Boxing
Jones comeback a risky proposition
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Roy Jones Jr. is fighting this weekend, but I can't decide if I really care.

On the surface, the answer is yes. After all, Jones is a sure-fire Hall of Famer, he's long been one of my favorites, and though not what he used to be, he's probably still better than 99 percent of the guys donning gloves and trunks anywhere outside Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.

And heck, even though Puerto Rican superstar Felix Trinidad is admittedly some 10 years and 23 pounds past his best days, he's still a more attractive opponent than 99 percent of the dubious gaggle now toiling in Jones' wheelhouse between 168 and 200 pounds.

Still, part of me remembers the last time I got so riled up about the enigma that is RJJ.

Back then, while I was working for, shall we say - another media outlet - I told anyone taking the time to listen that Jones would wake up the echoes of his elite-level past and pummel lightning-in-a-bottle pretender Antonio Tarver in their third fight in October 2005.

Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones Jr. is a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
Forget the second-round KO in their second go-round 13 months earlier, I said. Not only were Tarver's eyes closed when he threw the home-run ball of a left hand, but Jones was using the surprising loss as fuel for his "kill or die" fire heading into Tampa for the final installment of the trilogy.

I couldn't have been more sure, in fact.

But I couldn't have been more wrong, it turned out.

Maddeningly, Jones was anything but the confident and smooth-talking assassin once the bell rang, instead choosing to shuck, jive and avoid serious combat while dropping an eminently winnable decision to Tarver over 12 scream-at-the-television rounds.

And since then, the highlights have come in dribs and drabs.

Jones took another half-year off before besting nondescript Prince Badi Ajamu over 12 rounds in Boise, Idaho, then had another year on the "maybe I'll fight again, maybe I won't" sidelines before rallying to beat untested Anthony Hanshaw in Biloxi, Miss. last July.

Yet somehow, though neither win was all that impressive, he's got me wondering again.

Will this comeback be the one in which he puts menacing pre-fight words into action and actually chases the fourth-round knockout he's promised -- a dominant result which just might add legitimacy to his repeated promotional call outs of super middleweight kingpin Joe Calzaghe?

Or will I spend yet another Saturday night once again wishing I'd have let the sleeping past lie?

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 6,239 times...shame on me.

FitzHitz says: Jones by decision.

OK...I know why. But what I don't know is...WHY?

Fresh off a 2007 which made him gobs of money, earned him scores of recognition and further padded an already Canastota-worthy resume, what would prompt pound-for-pound kingpin Floyd Mayweather Jr. to step into the way-back machine and meet an already vanquished foe?

According to a Thursday report on espn.com, welterweight champion Mayweather is on the verge of an agreement for a rematch with Oscar De La Hoya, whom he bested via not-as-close-as-it-sounds split decision in May to earn a 154-pound crown he relinquished soon after.

The rematch, according to the report, would come either Sept. 13 or 20, and could be staged at several interested sites -- including the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., the MGM Grand in Las Vegas or even Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.

"We are still discussing things but we have almost finalized it," said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. "I think an announcement will be forthcoming. Floyd is agreeable to do the fight and so is Oscar. Now it's just me working through everything."

Unfortunately, there's little to offer this time beyond nostalgia.

Sure, the initial fight broke scores of financial records, including pay-per- view buys ($2.4 million), pay-per-view gross ($134.4 million), live gate ($18,419,200) and total gross ($165 million).

But many fans excited by the prospect of the sport's biggest names meeting in the ring left disappointed when the 12-rounder was more tactical that titillating.

And subsequently, stories chronicling the rise in popularity of mixed martial arts and other extreme fighting disciplines pointed back to the fizzled extravaganza as a boxing indictment.

Though still a money-maker compared to most, a second date between the two would fall far short of the original's receipts and do little to enhance the flow of quality matchups that resulted from wary promoters trying to recharge the sport's batteries and avoid a second straight spotlight letdown.

What then, outside of a blatant money grab, would be reason enough to do it again?

Mayweather would prove little with another defeat of De La Hoya, who, while still possessing rock star appeal, has won just twice in only five fights since early 2003.

Meanwhile, the "Pretty Boy" discussed retirement after handling challenger Ricky Hatton in December, and, should he legitimately be interested in fighting again, has plenty of attractive suitors that would better serve the viewing -- and paying -- public.

If he's going to quit, fine. He quits as the best of this generation and among the best of any. But if he?s going to fight again, why not fight fellow unbeaten 147-pounders Miguel Cotto or Paul Williams, or even Oscar's fellow Golden Boy Promotions executive, Shane Mosley?

Bottom-line bonanza or not...same old, same old - "Pretty" Lame.

At No. 3 this week, a little mea culpa.

As correctly pointed out by eagle-eyed reader Ferdie Alayon, I mistakenly referred to unbeaten Juan Diaz as holder of the WBA/WBC/IBF lightweight title triumvirate during last week?s lead-off piece about confident soon-to-be challenger Nate Campbell.

Instead, Diaz will be defending the WBA, IBF and WBO belts against Campbell on March 8.

The WBC title at 135 pounds is held by David Diaz.

Thank you Ferdie.

This weekend?s title-fight rundown leads off on Saturday night in Canada, where unbeaten southpaw Steve "The Canadian Kid" Molitor will visit Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario for the third straight time for an IBF super bantamweight title defense against Mexican veteran Ricardo Castillo.

Molitor, now 25-0 with 10 knockouts, earned the vacant 122-pound title with a fifth-round KO of British contender Michael Hunter in November 2006.

He fought and won twice in 2007 at Casino Rama, initially defeating Takalani Ndlovu by ninth-round TKO in July before bouncing back with a unanimous nod over Fahsan 3K Battery in October.

Castillo was 1-for-2 in the ring in 2007, losing a WBA super bantamweight shot by disqualification to champion Celestino Caballero in March, when a cornerman entered the ring while the clock was running at 2:02 of the ninth round.

He improved to 33-4 seven months later, winning a unanimous 10-round decision over Andres Ledesma at the Morongo Casino Resort & Spa in Cabazon, Calif. on Oct. 19.

Elsewhere, anonymous heavyweight claimant Ruslan Chagaev puts his WBA bauble on the line in Dusseldorf, Germany, where he'll face soon-to-be 41-year-old British challenger Matt Skelton at Burg-Waechter Castello.

The defense is the first for the 29-year-old Chagaev, a 6-foot-1 Uzbekistan native who earned his title with a majority decision over unbeaten 7-foot novelty Nikolay Valuev in April. Previously, his biggest win had come five months previous, when he decisioned ex-champion John Ruiz.

Chagaev is 23-0-1 with 17 knockouts.

Skelton, who'll celebrate another birthday on Wednesday, earned the title shot and improved to 21-1 overall with a majority 12-round nod over British veteran Michael Sprott in July.

He won his first 18 fights as a pro before dropping a split decision to ex- Tyson conqueror Danny Williams in June 2006. He faced Williams again five months later, winning a unanimous decision in the rematch.

Until next week...if you can't be good, be careful.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has been a professional sports journalist since 1988. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com), provides 'In The Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com) and is available for free- lance print, radio or TV assignments at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.