Jones: End of the line for an all-time great
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Roy Jones Jr. sounded early Sunday like a man who'd finally made a decision to change jobs. Which is convenient, because for most of the 12 rounds that had begun late Saturday it looked like a choice he should have made at least one uninspired fight sooner.
Pensacola's four-division world champion -- and arguably the finest fighter Florida has ever produced -- continued a late-stage tailspin before 6,792 largely frustrated fans at Mandalay Bay, dropping an intermittently interesting decision to nemesis Bernard Hopkins in a light heavyweight bout.
"I'm going to go home and talk to the team, and if they decide to call it a day we'll call it a day," the 41-year-old Jones said. "But it's not my decision. I'll talk to my coaches."
The loss, which came by lopsided 117-110 (twice) and 118-109 scores, was the Washington High product's sixth in 11 fights since he opened a brilliant career with 49 wins in 50 fights after first achieving fame with a silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.
SportsNetwork.com also scored it 117-110 for Hopkins -- giving the first, third and 11th rounds to Jones.
He'd beaten Hopkins 17 years ago for his first title belt, copping the vacant IBF middleweight crown with a trio if 116-112 scores when the two men met at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Jones went on to capture championships at super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight while earning consensus acclaim as the world's best pound-for-pound fighter until a shocking two-round TKO loss in a rematch with Antonio Tarver in May 2004 began the plummet.
Roy Jones Jr. would end with a career mark of 54-7 if he choose retirement.
Another stoppage loss -- to then-unheralded Glen Johnson -- preceded a unanimous decision loss to Tarver in their 2005 rubber match in Memphis, and from then on relegated Jones to "remember when" status as he stubbornly struggled to regain past glory.
Wins over lesser lights Prince Badi Ajamu and Anthony Hanshaw in 2006-07 returned the former champion to some level of relevance and yielded a spot in a Don King-promoted main event, in which he whipped faded ex-welterweight claimant Felix Trinidad over 12 rounds at Madison Square Garden.
His return trip to New York City was less successful 10 months later, however, ending in a punishing decision loss to unbeaten Welsh import Joe Calzaghe in November 2008 -- in which Jones scored a first-round knockdown before losing the last 11 rounds.
Two more wins -- over Omar Sheika in Pensacola and Jeff Lacy in nearby Biloxi, Miss. -- set up one last run at the top, though it failed painfully in a one- round TKO loss to cruiserweight title-holder Danny Green last December before Saturday's return with Hopkins, whose aftermath saw Jones dispatched to a local hospital to tend to a angry gash alongside his left eye.
Hopkins was also taken to the hospital after the fight after briefly collapsing in his dressing room, the apparent after-effect of two rabbit punches that sent him to the canvas in the sixth and eighth rounds and led to a penalty point taken from Jones by referee Tony Weeks.
The Philadelphian hit the canvas again in the 10th round after a borderline Jones low blow.
Aside from splitting the first four rounds with occasional quick jabs and straight rights, the fouls were the only tangible impact Jones had on Hopkins, who took control in the middle rounds with a bullying style that saw what few exchanges occurred devolve into prolonged roughhousing along the ropes.
The crowd frequently voiced its displeasure, saving its loudest cheers for brief spurts of retaliatory action that came immediately after Jones' fouls -- and later for the indication that the final round was entering its final 10 seconds.
"It's time for (Jones) to stop. If he keeps going and fights someone who can really punch, he could wind up getting hurt," said one media member after the fight, reflecting the general consensus on press row. "It looks like his legs are gone, and he just can't pull the trigger anymore."
Should he indeed choose retirement, Jones would end with a career mark of 54-7 with 40 knockouts, world title status in the aforementioned four weight classes and an all-but-guaranteed pass to the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. when he becomes eligible for enshrinement in 2015.
"I've had a wonderful career," Jones said. "You can't have too much better than what I had."
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Moments, observations and notes from another fight weekend in Vegas:
1. Fancy meeting you here...Upon taking the $13 post-fight cab ride to the airport and boarding the American red-eye to Dallas, the first familiar face seen sitting comfortably in business class -- former Indiana and Texas Tech basketball coach Bob Knight.
2. Playing it safe...Spotted a few hours later as overnight Dallas passengers trudged down the breezeway to a connection to Orlando, former 140- and 147- pound champion Buddy McGirt, repeatedly making the signs of the cross -- it was Easter Sunday, after all -- as he approached the cabin door.
3. About 20 paces ahead of dad...was McGirt's son, James "Buddy" Jr., who dumped Alabama journeyman John Mackey with a single second-round shot in the undercard's third bout.
4. I'd have lost a fortune...betting any other option than "Latin Snake" Sergio Mora as the most impressive of the prelims, but the former Contender star and one-time WBC 154-pound champion fared quite well in punishing Calvin Green over seven entertaining rounds before scoring the TKO.
5. Not quite as enthralling...was the final pre-main snore between Jason Litzau and Rocky Juarez, which featured seven rounds of general drowsiness before Litzau was curiously unable to continue with a gash under his left eye. Because the cut was from a headbutt, matters went to the scorecards and gave the bloodied Minnesotan a technical decision triumph.
6. Somebody stop me...Until the Hopkins-Jones get-together went the full route, not one fight Saturday night lasted as long as scheduled. Eight undercard bouts resulted in seven TKOs and the aforementioned technical decision -- yielding just 33 of a planned 64 rounds.
7. (Not) Respecting his elders...Speaking of quick undercard stops, Ukrainian- turned-Californian Ismayl Sillakh looked great in blowing out veteran Daniel Judah in two rounds, but might have been a bit premature after only 12 fights in saying "if I fought Bernard Hopkins, I'd knock him out."
8. Always bet on blue...There was no pre-card line for it at the Mandalay sports book, but, had there been, a blanket wager on all nine blue corner fighters would have wound up with a perfect 9-0 records with wins from Yaundale Evans, Craig McEwan, McGirt, Frankie Gomez, Ray Narh, Sillakh, Mora, Litzau and Hopkins.
9. Lines of the night...Philadelphia scribe Bernard Fernandez gets the nod with his lament that Hopkins detractors would lessen the "Executioner's" win by saying he's got a "glass back of the head." The silver medal goes to Ring Magazine royalty Bert Sugar and Nigel Collins, who, apparently dizzied by the flood of regional alphabet titles on the undercard, decided that the Litzau- Juarez bore was for a "super undisputed interim" championship to be named later.
10. "His Way" or the highway...Not only was Hopkins sporting the menacing black hood of years gone by on the ring walk, he was serenaded down the aisle by children's clothing company CEO and good friend Artie Rabin -- who belted out a Bernard-personalized version of "My Way" in Elvis Presley style, backed by three in-ring back-up singers who'd sung with Elvis himself during the final tour prior to his death in 1977.
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FRIDAY IBF junior bantamweight title -- Massy, France Simphiwe Nongqayi (champion) vs. Malik Bouziane (No. 10 contender) Nongqayi (16-0, 6 KO): First title defense; Third fight outside South Africa (2-0, 0 KO) Bouziane (13-1, 1 KO): First title fight; One loss in France (12-1, 1 KO) Fitzbitz says: "Bouziane is at home, but Nongqayi has met a better class of without a loss." -- Nongqayi by decision.
IBF welterweight title -- Ljubljana, Slovenia Jan Zaveck (champion) vs. Rodolfo Ezequiel Martinez (No. 15 contender) Zaveck (28-1, 16 KO): First title defense; Sixth fight in Slovenia (4-0, 2 KO, 1 no-contest) Martinez (36-3-1, 13 KO): First title fight; Third fight outside Argentina (1-1, 0 KO) Fitzbitz says: "Neither man should be called 'welterweight champion' with a straight face, but, in terms of this fight, Zaveck gets the nod with the notion the belt will make him better." -- Zaveck by decision.
SATURDAY (LIVE RINGSIDE COVERAGE -- MAIN EVENT AND UNDERCARD -- ON TWITTER AND FACEBOOK) WBC welterweight title -- Sunrise, Fla. Andre Berto (champion) vs. Carlos Quintana (No. 15 contender) Berto (25-0, 19 KO): Fourth title defense; Third fight in Florida (2-0, 1 KO) Quintana (27-2, 21 KO): Former WBO champion (2008); Knocked out in two title- fight losses (1-2, 0 KO) Fitzbitz says: "Quintana can make guys look bad for a bit, but Berto is probably too strong in the end." -- Berto by decision.
WEDNESDAY IBO cruiserweight title -- Perth, Australia Danny Green (champion) vs. Manny Siaca (unranked) Green (28-3, 25 KO): Second title defense; Unbeaten above 168 pounds (17-0, 13 KO) Siaca (22-6, 19 KO): Sixth title fight (1-4, 0 KO); WBA champion at 168 in 2004 Fitzbitz says: "Green's too big and too strong against a foe who's too old and too shop-worn." -- Green in 8.
Last week's picks: 0-1 Overall picks record: 179-66 (73 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com.