Saturday night in Tampa, Florida’s Roy Jones Jr. was successful once again.
Unfortunately, this time he didn’t win another major bout, but rather he accomplished all that he set out to do, which was to simply not get knocked out again. Light heavyweight champion Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver didn’t need any bag of tricks to beat Jones on this night as Jones apparently came in with no intention of winning in the first place.
From the opening bell it was abundantly clear that the name of Jones’ game was “Survival.”
Post-fight comments from the former pound-for-pound king echoed this unfortunate fact. Jones claimed he didn’t wanna go out like that – referring to his being knocked out in each of his two prior bouts. And while he wasn’t knocked out this past weekend, Jones may have actually done himself more harm than good – because he simply didn’t show up.
Punch-stat numbers as reported by Compubox attribute a paltry 7 punches landed per round by the 49-4 Jones Jr., which translates to just 85 for the twelve-round fight. While Tarver himself fought at a cautious pace, he did manage to land 158 punches against Jones, a difference of 73 landed blows. By not throwing (and therefore not landing) many punches, Pensacola, Florida native Jones never put himself in a position to get caught flush and be knocked out again. But that game plan also eliminated any possibility for Junior to emerge victorious.
Only in rounds 4 and 5 did we get a glimpse of the fighter that Roy Jones Jr. was, as he landed a few meaningful punches and seemed to startle Tarver, who had been enjoying a pleasant stroll through the first nine minutes of the fight. While Jones’ clowning was sadly misplaced, seeing as though he wasn’t wining the fight in any aspect, it at least gave us the hope that he was interested in the battle ahead. However as soon as the bell sounded to start the sixth round the fight was basically over and Tampa’s Tarver could have been crowned the winner right then.
Jones followed his winning efforts in the 5th by landing a measly 10 more punches combined in the subsequent 3 rounds. His performance in the fifth was as if to say, “See, I still got it,” while the 6th through 8th clearly stated, “but you ain’t gonna see it again.”
And we didn’t.
Tarver took what Jones gave him and measured Jones with his jab then fired off combinations with less-than-malicious intent. It seemed that the “Magic Man” may have suspected that Jones was playing possum and really had something up his sleeve. When no trick came to treat the fans in attendance and those paying to see the dance, Tarver continued to cut off the ring and trap Jones on the ropes. Not much damage was ever done as Jones seemed content to last the distance while the true light heavyweight champion accepted the gift.
Until the eleventh round.
In the first championship round Jones was badly hurt and frozen by a right hook, left uppercut, that had the fan-favorite on shaky legs and looking ready for a long night’s sleep. Tarver did his best to finish the show, after nearly falling out of the ring in pursuit of his wounded prey, but ran out of gas after throwing 76 punches in the 10th and the 82 he tossed in the 11th. Jones showed heart and resilience in lasting the distance and fighting back, but it was too little to sway any of the judges.
Besides receiving half the effort many had hoped to see, fans were subjected to another blatant sales pitch after the fight as the boxers were interviewed. Tarver claimed that what we had witnessed was “the best Roy Jones tonight that you’ve seen in the last ten years.”
Huh? Why would you say something ludicrous like that Antonio?
And then came the punch line as he addressed the media:
“We can do it again”
Count me out. The Roy Jones who landed an average of 8 punches per round in his past three fights (all losses) is not the best Roy Jones we have seen. The best we have seen landed an average of 20 blows every 3 minutes in his prime, but that fighter hasn’t been seen in many years.
“I’ll be back” said Jones as he confessed that this bout was all about the fact that “I couldn’t go out on a knockout.”
That, it turns out, was all that mattered to Roy Jones Jr., but it wasn’t nearly enough for boxing fans.
We deserve better.