One day Roy Jones Jr. will follow Ezzard Charles and Jimmy Carter into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Saturday night, he will follow them into Boise, Idaho, where they fought almost a half century ago.
Charles and Carter were far from their championship days when they lost in Boise in the next-to-last fights of their careers. Jones is not as used-up a fighter as they were, but a fourth straight loss certainly would end his career. Well, maybe not. The former champion in four weight classes from middleweight to heavyweight might fight until he can retire with a win.
Wins for Charles, who was heavyweight champion, and Carter would have done nothing for their careers. A victory for Jones over Prince Badi Ajamu in the 12-round light heavyweight bout would stroke his ego. Should he look impressive, he could even get another showcase fight. After all in boxing today a fighter can lose a title in one weight class, and in his very next fight he can challenge for a championship in a different division.
Three straight losses for Jones was enough for HBO, which has stepped aside after lavishing many millions of dollars on a fighter, who often has not been a crowd-pleaser and generally has been a pay-per-view dud. Saturday night’s fight has a pay-per-view price of $24.95. The promoters note it will be available to 50 million homes in the United States and Canada. A good guess on the number of buys would be between 30,000 and 50,000.
Unlike Charles and Carter, Jones is not fighting a local favorite, but you have to wonder how many people would pay from $350 down to $50 see the show at the Qwest Arena without the 10-round bout between Kenny Keene, a former IBF cruiserweight champion from Emmett, Idaho, and King Arthur Williams, a former IBF light heavyweight champion. Keene (51-3-0) is 43-1-0 in Idaho, including 21-1-0 at Boise.
Charles, then 38, was knocked out in the eighth round by George Logan of Boise, who went into the fight at 10-0-1 on July 30, 1959. It was the third loss in four fights for Charles, who would lose his next bout on a decision, then retire.
At age 36, Carter lost a 10-round decision to Jimmy Grow of Lewiston, Idaho, on Feb. 25, 1960. Carter would suffer a third straight loss in his next fight and would retire. Grow, who fought mostly in Idaho, was 50-10-3 at the time. He would fight four more times and retire.
In Ajamu, the 37-year-old Jones will be fighting an opponent with a 25-2-1 record and who is ranked No. 6 by the WBC and No. 7 by the WBO, although rankings by governing bodies must be take with a grain of salt. Sometimes they should be taken with a bag of salt.
Youth is not exactly a big edge for the prince of Camden, N.J., who is 34. He does not rate as dangerous puncher, with 14 victories inside the distance, the last being a 10th round technical knockout of Galen Brown for the vacant NABO light heavyweight title last Jan. 27. He also has not fought close to the caliber of opposition that Jones has faced. Ajamu’s best-known opponent was Canadian Otis Grant, to whom he lost a 10-round majority decision on April 24, 2004, in Canada.
“It’s a splendid opportunity, an opportunity that doesn’t happen very often,” said Ajamu, who did not turn pro until 12 days before his 29th birthday 2001, about 10 years after a serious motorcycle accident. “I was never supposed to play sports again. But I boxed as an amateur and I didn’t want to give up my dream of being a professional fighter.”
A cynic might think that despite his record and ranking Ajamu was picked because even at this stage of Jones career he is not in Jones’ league.
“I think he wanted to fight a credible guy,” Ajamu said. “I definitely think I was not picked as a patsy. I think I was picked because I was very credible.”
It makes sense that if Jones is not just looking for something more than a farewell win, he would want an opponent with at least decent boxing credentials. As for Jones being washed up, Ajamu said, “I think he’s very credible. After getting knocked out to come back and go 12 rounds shows me something.”
In Jones’ three-fight losing streak, he was stopped in the second round by Antonia Tarver, knocked out in the ninth round by Glen Johnson, and clearly outpointed over 12 rounds by Tarver last Oct. 1.
Another loss for Jones would not keep him out of the Hall of Fame nor seriously damage his reputation. Actually, there is more pressure on Ajamu than there is on Jones. A loss would tag him as being overrated. Although Jones no longer possesses the brilliant hand speed that once earned him acclimation as the best fighter pound-for-pound, a victory over him should put Ajamu into the championship picture.
By the way, Ajamu really is Prince Badi Ajamu. “That is my legal name,” he said.