By ARNE K. LANG
In case you missed it, Roy Jones Jr. was in action on Sunday. The 47-year-old prizefighter, once considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, stopped Vyron Phillips in the second round at the Celebrity Theatre in Phoenix. Those that paid to watch the bout — it could be accessed online at a cost of $11.99 – got a little something extra for their money. The undercard consisted of an MMA match, a grappling match, and a WWE-styled wrestling match.
Phillips, a 33-year-old MMA fighter with a 7-2 record, was making his professional boxing debut. He fights out of Minneapolis and has a basketball background. He played at obscure Algoma University College in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada. His web page lists him at a sleek 6’2” and 170 pounds, but against Roy Jones he looked a little soft in the midsection.
Phillips won the chance to fight Jones by receiving the most votes in a contest run on Facebook. Had he defeated the aging legend, he would have won $100,000 (less training expenses, presumably). His pay for losing wasn’t made known – it’s proprietary – but a fair guess would be a ham sandwich.
According to news reports (this reporter didn’t buy the fight), the opening round of Jones vs. Phillips was contested at a leisurely pace. In Round 2, Jones crumbled Phillips with a counter right hand and the referee saw no reason to allow the bout to continue. “Even at age 47……Roy Jones Jr. has still got it,” exulted the Fox Sports correspondent.
There was a precedent for this kerfuffle. Indeed, the parallels are striking. On March 15, 1963, right here in Phoenix, 46-year-old Archie Moore, a veteran of 217 documented fights, met a man making his professional boxing debut. Moore’s intrepid opponent was Iron Mike DiBiase, a grunt-and-groan wrestler.
One of America’s greatest sportswriters, Red Smith, was at the fight. What drew Smith to Arizona in March was spring training. Willie Mays and several other baseball stars sharpened their skills in the so-called Cactus League.
Moore, who “wore his abdomen in folds,” stopped DiBiase in the third round. DiBiase never got to use his signature move, the airplane spin. Ancient Archie was too slick for him. When the fight ended, a horde of young children swarmed the ring, seeking Moore’s autograph. He was accommodating. There couldn’t have been more than 800 people at the show, according to Red Smith. The promoter took a bath.
This was the final fight in the illustrious career of Archie Moore who had been knocked out by Muhammad Ali in his previous fight. Fans of Roy Jones – who suffered a knockout in his previous fight – hope that he follows Moore’s example and rides off into the sunset.
In retirement, Moore worked with disadvantaged youth in his adopted home of San Diego. When George Foreman was plotting his comeback, he sought out Archie Moore to help him. They made a wonderful team. Moore died in 1998, four days before his 82nd birthday. He retained his mental faculties to the very end, an encouraging sign for Roy Jones.
Iron Mike DiBiase, Archie Moore’s last opponent, wasn’t as fortunate. DiBiase suffered a fatal heart attack at age 45 during a wrestling match in Lubbock, Texas.