Talking Shop With The Inimitable Roy Jones Jr.

Ya’ll musta forgot about Roy Jones Jr.

I sure haven’t. Roy hasn’t either. Having chatted with him on the phone last week, in fact, I still can’t decide which one of us was more impressed with his outstanding boxing career: him or me.

“How do ya’ll dispute [me being the best] when you can go look at the YouTube videos and you’ll see me do things that you’ll never see anybody else do unless they’re copying me,” said Jones. “These are things that had never been done before: you see me do them, so how can I not be the best?”

He’s certainly the best to me.

Because I remember seeing him do things no fighter had done before or has done since. He’d clown opponents like they were standing still. He’d wave his hands around like a showman and they’d just stand there in a hypnotic state waiting for the final blow to relieve them of their misery. He was the bringer of destruction, and they were lambs led to the ring for slaughter.

All my life, I’ve wished I could fight like Jones.

The problem I’ve run into, of course, is that nobody can fight like Jones. The things Jones did in a boxing ring when he was at his very best are hard enough to do when you’re shadowboxing, much less versus an actual opponent.

Heck, once he began to age out of his very best years, Jones couldn’t even be Jones. The fighter was knocked out by Antonio Tarver in 2004 and never recovered to prime form.

How could he? Once his reflexes and speed started to slip at age 35, there was never any real chance of going back. Time runs us all ragged eventually, and Jones’ greatness was a perfect synergy of boxing skills and physical remarkability.

But man, Jones in his prime was a sight to behold. One of the true all-time greats by any standard, Jones is the only fighter in the history of the sport to turn professional at 154 pounds and go on to capture a heavyweight crown.

One of my favorite boxing memories was watching Jones dismantle grisly heavyweight bear John Ruiz in 2003 for the WBA heavyweight title. If you want to witness a smaller fighter pull off a remarkable feat, go and watch that fight.

But how did he do it? And can someone teach me to fight like Jones, too? At first glance, it seems impossible.

Expert video analyst David James Christian, aka the Modern Martial Artist, goes so far as to tell the viewers of his Jones’ boxing technique videos that they should never try this at home. I have not seen him say this about any other fighter.

“Roy Jones Jr. was one of the most gifted fighters to ever enter the ring,” Christian explains in the excerpt. “Cut from the same cloth as Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali, and Sugar Ray Leonard, Jones utilized complex footwork and insane hand speed to outmaneuver and outperform his opponents.”

Christian hits the nail right on the head. Jones is famous for throwing explosive punches at his opponents from rangy angles and dangerous ring positions never seen before inside a boxing ring. And he didn’t just knock people out. He made it look easy.

“Jones would suddenly switch between patient and subtle footwork to aggressive flurries and risky, one-punch knockouts,” said Christian.

Risky being the operative word there–whenever I foolishly revert to mimicking Jones style inside a boxing ring during sparring at my local boxing gym, I don’t just lose the fight, I get flat-out pummeled.

“While I normally encourage what’s broken down [in these videos] and then trying it out in sparring, I would definitely advise against that in this case” said Christian. “The only thing I can think of more dangerous than trying out [Jones’ style and technique], is trying to knock someone out with your hands behind your back.”

Which, of course, Jones did in 2000 versus Richard Hall.

But Jones maintains he can teach you to fight like he did. In fact, Jones is partnering with a company called Star Vizn to do exactly that. According to the press release, Star Vizn is an online training platform where people can learn how to become better at their craft.”

In short, if you buy the app and watch the boxing videos, Jones will teach you how to fight. Obviously, having been bashed to oblivion trying to be like Jones on numerous occasions during my life, I’m pessimistic about the whole situation.

Jones told me I shouldn’t be.

“You have to become innovative and creative,” said Jones. “You have to look at what I teach you and you have to become creative with what I teach you. This is what I always tell people. Here is the difference with me. I give you a good basis to start with what I was taught—I was taught the fundamentals. So you take that good fundamental base and you add your own DNA with it. That’s how you make yourself fight like Roy Jones.”

So obviously upon hearing this, I described to Jones what happens whenever I try to fight like him in an actual boxing ring. I use my backhand power punch like a straight jab. I try to invite the opponent to react to it. And then I try to loop my hook back over the top for a vicious one-punch knockout.

It never, ever works.

“But you won’t be Roy Jones,” said Jones. “You’ll be you.”


Okay, I still don’t get it. How can I fight like Jones and not get my head blasted into orbit by my opponent’s counterpunches?

“When you figure out the right way to do it, you’ll figure out the right way to make it happen and you won’t get pummeled. That’s the whole thing: once an athlete knows how to do this, he won’t be pummeled.”

To my surprise, Jones said his boxing style—the one no one in the history of planet earth has been able to replicate—boils down to one thing: his understanding of basic boxing fundamentals.

So it’s not just that he was faster and stronger than everybody else. It’s that he was faster and stronger and knew basic boxing fundamentals.

“In the app, I tell people all the time that it’s about your knowledge and your DNA. If you build a good foundation, your DNA will allow you to take that foundation and be the best you that you can be. I don’t try to make people be me. I can’t make you be me, because we don’t have the same DNA. I can only help you be the best you that you can be.”

That makes a bit more sense to me. I mean, I’m not nearly as fast or athletic at Jones, so someone like me trying to fight like Jones would be like if Erislandy Lara suddenly decided to try and fight like Julio Cesar Chavez.

It just wouldn’t work.

Each fighter hones his own particular style for a reason. He’s better at some things than he is at others, and his body is capable of some of boxing’s finer points here and there, but almost never all of them equally.

And yet there was so much Jones did as a fighter that is generally considered wrong by traditional boxing standards. Why was he able to do them?

Again, Jones counters my inquiry with fundamentals.

“I knew exactly what I was doing and why they said it was wrong. So because I knew why they say it’s wrong, I knew what to look out for, what could happen and why it’s considered wrong.”

Perhaps because I still seemed puzzled, Jones explained it to me all again using a metaphor.

No matter how much you want to be like someone else in life, you will always be better off if you focus on being yourself instead. Doing exactly that is the closest anyone or I will ever get to fighting like Roy Jones Jr.

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