Fighters fight, that’s what they do.
Real fighters never fear they might lose, instead they go into the ring wholeheartedly believing they are going to win regardless of who is coming out of the opposite corner. And ultimately they fight on too long and eventually suffer losses to opponents who they wouldn’t even have paid to spar with them during their prime. The losses on their record begin to mount and slowly but surely the observers who saw them when they were practically untouchable forget about the supreme fighters they once were.
If there is a better case or example of the above, I can’t think of one better than former three division champ Roy Jones 61-8 (44).
Between 1989 and 2003, Roy was one of the most physically skilled and gifted fighters of the last 50 years, easily. Roy was the perfect blend of athleticism, speed and power. He had blinding hand and foot speed, could fight in retreat or he could counter punch and when he chose to, he could take the initiative and explode offensively. And what a terrific body puncher he was.
During the years 1989-2003, Roy was a maestro in the ring, he really was. As a former fighter, it was easy to appreciate and marvel at all the tools and weapons he brought to do combat with. I think heavyweights aside, I only marveled at Sugar Ray Leonard more from a fascination vantage point. Sadly, Roy, because he’s a fighter and it’s so much a part of his DNA, he’s continues to seek one more big moment at age 46. The problem is, Jones is not Bernard Hopkins, in that Hopkins is/was much more technically proficient than he was and was more capable of protecting himself. Roy dominated with athleticism, speed and physical brilliance in much the same way Muhammad Ali did. And like Ali, once the athleticism eroded, he didn’t have the basics and fundamentals to fall back on and became more vulnerable defensively. Ali lost three of his last four fights. Jones has won seven in a row since suffering three consecutive loses, two by knockout, in between 2009-2011. And after winning seven bouts in a row against fighters who wouldn’t have made it as his sparring partner during his prime, he’s at the doorstep of getting a shot a one of the cruiserweight titles.
Today, it’s widely considered that Floyd Mayweather is the best pound-for-pound fighter in professional boxing. Ironically, Jones did the color commentary on Mayweather’s last fight against Manny Pacquiao. It wasn’t that long ago when Roy Jones was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport. This of course leads one to make comparisons between the best Jones and the best Mayweather when listening to Roy comment on Floyd. And frankly, I don’t think it’s much of a contest.
From a physical skill-set, Jones was faster than Mayweather, had a better offensive repertoire, punched harder with both hands, was a better body puncher and finisher, and yes, because of his foot speed and foot-work, he was harder to hit. In fact the only category where Mayweather gets the check in his column is in the punch resistance column. And even that is a little misleading. Remember, when Roy was stopped and lost for the first time in the ring against Antonio Tarver in their rematch, he was 49-1 (38). The lone defeat was by DQ versus Montel Griffin, who he hit while he was down in the ninth round of their first fight. Roy demolished Griffin in the first round five months later when they met again. So if you compare Jones and Mayweather through 48 fights, Jones is 47-1 (38), but really he is 48-0 (38) compared to Mayweather who is 48-0 (26), and could be 47-1 (26). Floyd lost the first time he fought Jose Luis Castillo in the eyes of everybody who saw the fight and knows what they’re watching. Whereas Jones never even had a close fight through his first 48 bouts and seldom lost a round. There was never a discussion during any of Roy’s bouts circa 1989 and 2003 as to whether he won or lost – the discussion was did he even lose a minute of the bout let alone a round or two.
Some have, myself included, suggested that Mayweather’s opposition and when he fought the biggest names on his record is a little spotty. This is something that applies to Jones as well, only to a lesser degree. The difference is, Jones dominated Bernard Hopkins (a certifiable all-time great and Hall of Famer) when he was near his peak physically. Hopkins entered the fight with Jones 22-1, with the loss coming in his pro-debut. Hopkins won 22 bouts in a row before losing to Jones by a pronounced margin, and then went undefeated for 12 years 1993-2005 after he fought Jones.
Roy fought James Toney a year and a half after he beat Hopkins. Toney entered their fight undefeated at 44-0-2. Jones dominated Toney even more than he did Hopkins and dropped him in the third round. Toney happens to be one of the most complete/great fighters circa 1990-2003. He beat outstanding/great fighters in between middleweight and heavyweight. Toney, like Hopkins, is a certifiable all-time great and Hall of Famer. And Toney holds a stoppage win over former heavyweight great Evander Holyfield, something Dwight Muhammad Qawi, Buster Douglas, Bert Cooper, George Foreman, Michael Moorer, Ray Mercer, Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis couldn’t do in 12 total fights. Combined, Hopkins and Toney entered their fight with Jones 66-1-2, and it’s doubtful that combined they won six of the 24 rounds they fought him.
After going virtually unchallenged fighting middleweights and light heavyweights during the years 1989-2002, Jones challenged WBA heavyweight title holder John Ruiz in March of 2003. Ruiz entered the fight 38-4-1. His four losses were to Sergey Kobosev (15-0), Danell Nicholson (15-1), David Tua (22-0) and Evander Holyfield (36-4-1). As you can see there were no soft touches for Ruiz. One was unbeaten, one only lost once, Tua was undefeated and is one of the biggest single shot punching heavyweights in history and Holyfield is among the all-time top-10 greats in heavyweight history. No, Ruiz wasn’t the second coming of Joe Louis, but held wins over Tony Tucker, Evander Holyfield and Kirk Johnson before fighting Jones. After losing to Jones he beat Hasim Rahman, Fres Oquendo and Andrew Golota.
Everybody makes a big deal about how middleweight champ Gennady Golovin is too big for Floyd Mayweather, out-weighing him 159-146. Well, Ruiz was 50 pounds heavier than any other opponent Jones ever fought. Did Roy ask for Ruiz to weigh in lighter than he had for any other heavyweight fight? No. Did he ask for Ruiz to wear special gloves or undergo any other specified testing? No. What Jones did was allow Ruiz, who won and retained the title against Evander Holyfield, to fight him under those same conditions. And Roy won eight, nine and 10 of the 12-rounds against Ruiz on the judges’ scorecards. In fact Jones’ decision over Ruiz was about as legitimate as it gets regarding a smaller fighter challenging a bigger fighter. No catch-weights or subterfuge to game the system.
In my opinion, Jones dominating Hopkins, Toney and Ruiz the way he did when he did gives him a better claim to being “TBE” than Mayweather has. Floyd has nothing on his record to compare to that, no way, no how. And Roy was never stopped or beaten up until after he went back down to light heavyweight after moving up to heavyweight to challenge Ruiz. Had Roy retired after beating Ruiz, he would’ve had a legitimate case to be considered among the five greatest pound-for-pound boxers/fighters in history. This is a claim Mayweather couldn’t even make jokingly.
And to those who say Jones feared and ducked light heavyweight Dariusz Michalczewski, wake up and smell the coffee. Michalczewski wouldn’t fight outside of Germany and Poland. After getting hosed out of a Gold medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul South Korea, Roy feared leaving the United States and didn’t trust the foreign judges. Mayweather won’t even leave the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Roy Jones was superior to Floyd Mayweather in terms of physical skill and talent in the ring. At their best he was clearly the greater fighter and has the better resume. He took more risks and beat greater fighters along with a few stiffs in between. Sure, when it comes to the amount of money made per-risk taken, Mayweather is no doubt “TBE” in that regard. But Roy Jones was a once in a lifetime talent, like Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard. I just can’t say that for Floyd Mayweather.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com