It’s just days before the fight and still no word from Roy Jones Jr. No stirring of the pot, no brash predictions, no last-minute trash talk. Instead, Jones has become a recluse, a ghost, a tougher quote than Harpo Marx. As controversial as grandma’s homemade pie.
And apparently, that’s the way he wants it. Out of the bright lights and left alone. Focused. Motivated.
A little edgy.
At least that’s what his longtime trainer, Alton Merkerson, is telling us.
Jones (49-3, 38 KOs) doesn’t want to think about anything but getting ready for his Oct. 1 rubber match against light-heavyweight Antonio Tarver (23-3, 18 KOs) at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa (HBO, pay-per-view). He’s not talking, at least not right now.
It’s a personal thing, a way of avoiding distractions and trying to reclaim the magic Jones has been missing since his first fight with Tarver almost two years ago. Jones won that fight, but according to Merkerson, by that time, Jones had quit studying for any of his tests.
“I think Roy really got tired of the sport of boxing,” Merkerson said on a recent conference call without Roy. “He was bored, all of the criticism about him not fighting anybody. All the negative input just made him fed up with boxing . . . It‘s like taking a test. If you don‘t study for an exam and you take the exam, you‘re not going to do very well on the exam. You might just blow it out and flunk it.“
But according to Merkerson, Jones has been hitting the books pretty hard for this fight, hoping to score “100 percent” on his next exam.
There’s also the redemption factor driving Jones.
“I think the interest is there now for the simple reason that he has to reclaim his fame,” Merkerson said, referring to Jones’ back-to-back knockout losses to Tarver and Glen Johnson. “These guys beat him and he wants revenge.”
The motivation is back.
So are his legendary sore hands. At least that’s one of the storylines coming out of Pensacola.
But Merkerson brushed the sore-hand conspiracy aside, saying Jones is fine and there is no problem at all with either hand.
“Whichever hand it is, doesn’t matter,” he said. “He’ll be OK for the fight.”
The fight has been named “No Excuses,” and Jones apparently isn’t offering any.
Another change in the Jones camp has been the return of his father, Roy Sr., to the gym. After training Roy for 13 years, the father-son team parted ways in 1993. That’s when Merkerson took over. Now, Big Roy is back and Merkerson said he has no problem with sharing responsibilities for getting their fighter ready.
“It’s a plus for Roy having both of us there because there are some things his dad sees that I don’t see, and there are some things I see that his dad doesn’t see.”
Still, Merkerson made it clear the two don’t spend a lot of time drinking beers together.
“He’s OK, he’s an associate,” Merkerson said when asked how close the two were. “I don’t have any problems with Big Roy at all. He does his thing, I do mine. That’s the way business is. No tension with me whatsoever.”
If there’s a sign that the old Roy Jones Jr., is back, it might be in what Merkerson told us near the end of the call. He said that in the recent past, whenever he wanted to talk to Jones about boxing, Jones would just say they should go fishing.
“He just washed his hands of [boxing],” Merkerson said. “All of a sudden, I don’t know what came over him, but he wanted the gym cleaned. He said, ‘I think I need to start boxing again. It’s something I think I need to do. I have to do.’ He’ll have to explain to you what he did, but we’re here now in a positive way.”
And there are no more excuses.