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Roy Jones: In the beginning
'Whats Mike Tyson really like?'
The King of Sheffield had not yet grown accustomed to his throne. Whatever legendary status he had assumed in his mind, on the outside he was still really a boy who dreamed of one day meeting his idols.So we spoke about Tyson and all that had happened to him
'Mike Tyson and Don king are survivors. I think they'll stick tougether. And I think my future will be tied up with thiers, because King is the best promoter and Tyson the best heavyweight. It makes a lot of sense to me - Mike Tyson and Don king getting back together again in boxing...'
'James Toney doesn't agree,' I muttered.
'He don't?' Naz said in astonishment.
'No. He said Don is the real criminal..'
'Wow, that Toney fella shots straight from the mouth!'
'He also said that Tyson's the only other guy like him - he'll fight anyone...'
'Me too!' I'm the third man in the triangle. Tyson, Toney and me...'
'But Toney would warn you about King.'
'Why's he so down on King?'
'It goes back to Don trying to get Toney to leave Jackie Kallen. He said some bad things about her..'
'Apparently that she was white - and Jewish.'
The prince was silent for a few moments, and then he grinned. 'But what's he really like? You know, Toney? He looks real hardcore to me. I like him! he's one top fighter!'
'We'll find out just how ggod when he meets Roy Jones.'
'Oh boy!' Naz jumped in his seat. 'I know! Man, I can't wait for that fight! James Toney! Roy jones! I reckon they're the two best fighters in the world right now.'
'But what about you, Naz?' I joked.
'Don't worry, I'm comin' up fast! He said seriously before sinking back into the heady realms of fandom.'Toney-Jones? Man, what a fight that'll be, what a fight!'
The man called Roy Jones
He remained a mystery. outside of the ring his assurance bordered on the eerie. He found pleasure in appearing remote, in avoiding the bombast marketed by eccentics like Eubankand Hamed as well as the equally worn path of menace trod by the Tyson-Toney ilk of bad boys. Depending on your response to such extreme self-possesion he was either the coolest or the haughtiest fighter in contemporary boxing. I was one of the believers in Roy Jones's sense of cool. He did not readily try to either impress or intimidate people. Rather he kept a distance from the rest; as if he had nothing to prove to anyone but himself.
Yet everything changed when he came to fight. I first saw Jones - in Atlantic City in December 1993 on the same bill as Toney - I was as much astonished by Jones's power as his speed. He was like a middleweight version of Tyson at his '88 peak when blurring punches with wrecking ball effect were thrown from a baffling variety of angles. But Jone's defense was a spectacle in itself. Where Iron Mike used to buttress his chin behind a rolling evasion of punches and that 'peek-a-boo' stance of hands held high, Roy would simply lean back and rely on his reflexes to glide him out of trouble. He was most like the prince in that respect. Jones did not attempt to block or slip punches. He wove out of their way as if it might be one of the easiest things to do in the world to dodge a fast blow hurled by a man no more than a foot away. He made it seem as if it wouldn't even matter if the punches fell like rain from his opponents gloves - such was his ability to stay dry in the ring storm.
In Atlantic City Jones fought professionally for the twentienth time, duly registering the same amount of victories with nineteen of those twenty wins coming by way of knockout. Although his bout with a trier called Percy Harris was a mis-match, it still gave Jones the opportunity to show off his pure clout.
He opened his attack with a whirring left hook and overhand right. A clownish look of alarm spread across Harris's face as he tumbled backwards. I was surprised to see that Jones hardly used the jab - THAT SIMPLE PUNCH WHICH HAD FED THE GOALS OF THE GREATEST FIGHTERS. It was as if the jab was too ordinary a punch for him. Another right chopped down on the Harris, whistling by in he opposite direction to a scything uppercut which had landed on Harris moments earlier. Harris crumbled to the floor.
Although I did not think of him as a blood thirsty man, I saw Bob Arum glinting at ringside. That ritual slaughter was just the first in a three fight contract which Jones and Arum had signed less than two months ago in October 92. At the start of that month, Don King had come close to beating Arum in the hunt for Jones's signiture - in a deal which would pay the fighter $800, 000 for a series of bouts on King's Showtime cable network and $1.5 million for numerous Pay-Per-View fights arranged by the promoters's Showtime Event Televesion (SET) offshoot. The mighty Don also spoke airily of a $100,000 bonus, $50,000 in training expenses and an immediate $250,000 to be earned from a world title clash with Julian Jackson - the WBC middleweight champion. But when Jones heard that King would himself pocket $150,000 of the reputed $400,000 Showtime had put aside for his signing, he and his backers stepped towards Arum.
King was left to denonce the folksy legal team of Fred and Stanley Levin who guided Jones's career from their home town of Pensacola on Florida's Panhandle coastline. Like the De La Hoya family, the Levins stayed outside the boxing mainstream, they were much envied for thier 'advisory assocaition' with Roy Jones. King derided them as just another Jewish cartel weidling undue influence over one of his brothers.
'Those Levin boys are telling him a bunch of lies about me,' King grumbled, 'but they've made a mistake going with Arum. Wait till this Jones kid finds out how Arum operates - then we''ll see who's left cryin''
But Stanley Levin, in particular claimed an emotional bond with his fighter which went beyond business. He had witnessed the struggle between Little Roy and Roy Jones Snr; and, in contrast to the father, Levin stressed his desire to help rather than control a fighter who was then only twenty-three years old.
Levin adapted a similar principle when negotiating with promoters trying to wheedle their way into Jones' corner. Apart from King and Arum, the Italian-American Duva family had been chasing Jones for years from their New Jesey base. While Jones had fought more than once under their Main Events banner he had resisted any long term commintment to the Duvas. He had turned down a similar offer from a fourth major promotional force in America - the rumbustious Butch Lewis. Levin shred any attempt to tie Jones to a permanent contract.
He envisaged a situation not unlike that enjoyed by the young Mike Tyson when his original managment team of Jacobs and Cayton had used a varitey of promoters simultaneously - without promising any exclusive rights to future fights. This enabled Tyson, or more accurately Jacobs and Cayton to be the beneficiaires rather than the victims of manipulation. Such tactics infuriated King, Arum and he rest as they were more used to fighters and mangers willing to sell almost any hold over their future for a flat fee.
Rather than fulfilling King's hints of a Jewish conspiricy, Levin suspected instead that their was truth in the old line that, when it came to promoters, 'they are all devils'. Levin restricted Arum's Top Rank contract to a three fight deal, which could be renegotiated if and when they decided to continue with his services.
Jones was one of those rare fighters with cross over potential. His outstanding boxing qualities had already captured the purists whilst knock out force ensured Jones's marquee with both the television financiers and the blue collar fans.
Jones listened mostly to Public Enenmy, Eric B & Rakim, Scarface, Ice Cube and all those other rappers from whom Toney picked up his pointers on how to sound lethal. Roy was similarly blase about his own gun collecion.
Arum's itch to hustle along Toney-Jones rivalry encouraged him to bring the two together as often as possible at press conferences and at ringside. While Toney threw aound his weight with hefty portions of slander. Jones retained an intriguing stillness. He reacted to Toney's 'I'll moider da bum!' type jibes with magisterial derision.
this lead to:
James Toney goes to war