By Michael Rosenthal
Roy Jones Jr.: Roy Jones hasn’t been Roy Jones for more than a decade. The real Roy Jones was something to behold.
The four-division titleholder, now 49, outpointed someone named Scott Sigmon on Thursday in his hometown of Pensacola, Florida, which Jones says was his final fight after almost 30 years – yes, 30 – as a professional boxer.
Jones was only 17-8 in his final 25 fights, five of the losses coming by knockout. That Jones was a bigger, slower, much-less-effective version of his younger self. In other words, he was ordinary, which is the last word you’d use to describe the earlier version of Jones.
The Jones who started his career 49-1 (with 38 knockouts), the Jones of a generation ago, was breathtaking. I never saw a fighter in person with his combination of speed and power. His punches were lightning bolts that wrecked his opponents and lifted wide-eyed fans out of their seats time and again.
And he was so quick and so athletic – with supernatural reflexes – that he was extremely difficult to hit, which is why he could fight with his hands down and get away with it for so long.
I saw only two fighters as all-but-unbeatable during more than a quarter century of covering boxing – Jones and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Who was better? Mayweather was the better boxer, Jones the better fighter. If they could’ve met at the same weight in their primes, I think Jones – quicker, more athletic and definitely a bigger puncher – would’ve overcome Mayweather’s technical superiority.
That means, in my mind, Jones is the best fighter pound-for-pound since the heyday of Sugar Ray Leonard and Roberto Duran.
I know Jones has his critics. Some say his level of opposition when he was at his best was so-so. The name missing from his resume I hear most is Dariusz Michalczewski, an excellent fighter but hardly a career-defining opponent.
And Jones did fight and beat a number of elite opponents. Among them: Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Mike McCallum, Montell Griffin (who had beaten Jones by DQ earlier), Virgil Hill and Antonio Tarver.
Critics will say, among many things, that Hopkins had yet to mature, Toney had trouble making weight and Tarver deserved the decision. The fact is Jones won those fights.
Of course, another criticism centers on the last 15 years of a career that ideally would’ve ended in 2003, after he beat Tarver. Tarver shocked the boxing world by stopping Jones in the rematch, the first of three losses. Jones was never the same.
I believe one reason he became vulnerable is that he ruined his body by bulking up to almost 200 pounds to challenge then-heavyweight champ John Ruiz and then going back down to 175 pounds for the first Tarver fight at 35 years old.
Plus, I think it’s fair to say that because he relied so much on his speed and reflexes, he became more beatable when he slowed down even a hair.
And, finally, almost all great fighters go out on sour notes after their bodies fail them. The fact Jones fought until he was almost 50 compounded the perception of him as a faded fighter; it went on year after year after year.
I can put that aside, as I have for so many other current or future Hall of Famers who struggled in the end. I’ll never forget the Jones who blew the minds of fans with his otherworldly gifts from 1993 to the Ruiz fight in 2003, when he went 21-1 (16 KOs) in one lopsided title fight after another.
It has been a thrill to watch many fighters over the past two decades. For me, no one was more thrilling than Jones.
Miguel Berchelt (33-1, 29 KOs) is gaining more and more respect. The Mexican stopped late replacement Maxwell Awuku (44-4-1, 30 KOs) in three rounds Saturday in Cancun, Berchelt’s hometown. That’s 12 consecutive victories (11 KOs) since a wicked left hook (and possibly a premature stoppage) from Luis Eduardo Florez ended Berchelt’s night in the first round in 2014. Berchelt can box (as he proved against Takashi Miura), he is tough (as he proved against Francisco Vargas to win his WBC 130-pound title) and he can punch (as has proved against almost everyone). He’s a complete fighter. His biggest challenges lie ahead, though. He wants to face mandatory challenger Miguel Roman (who stopped Aristides Perez on Saturday) and then unify the junior lightweight titles, the other three of which are held by Alberto Machado, Kenichi Ogawa and Vasyl Lomachenko, although Lomachenko won’t remain at 130 much longer. The other three fighters are all formidable but I think Berchelt, the most complete of the bunch, has the ability emerge on top when Lomachenko makes the move. … I don’t like the Danny Garcia-Brandon Rios matchup this coming Saturday at all. I think Garcia remains near his prime while Rios is badly faded, which portends an ugly mismatch. I hope I’m wrong. I was once a fan of Rios, who has always been fun to watch. … There is absolutely no chance that Floyd Mayweather will face Conor McGregor in a mixed martial arts fight. Mayweather loves money but he isn’t going to enter a fight he knows he can’t win, even if it is in a different sport. Mayweather also loves attention, which is why he’s teasing fans with the notion of going into MMA.