of a single punch thrown from out of nowhere, by a guy from out of nowhere.
They should somehow find a way to memorialize Antonio Tarver’s overhand left, preserve it for posterity, an important reminder of what can happen when you sell someone short, when you don’t take them seriously because they come from out of nowhere.
When Tarver slipped a Jones right hand near the midway point of the second round of their light-heavyweight title fight Saturday night in Las Vegas, he came out of his crouch throwing an overhand left that brought it all crashing down around Jones at 1:41 of the second round. The punch was quick, unexpected and life-changing for both fighters. And suddenly, Tarver’s close loss to Jones last November disappeared with the waving of referee Jay Nady’s arms, signaling the end of both a fight and the Roy Jones era.
“An overhand left, right on the kisser,” is how Tarver, a southpaw, described the ending. “It was beautiful.”
It was more than beautiful, it was perfect. And that might have been the only kind of punch that could have stopped Jones.
“I was hit with a good shot,” he said after the fight. “A very good shot.”
Thrown by a very good fighter who looks about as intimidating as a game-show host. Put Tarver in a shirt and tie and you could mistake him for a tall accountant or a school teacher or the guy who sold you your car. Listen to him talk and you figure he works the lecture circuit.
“I never gave up on my dream,” said Tarver, who many of us thought was pretty much dreaming when he claimed he was going to stop Jones. “It takes a great fighter to beat a great fighter.” At least he was great for a short time Saturday night.
Bigger upsets have happened in the fight game, but this one is a keeper, even if Jones was only a 4-to-1 favorite.
The biggest upset most of us remember happened in Tokyo more than 14 years ago when James “Buster” Douglas stopped Mike Tyson in January, 1990 with one of those combinations that could topple tall buildings.
Tyson was a 42-to-1 favorite in that fight. Most sports books wouldn’t even touch it.
Since they didn’t show the fight on TV, I required two different sources of information that night to convince me Tyson lost. One source was a sports editor of mine who I called from a pay phone. When he told me Douglas knocked Tyson out, I didn’t believe him. The other source was two guys standing in a 7-11 buying beer.
It’s funny about that fight. It was shown on ESPN Classics Saturday afternoon just a few hours before the Jones – Tarver fight. Watching Douglas shock Tyson and the world, I thought about how you never know what will happen in a fight, that it’s a game of styles and sometimes a guy just has your number. Maybe Tarver could actually win.
Then I called my brother, gave him the odds and bet five bucks on Jones.
Some of us never learn.