Ageless Jones turns back the clock
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm back on the wagon.
As I drove toward Saturday night's fight card in Biloxi, Mississippi, I'd heard all the reasons why the Roy Jones Jr.-Jeff Lacy main event shouldn't be taken seriously.
Jones hadn't been a world champion in five years. He hadn't beaten a warm body since. And he'd been smacked around and bloodied the last time he'd tried.
Lacy was a fraud. He hadn't been a champion in three years. And he'd spent the subsequent time making fools of all the people who'd ever believed he was world class to begin with.
In spite of all that, I made the trip anyway.
And now that I've returned, I'm absolutely sure of one thing.
I'm happy I went.
Because had I not, I'd have missed out on a performance for the ages.
Yes, I said ages.
But before the e-mail jabs and message-board taunts begin -- reminding me that a defeat of Lacy in 2009 is hardly the stuff of legends -- let me explain.
I know Lacy was more a name than a threat. And I realize his best days were long past.
But it wasn't just that Jones beat Lacy. It was how he beat him.
Not by the skin-of-his-teeth decision that some predicted. Not with the non- combative shuck-and-jive show that had become his trademark since the surprising KO losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson.
Roy Jones Jr.
No, this was something different.
A virtuoso performance in which Jones mixed elements of his old arsenal -- power, speed, combination punching, aggression -- while controlling nearly every minute of nearly every round.
He threw pinpoint uppercuts. He threw punishing hooks. He jumped up and clicked his heels.
And he emerged after 30 minutes with nary a mark on his face.
Just like the old days.
When he whipped Hall of Fame-bound guys like Toney, Hopkins, Hill and McCallum, outclassed second-tier champions like Reggie Johnson, Clinton Woods and Julio Cesar Gonzalez and hammered flotsam and jetsam like Richard Frazier, Otis Grant and Glen Kelly.
My card had him up, 98-92, when Lacy, his face by then a lumpy mess, chose to surrender rather than endure the final six minutes of a scheduled 12-round torture.
I wasn't alone in my viewpoint.
Judge Gary Ritter gave Jones all 10 rounds and had it 100-89 when the end came. Larry Ingle had it 99-91. Randy Phillips was just a tick behind at 98-92.
And after Jones was done clowning for the crowd, berating his foe's supporters and chatting with the TV crew -- all in mid-fight, mind you -- I had to remind myself that he'll turn 41 before I do.
Yes, it was that good.
And yes, I believe there's more gas left in the tank.
A title shot against cruiserweight Danny Green is winnable should Jones replicate Saturday's effort, and such a victory could make Jones an attractive dance partner for suitors like Tomasz Adamek, Chad Dawson or Bernard Hopkins.
"We're going to go to Australia to beat Danny Green and become cruiserweight champion of the world, then come back and see what's out there," Jones said.
All will be considered, according to John Wirt, owner/CEO of Jones' promotional firm, Square Ring Inc.
"All of (those fighters) are in the mix," he said. "We also have spoken previously about fighting the Klitschkos, and, if Haye or Arreola win, we would also fight them as well. Another option, although a long shot, is Anderson Silva with the UFC, but Dana White doesn't want to do that fight."
Whether Jones wins any is up for debate.
What's indisputable is that he's convincingly returned to relevance.
And, to me anyway, that's a comeback for the ages.
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As it turns out, Jones wasn't the only big winner Saturday night.
Presumably among the other happy people exiting the Mississippi Coast Coliseum was Ed Levine.
With the results of the final two fights, the IBO president saw his organization -- the lone sanctioning body to recognize either Manny Pacquiao or Chad Dawson as a world champion -- guaranteed at least one more night in the spotlight before the end of 2009.
The Jones and Green wins officially set up the November meeting that had been agreed to in principle prior to their respective fights.
Likely bound for Sydney, the bout should be the biggest draw in Australian boxing history and could set up another "Down Under" bonanza down the road.
Had Lacy and Dominguez won, who knows?
Though he's never fought at cruiserweight, Jones will enter the IBO computerized rankings no worse than No. 3 based on his point total at light heavyweight in August.
According to Levine, fighters ranked in one division lose 25 percent of their points upon rising in weight and are blended into the new division's existing rankings with the reduced point totals.
The IBO rankings include all active fighters in a weight class, including champions.
Jones was the IBO's seventh-ranked light heavyweight in August, behind No. 1 Dawson, who'll defend his IBO title against Johnson in November.
Green was sixth at cruiserweight prior to defeating Dominguez for the title.
Adamek, the IBF champion, is No. 1.
It was Green's initial title fight in the weight class after two failed shots at the WBC belt at 168 pounds and a brief reign as WBA champion at 175 before a voluntary 16-month exodus.
And if Green beats Jones, he could move on to an all-Aussie showdown with IBO middleweight champion Anthony Mundine, who's expressed interest in moving up should he survive an initial title defense against the man he dethroned in May, Daniel Geale.
Mundine beat Green by unanimous decision in a WBA title eliminator at 168 pounds in 2006.
"That's a big fight in Australia and it could get a lot of people excited," Levine said.
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Speaking of the IBO, cross a more imminent fight off its list.
Saturday's scheduled match between Grady Brewer and Anthony Thompson for the vacant junior middleweight title was scrubbed this week when Thompson -- who'd been stopped in three rounds when the two met in 2004 -- abruptly decided not to go through with the fight.
Brewer will take on replacement Albert Onolunose in Pala, California, but it won't be for the IBO championship because Onolunose isn't ranked highly enough -- No. 85 at 160 pounds -- to be justified as a title opponent, according to Levine.
"We could not sanction (the fight), as the offered opponent was ranked in the high 80s," he said. "Not even close (enough) to be considered for an exception. While we feel for Brewer, this being another bad break in his career, nevertheless we cannot hold the title for him and it is now vacant again."
Brewer was No. 16 at 154 pounds in the IBO's August rankings. He defeated Cornelius Bundrage -- ranked No. 2 by the IBF -- by split decision in an IBO eliminator last November.
"His win over Bundrage in the IBO eliminator demonstrated his championship ability and we wish him success and hopefully an IBO challenge in the future," Levine said.
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Lastly this week... R.I.P. Granville T. Cowden -- A good Marine. A better man. You are missed.
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This week's title-fight schedule:
IBF junior lightweight title -- Houston, Texas
Malcolm Klassen (champion) vs. Robert Guerrero (No. 3 contender)
Klassen (24-4-2, 15 KO): First defense of second title reign; Lost first defense in 2007
Guerrero (24-1-1, 17 KO): Ex-IBF champ at 126 pounds; Unbeaten in five title fights (4-0, 1 no-contest)
FitzHitz says: Guerrero in 8
IBF mini flyweight title -- Los Cabos, Mexico
Raul Garcia (champion) vs. Sammy Gutierrez (No. 15 contender)
Garcia (26-0-1, 16 KO): Fourth title defense; Third fight against Gutierrez (1-0-1, 0 KO)
Gutierrez (21-4-2, 12 KO): Lost IBO title fight in 2008; Three wins in last six fights (3-3, 0 KO)
FitzHitz says: Garcia by decision
WBO super middleweight title -- Budapest, Hungary
Karoly Balzsay (champion) vs. Robert Stieglitz (No. 5 contender)
Balzsay (21-0, 15 KO): Second title defense; Won both career fights in Hungary (2-0, 2 KO)
Stieglitz (35-2, 21 KO): Lost IBF title fight in 2007; Four-fight win streak (4-0, 2 KO)
FitzHitz says: Balzsay in 10
Last week's picks: 2-1 Overall picks record: 116-45 (72 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz.