By Keith Idec
Roy Jones Jr. hasn’t been the same fighter since Antonio Tarver drilled him with a devastating left hand in the second round of their May 2004 rematch in Las Vegas.
Eight years and six losses later, Jones is scheduled to fight yet again. The former four-division champion from Pensacola, Fla., will oppose Poland’s Dawid Kostecki in a 10-round light heavyweight bout June 30 in Lodz, Poland.
Tarver can’t quite understand why Jones continues to box, but Jones’ longtime antagonist wouldn’t criticize Jones’ decision while promoting his own June 2 fight against Nigeria’s Lateef Kayode (18-0, 14 KOs).
“I try not to sit high and look low on anybody,” Tarver said. “You know what I’m saying? I mean, Roy Jones is a great fighter. I’m not in his corner, I’m not in his stable. I don’t have nothing but an opinion and, you know, I don’t know what to say. His reasons for fighting, obviously, he has them. I can’t say … I don’t want to see him get hurt. Basically, that’s all I can say.
“And hopefully, he can find a way to either win a fight or turn back the hands of time, or something, give him some type of satisfaction, where he can say, ‘You know what? I’ve done it all. My name and my legacy will live forever,’ and you know, he’s had enough. But that’s totally his call. I don’t know his reasons for fighting. Obviously, he has them and he feels like he needs to get back in there and put himself in harm’s way.”
Though they’re both 43 and Tarver intends to continue fighting, the distinct difference between him and Jones is that Tarver has never even been down in any of his 35 professional fights, let alone knocked out. Kostecki (39-1, 25 KOs) is not considered a huge puncher and he hasn’t been tested against top opposition, but Jones (55-8, 40 KOs) has been brutally knocked out by Tarver, Johnson and Denis Lebedev, in addition to a first-round technical knockout defeat to Danny Green.
“Roy took a lot of punishment late in this career, starting with that first fight we had in Vegas,” Tarver said, referring to a November 2003 light heavyweight title fight Jones won by majority decision. “That’s the difference. That’s how you calculate if a fighter is a shot fighter, if he’s a hurt fighter or if he’s a damaged fighter, by the amount of punishment that he takes. You got some 24-year-old, 23-year-old shot fighters. You’ve got some fighters out there that have taken so much punishment they can’t pass physicals to get clearance to fight.
“So, you know, it happened late in Roy Jones’ career because he really rarely even got hit or hurt when he was younger. But I don’t know. I really can’t tell. Like I said, Roy Jones took a long time before he even challenged himself. You know what I mean? This guy had a contract with HBO that said that he could take whatever [opponent] he wanted, and they’re going to show it. They’re going to give him ‘X’ amount of dollars to fight this fight. Who would blame him for not wanting to go and fight [Joe] Calzaghe? Who would blame him for not wanting to rematch James Toney? Who would blame him for not wanting to fight the guys who were available at the time? [Dariusz] Michalczewski, a long-standing champion. Those are the guys that Roy Jones Jr. should’ve been facing when he was in his prime, but those fights never happened because he was too busy fighting Richard Frazier and other type of fighters that really didn’t add up right, that really couldn’t carry Roy’s jock. You know what I mean?”
While their rematch was the more obvious turning point of Jones’ career, Tarver thinks their first fight was actually the bout that changed Jones for the worse.
“I felt I beat Roy,” Tarver said. “Roy took a lot of punishment that fight. That’s what enabled me to knock him out the second time, because I hit him with shots. He took shots just on will [in their first fight], but I hurt him a lot of times in that fight. To the body, to the head. He took a beating on the ropes.
“I’m hitting this guy five, six, seven, eight times, with hard shots. Roy was never the same after that fight. That’s why I was able to knock him out in the second fight. And he was never the same since then. So, you know, it’s about the punishment a fighter takes.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.