Photo Credits: Ethan Miller
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated, thus, everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.
Viktor E. Frankl
My guess is Roy Levesta Jones, better known as Roy Jones Jr. must only grow in admiration for his singular in ring ability and his predisposition to entertain.
It will be necessarily so - Jones is not fully understood or appreciated in this present moment.
His influence on a multitude of young fighters who call him hero is everywhere.
From Naseem Hamed dancing around and mocking his opponents.
When Conor McGregor holds his hands behind his back taunting an overmatched foe to strike.
When Josh Kelly, born more than a year before Jones’ first world title win unleashes six left hooks in a row the influence of Jones is clear.
Has there been a fighter more influential than Jones on Boxing as entertainment? You would have to go back to Muhammad Ali and that is rarefied company.
And like Ali a lot of what Roy Jones Jr. did seemed wrong from a fundamental boxing point of view - he crossed his feet, kept his hands at his sides, backed straight up - chin in the air, he should have gotten knocked out the first - the 100th time he did it… yet opponents seldom even laid a glove on him.
Sunshine State Boxing
These days boxing fans can easily name well known boxers or trainers that call Florida, USA home. Keith Thurman, Winky Wright, David Haye has trained in Miami and a large Cadre of Cuban professional boxers currently live and train there like Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Of course, there is the famous 5th Street Gym in Miami Beach, FL. still in operation today where legendary trainer Angelo Dundee led Muhammad Ali to world titles remained a boxing mecca for many. However when Jones burst onto the scene it was a jolt.
The best boxers in America at the time were produced in Detroit, or Boston or New York...Right?
Wrong. Along the Gulf Coast on Florida’s panhandle lies Pensacola. The city of barely 50,000 inhabitants is nestled in Pensacola Bay. A city known for its white sand beaches and not much else.
Jones was born 16 January 1969, he left the beaches behind once he found boxing. A phenom almost as soon as he laced up his gloves, Jones amassed an amateur record of 121-13. At just 15 Jones become a Junior Olympic Champion in ‘84. As he grew into a young man his successes continued to pile up winning the US Gold Gloves tournament in ‘86 & ‘87.
In 1988 Jones, now 19 essentially a full grown man had qualified for the US Olympic Team and competing at 154 pounds.
Jones stormed through the bracket before facing South Korea’s Park Si-Hun. The controversy is well known. Anyone with two eyeballs not blinded by money knew that Jones won the fight handedly. However Park won Gold and Jones was given Silver. Less than 10 years later UK journalist Andrew Jennings released a story detailing widespread and pervasive corruption of officials, bribes of $300-$500 had been doled out to judges.
A credit to Jones, like Evander Holyfield before him handled the issue with class and as a result of this bout the Olympic Committee forever changed the way Olympic Boxing is scored. Problems persist of course, however the Jones/Park fight was a watershed.
Jones made his pro debut in May 1989 winning by KO in the 2nd of an eight round fight and by 1992 Jones was making a name. He compiled a record of 16 wins and 16 straight knockouts all in style. He won the vacant WBC Continental Americas title that same year. The following year, 22 May 1993 Jones, now ranked #2 Middleweight by the IBF faced #1 The Executioner Bernard Hopkins.
Hopkins had turned pro roughly the same time as Jones, but took a very different path to get there. Hopkins had been in an out of the Pennsylvania Correctional Institute and was ostensibly a human cock-fighter, Hopkins travelled the circuit fighting in the other prisons institutions around the state, eventually becoming the Pennsylvania Dept of Corrections champion.
Hopkins was mean, defensive and rough as toast. While Jones was fast, slick and nimble.
Jones won a fairly lopsided point’s decision and the vacant IBF Middleweight belt.
A year and a half later Jones stepped up to Super Middleweight to take on the fearsome James Lights Out Toney. Another rough, defensive minded fighter, undefeated at the time and a product of the world renowned Michigan boxing scene. Both men could be arrogant, contemptuously dispatching lesser boxers.
Jones characteristically danced and showboated in front of Toney, there was a moment in the 3rd round when Toney tried to copy Jones’ antics - dropping his hands, sticking his chin out - then in a flash Jones dropped Toney with a left hook swarming him as he tumbled into the corner. Again Jones won a near white wash. Toney was ranked by The Ring Magazine the #2 pound for pound best fighter in the world.
Now by inference that spot was claimed by Jones, along with the IBF Super Middleweight title. His second belt in as many weight classes.
Antoine Byrd, Vinny Pazienza, Montell Griffin, Mike MacCallum, all fell at the talented feet of Jones. None harder than Virgil Hill, collapsing and writing in pain from a brutal hook to the guts.
Photo Credits: AP
By 1997, less than ten years as a pro Jones had added the unified Light Heavyweight titles to his resume. Accolades poured in, industry magazines named him the #1 pound for pound best fighter of all time, fighter of the decade, knockout of the year. As renowned as the heavyweight boxing scene was in the nineties as the decade came to a close it seemed as though the whole boxing game belonged to Roy Jones Jr.
He leveraged that notoriety branching out into several ventures. In 1998 he founded a record label, Body Heat Entertainment, releasing a rap album in 2002 The Album: Round One made it all the way to #50 on the Billboard chart showcasing his crossover appeal.
The next year in March 2003 Roy Jones Jr would attempt the impossible, becoming the first boxer ever in the history of the sport to go from Light Middleweight (154 pounds) all the way to Heavyweight (200+) and win a title.
I remember that fight like it was yesterday.
I watched on PPV with a group of friends over pizza and beer, it was a jovial atmosphere not unlike a Super Bowl or World Cup Soccer final. No one I was with believed Jones would lose.
Though he came in under the heavyweight limit Jones smoked the bigger man. John Ruiz the Massachusetts native had upset the ageing Evander Holyfield taking the WBA title in their second fight and retaining in the third bout between the two men on a draw.
Jones seemed at his zenith, he didn’t seem to struggle with the extra weight, he moved effortlessly and picked Ruiz apart. He wowed the crowd with his antics - cocking his arm like the slide on a semi-automatic pistol before firing a punch at the lumbering Ruiz.
Jones won an easy points victory, making history and claiming his fourth title in a fourth weight class.
Jones seemed simply to be from another planet. He seemed unstoppable.
Hard Times Baby...
By the early 2000s Roy Jones Jr was one of the most popular and dominant figures in boxing.
A four weight world champion that showed no signs of slowing and was by all accounts in his physical prime in his mid-thirties.
Then out of nowhere Jones’ incontestable invincibility was shattered by the short left punch of Antonio Tarver.
Jones initially had designs of staying at heavyweight. His team negotiated fights with Holyfield, Tyson and Lennox Lewis all of which fell through for one reason or another. Jones opted to move back down to Light Heavyweight and reclaim the WBA & WBC titles Tarver had captured in Jones’ absence. Jones struggled in the first bout, sneaking by with a majority decision.
Photo Credits: Jed Jacobsohn
Six months later the two met again. Jones seemed stiff and robotic. He looked uncomfortable and awkward and Tarver capitalized pressing Jones, getting close and making it ugly at times, he had learned from the first bout and pressed Jones. Then the unthinkable as Jones was caught in an exchange with a short powerful left punch from the southpaw Tarver. Jones was sent heavily to the canvas and staggered like a drunkard to his feet. Referee Jay Nady stepped in to immediately wave the fight off. Jones suffered the first KO of his career being stopped in the second round.
It was a turning point in Jones career and was never the same after.
After the knockout Jones suffered two more losses. Four months after the first loss to Tarver he was knocked stiff by Glen Johnson. The sight of Roy Jones on his back, gaze locked staring at nothing and motionless is as troubling as it is inconceivable.
Jones took more than a year off and came back in in October ‘05 to settle the score with Antonio Tarver. There were no belts on the line this time, only self-respect. For Tarver/Jones III Roy brought his father back in as a co-trainer. Roy Jones Sr., had not been in Junior’s camp since being fired in ‘92. The plan, according to Junior was that his father would give input into the fight however long time trainer Alton Merkerson was the chief second. Jones in part blamed the chaos that was created in the corner for the second loss to Tarver, his rival since their adolescence in the Florida, the truth was that even at just 36 Jones who seemed to be at the top of the boxing world only a few years ago saw steep decline in his abilities, he looked and fought like an old man.
Post-fight Jones hinted at retirement, however as he told ESPN at the time:
You'll definitely see me at ringside but I am not sure if you will see me back in the ring or not. Being the champion that I am, I may be back.
He did come back and though he never challenged for nor did he win another major recognise world title Jones did author some entertaining performances against all-time greats in and around the weight classes he competed in.
Jones won a lopsided decision against Felix Tito Trinidad, he challenged all-time great Super Middleweight Joe Calzaghe and though Jones lost their bout, had the fight taken place in Jones prime given his dominance at the weight it’s hard to bet against Jones.
The losses piled up though, losing by a first round KO to Australian Danny Green, a lopsided decision to Bernard Hopkins who aged better comparatively thanks to his defensive style though in their primes Jones cut Hopkins to Ribbons.
Then a third straight loss to Denis Lebedev at the cruiserweight. The sickening TKO coming in the 10th round that left Jones crumpled in a heap on the canvas motionless for some time.
It was now spring of 2011 but the winter of Jones’ career had already come and gone. Lebedev is a gutsy but extremely limited fighter and 10 years prior could not have laced Jones’ gloves much less stop him and it still took almost all 10 rounds.
The reason Jones continued to fight became apparent as the Tax Man had finally caught up to Jones, alleging more than $3.5 Million dollars was owed by Jones to the IRS stemming from a 2008 tax lien filed by the clerk of Santa Rosa County FL in March of that same year.
Several failed business ventures contributed further to Jones’ financial woes.
The saddest circumstance in boxing besides the obvious of course is seeing a fighter well past his prime years being forced to fight on merely to make a living - to survive. There is no pension plan in boxing, no retirement fund. For a fighter like Jones even though he boxed at the highest level that ensures nothing regarding financial security. The stereotype is that star athletes blow their money living the life and Jones did some of that of course, there are no financial planning classes offered in boxing gyms that I’m aware of.
So Jones fought on, partly out of necessity and partly because he knows nothing else.
Y’all Must Have Forgot
Jones just celebrated his 49th birthday in January, with many of his financial woes behind him. A regular gig on the HBO commentary team Jones finally seems at ease with his new role - Boxing Elder Statesman, achieving a similar status to his boyhood hero Muhammad Ali.
Photo Credits: Scott Foster
Jones did however have one more show for his fans. Back in Pensacola, where it all began Jones fought he claims for the last time At the Civic Center in his hometown. He took on journeyman Scott Sigmon for the lightly regarded WBU Cruiserweight title in a ten round fight that featured some of the old Roy Jones Jr. the flash, the antics - he stuck his tongue out at the audience while not even looking at Sigmon - who was probably just happy to be there - as he ate punches from Jones for 30 minutes.
Jim Lampley friend and broadcast partner of Jones went on record many times stating that he’d spoken to Jones on at least one occasion where he confronted Jones and point blank asked him to stop fighting. Though it came from a place of love, who is Lampley to pass on that kind of unsolicited advice? Who are any of us?
As Viktor Frankl’s wrote:
Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life…
Roy Jones Jr is a fighter.
That is who he is.
A job is something you do to make a living if you can, a vocation is something that animates you and makes you who you are.
...everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfilment.
Even at middle age with his reflexes long gone, I’m not even sure the fight last Thursday is truly the final one, the mind of a fighter can trick the body into thinking it is capable to carry on.
For a fighter there is always one more round… there is never fulfilment, nothing will ever take the place of victory and roaring crowds.
One need only look at old rivals Bernard Hopkins and James Toney for recent examples.
...Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated…
Jones’ career and his impact on the sport cannot be denied, regardless of the way it ended.
Now he’s in a position to make a positive impact on the sport and the lives of young people just like he was once through training fighters and leveraging the technology available in 2018 with STARVIZN a website where aspiring fighters or just folks who want to get in shape can learn virtually at the feet of the one and only Roy Jones Jr.
God blessed me to be able to do so many remarkable things with my career and during my career that stays relevant because they are the best highlights on YouTube. We all get to benefit from the fact that people can go back on social media now, look at it and share it, and they share my videos all the time because nobody has more intriguing yet exciting videos of boxing than does Roy Jones Jr. You ain’t gotta go back and look at one fight; you can go back and it’s a whole collage. It’s songs, videos of true stuff that I did in fights that nobody else did. So that’s what kept me relevant. When people say they want to look at boxing, you want to see boxing, you want to see fighting with excitement to it. You’ll go watch probably two or three people: Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Jr.
Now Jones moves into that final phase of actualising his vocation. Becoming an ambassador, a mentor and teacher of the Sweet Science passing along not only the hard lessons he learned in the ring and on the other hand the hardest lessons he learned for himself outside the ring.
After all Frankl again said it best:
...everyone's task is unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.