By Frank Lotierzo
Tarver's victory over Jones tonight is as big of win as his stunning knockout was in their rematch, and in time may prove to be even more significant. Had they never fought again, when ever the two fights between them would be discussed, you'd hear, "yeah, but it was an old Roy Jones that Tarver knocked out."
My problem with that is, nobody was saying it before the fight, were they? In fact Jones was coming off of the best showing of his career against John Ruiz and was an 8-1 favorite in the rematch. All of the sudden losing 18 pounds is a career ending proposition if it's Roy Jones. Yet, other past greats like Archie Moore and Roberto Duran lost twice that much late in their career, and they were fighting opponents 10 years their junior, not the same age.
First, it was he's not really a light heavyweight, remember he weighed 156 in his pro-debut. Yet he openly admitted during the HBO broadcast of Bernard Hopkins title defense against Simon Brown, that he was too big for Hopkins and was 175 the night they fought for the IBF middleweight title.
For the rubber match, Jones weighed in at 173, a pound less than he was for the rematch. Jones making the light heavyweight limit of 175 wasn't an issue once before the second and third fight. The only time it was an issue, was before the first fight, the one Jones won.
There's a couple other factors that are/were constantly overlooked. One is the fact that Roy Jones had the easiest championship reign in terms of punishment absorbed than any other all-time great boxing champion. Another is the one pertaining to his chin and how he takes a big shot.
One of the biggest detriments to great fighters which leads to them enduring unnecessary beatings at the end of their career is that the last thing to go on them is their chin. This applies two-fold to a fighter like Roy Jones. The reason being his chin was never subjected to being his last line of defense, it just wasn't touched. So the idea that his chin went from concrete to tiffany doesn't past the smell test one bit.
In tonight's fight, the quick reflexes of Jones were there, but his willingness to engage was not. Jones tried to using his movement to confuse Tarver, but Tarver controlled the fight with his jab and did not let Jones steal the rounds with flurries at the end. Tarver had Jones in trouble in the eleventh round by way of a strong right hand, but was unable to put him away. All three judges saw the fight for Tarver with scores of 116-112, 116-112 and 117-111.
The sentiment before this fight was only Tarver's legacy was on the line, not Jones'. That wasn't the way I saw it. How could it not be? Tarver is two months Jones senior, making them exactly the same age. Jones looked sensational and as sharp as he ever did during the first round against Tarver in the rematch, before getting caught.
How can anyone who judges Roy Jones by the same standards used to evaluate other great fighters change the rules? Antonio Tarver was the best opponent he ever fought at light heavyweight. To think Jones losing two of three, in some boxing circles three of three, to the best light heavyweight of his generation isn't significant, why bother keeping track who wins and loses?
Give Tarver his due. Roy Jones was the man until he fought him, that's certainly not selective memory. The fact is the division in which Roy's fought and won the most title bouts, he lost two of three to the best fighter he fought in it, Tarver who is just as old as Jones.
The age factor would have wings if it was the disparity like the one between Bernard Hopkins who is 40 and Jermain Taylor who is 27, but it's not even close. There just is not one case in the annals of boxing history where an all-time great champion was retired by a fighter his senior. Maybe Tarver should get some credit for that instead of saying Jones was washed up.
When Jones was destroying janitors, fireman and security guards, he was Sugar Ray Robinson reincarnate. Jones lands a once in a lifetime body shot versus Virgil Hill and he's the greatest ever. Tarver then ices him with one punch and Jones got old in between the first and second round of the rematch. Stop it. Roy Jones is one of the most talented boxers of the last twenty five years, but the fact remains he has a questionable chin. That was first exposed by Tarver.
I noticed before the fight that a lot of the boxing media picked Jones to win tonight, including myself. I can't answer for anyone else, but my pick of Jones to win was more of a pick against Tarver. This is because Tarver is a fighter I saw who did just enough to get by. He should've beat Jones the first time, but wasn't willing to tempt greatness. He should've never lost to Johnson.
In the rematch, Tarver won because of his greater talent more so than his burning desire. However, he's undefeated in rematches and is 1-0 in the only rubber match of his career. And he's closer to 40 than he is 30.
As of this writing, Antonio Tarver is the best light heavyweight in the world. He's big like Michael Spinks, does everything pretty good, but doesn't do any one thing great. That said, he's not finished yet. The only thing that can be stated as fact is, he will be forever known as the fighter who ended Roy Jones reign as undisputed light heavyweight champion. That distinction now belongs to him forever.