Appearing to have succumbed to the one invincible opponent to which all champions must eventually relent, age, Roy Jones Jr. will step back into the ring to face Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver for the third time on October 1.
Why after suffering two brutal knockouts from the fists of Tarver and Glen Johnson would Jones risk not only his health, but also further tarnishing his legacy by hanging on to the fight game for too long a la Louis, Ali, Holmes and Tyson? In a word, pride.
A five time world champion in four different weight classes, the number one pound for pound fighter in the world for the better part of the 90s, a successful motion picture and television actor as well as music producer, Jones has proven himself a success both in and out of the ring. A man so used to success does not enjoy the taste of humble pie.
So, as a show of confidence and with revenge on his mind, he has called Tarver out and seeks to restore his legacy by avenging the first knockout loss of his career by fighting the man who dealt it – Tarver.
However, Tarver will not be the only opponent Jones will be facing. Father Time looms large from across the ring. For years Jones’s technical flaws have gone unpunished due to his freakish speed and super-human reflexes. With such weapons in his pugilistic arsenal Jones has been able to avoid the punches of and counter the most skilled of opponents. Now, as time begins to take its toll on one of the most celebrated and talented fighters of his generation, Jones leaves himself more exposed to his opponents’ punches – namely a Tarver left and a Johnson right.
After his second round knockout loss to Tarver, Jones chose journeyman Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson as his next bout on the road back to the top. Jones looked listless and uninterested in the business at hand. His ill-fated imitation of Ali’s “rope-a-dope” was to no avail, and, rather than finding himself back on top, he found himself on his back for nearly fifteen minutes at the new Fedex Forum in Memphis. The first athletic event in the new home of the Memphis Grizzlies was nearly Jones’s last.
Now, instead of choosing a lesser fighter as a tune up for Tarver and to remove the ring rust that has accumulated during his 13 month absence, Jones is going straight to the source. Tarver realizes that Jones isn’t the only fighter in the ring with a legacy at stake. A loss to Jones would only strengthen the argument of Tarver’s critics who said that his win over Jones was merely the result of a lucky punch. Thus, Tarver is not taking Jones lightly prompting his trainer Buddy McGirt to say, “We have to prepare for the best Roy Jones ever.” It is unlikely we’ll see that version of Roy Jones, and, for the first time in his career, Jones enters the ring an underdog. Even Jones’s long-time trainer, Alton Merkerson, opined before the Johnson fight that Jones did not seem to be the same fighter he once was. If he wasn’t the Jones of old before that fight, he sure wasn’t afterwards.
Although they’re both 36 years old, the sun appears to be setting on Jones’s career while Tarver’s star continues to shine. After a loss by a questionable decision to Johnson in 2004, Tarver rebounded to defeat Johnson in a rematch showcasing his toughness and mental fortitude.
But, as the old boxing cliché goes, all great fighters have one last great fight in them, and if anyone can come back from two devastating losses to restore lost glory it is Roy Jones Jr.
He is the first former middleweight champion to win a heavyweight championship in 100 years. Jones claims it was the 20 lbs. of muscle he gained to fight John Ruiz for the heavyweight championship and then had to lose to make weight for the first bout with Tarver that made him so ineffective. But can he pull off the upset to add yet another milestone to his already legendary career? Many fans will be watching with a morbid curiosity to see whether we have come to bury Jones or to praise him.
Tarver was there at the beginning of Jones’s boxing career when the two fought for the first time as 13 year old amateurs. Will he also be there at the end? On October 1 boxing fans will see if the “Magic Man” can makes Jones disappear.