By Lyle Fitzsimmons
It’s a good thing I’m way thin on accomplishments.
I was MVP of a Cinderella hockey run as a Niagara Falls pre-teen, and I’ve managed to outrun about 10 percent of the field while completing a dozen 10-plus mile road races since… but no one’s been ringing the cell phone lately asking for up-front tickets to my Hall of Fame inductions.
It’s just as well, I guess, because I don’t particularly like being a target.
These days, no matter the acclaim earned over a career in an endeavor of choice, it seems a righteously indignant never-was is rarely far away with a sheaf of reasons why even one more split-second in the spotlight – win, lose, draw or otherwise – will immediately reduce legacies to rubble.
This past weekend, it was Roy Jones Jr.’s turn in the crosshairs.
Nearly every day since October 2005 – when a unanimous decision against Antonio Tarver was the third straight loss in a career that just 18 months earlier had been sans blemish – some soothsayer from some outlet has written that the Pensacola showman ought to retire in order to save his resume.
Or just as accurately, the writer's warped view of it.
As if three losses then – or the four more he’s had in 11 fights since – would be enough to cancel out title belts in multiple classes, one-sided wins over myriad Hall of Famers and more plentiful highlight-reel material than any 100 fighters whose careers dissolved long before anyone noticed.
It’s been nonsense at every stop from greatness to mediocrity.
It was nonsense when Tarver out-pointed him in 2005. It was nonsense when Joe Calzaghe out-slicked him in 2008. And it was nonsense when Danny Green, Bernard Hopkins and Denis Lebedev out-everythinged him across another three-fight skid that covered 17 months from 2009 to 2011.
That said, no one of sound mind is contending that the Badi Ajamus and Max Alexanders – or even the Felix Trinidads – of the world that Jones has beaten since Tarver are anyone's idea of Ray Robinson.
Or even Ray Romano, for that matter.
And no, his Saturday effort against Pawel Glazewski – a top 25 light heavy who wouldn’t have carried the prime Jones’s sweat rag – wasn’t a keeper, regardless of which scorecard you endorsed.
(Incidentally, mine had the Pole up by a point.)
Everyone knows he’s not what he was. Everyone knows he won’t be again.
But what most of the efforts do prove, if nothing else, are that a surely faded and probably cash-strapped Jones, even at 43, can still handle himself well enough for Ws against 99 percent of the active pros out there – and at least moderately competitive losses against the other 1 percent.
And if that’s good enough for him, then why shouldn’t it be for us?
Make no mistake, I’m a fan. I’d have loved to have seen him win them all.
And I’d have loved for him to have walked away at 34, with all these conversations preempted.
But as long as he's physically able to keep going – and grown man enough to decide to do so – I can't for the life of me understand why it's as bad, sad and tragic as the teary-eyed, quick-to-eulogize Twitter set would have had you believe over the weekend.
Or how it takes anything away from what they’d all thought when he was 49-1.
Short of him reliving O.J. Simpson’s or Pete Rose’s foibles, it all makes zero difference.
Those legacies are indeed tarnished by off-the-field failings.
But Jones's in-ring history is forever safe, and one need look no further than Canastota for proof.
Muhammad Ali lost to Trevor Berbick, but his plaque still says “The Greatest.” Ray Leonard lost to Hector Camacho, but he's still called “Sugar Ray.” Julio Cesar Chavez lost to Grover Wiley, but he'll always be “El Gran Campeon Mexicano.”
And regardless of what happens to Jones from here on out, he's still “Superman.”
* * * * * * * * * *
This week’s title-fight schedule:
IBF/WBO junior featherweight titles – Carson, Calif.
Jeffrey Mathebula (IBF champion) vs. Nonito Donaire (WBO champion)
Mathebula (26-3-2, 14 KO): First title defense; Lost only fight outside South Africa
Donaire (28-1, 18 KO): First title defense; Held belts at 112 (IBF/IBO) and 118 (WBC/WBO)
Fitzbitz says: “IBF champ has a longer history against bigger foes, but rising Filipino should have enough at 122 to continue an 11-year unbeaten run and stay on big-fight course.” Donaire by decision
IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO heavyweight titles – Berne, Switzerland
Wladimir Klitschko (IBF/IBO/WBA/WBO champion) vs. Tony Thompson (No. 2 IBF contender)
Klitschko (57-3, 50 KO): Twelfth IBF title defense; Stoppage wins in all career rematches (4-0, 4 KO)
Thompson (36-2, 24 KO): Second title fight; Lost to Klitschko (KO by 11) in July 2007 title fight
Fitzbitz says: “Thompson is surely a tough, sturdy foe, but a rematch with the division’s best is more indicative of a heavyweight dearth than an improved chance of him winning.” Klitschko in 9
WBC super flyweight title – Yokohama, Japan
Yota Sato (champion) vs. Sylvester Lopez (No. 1 contender)
Sato (24-2-1, 12 KO): First title defense; Unbeaten since 2005 (19-0-1, 8 KO)
Lopez (19-3-1, 15 KO): First title fight; Third fight outside Philippines (1-1, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “The gut instinct is screaming to pick the visitor by a quick KO, but the rational guess is that the champ weathers any early storms to pull away big on the scorecards.” Sato by decision
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. For example, fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Last week's picks: 0-1
Overall picks record: 318-107 (74.8 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.