It's a fight that few (if any) boxing fans may have asked for, but Roy Jones Jr. was determined to win it.
Jones defeated Courtney Fry in Riga, Latvia on Saturday via technical knockout, forcing the journeyman to quit on his stool after Jones knocked him down at the end of the fifth round with a stinging left hook.
The fight was a ragged affair essentially dominated by the American superstar. Jones moves his record to 58-8 (41 KOs), while Fry drops to 18-6 (6 KOs).
Jones came into this cruiserweight fight with some confidence, winning three straight bouts over no-name opponents. By some observers' estimations, he hasn't proved much by fighting into his later years. His last truly high-profile bout was a loss to the ageless Bernard Hopkins in 2010.
Saturday's fight began slowly, with neither puncher willing to stand and trade blows or open himself up to a possible counter. The first two rounds featured more whiffs than connections, although Jones stepped up his aggressiveness in the third round and landed a couple of solid left hooks and combinations on Fry's jaw.
The issue was clear from the beginning: Both fighters lacked speed and telegraphed their punches, making it relatively easy to bob and weave to avoid any crushing (or even glancing) blows.
Jones definitely had the faster hands, allowing him to make headway with left jabs and follow up with his right before Fry could move out of the way. Of course, this only happened when Jones really dug in, which wasn't often in the first three rounds.
Fry showed a willingness to trade blows in the fifth, which only allowed Jones to use his superior hand speed to work the body. Jones then knocked down Fry with a stinging left hook just before the end of the round, drawing cheers from the relatively demure crowd in Latvia. Fry got back up, but he was clearly dazed.
Jones had opened up a cut on Fry's forehead earlier in the fight, and the Englishman decided he couldn't fight on any longer, affording Jones a victory via TKO. Jones celebrated the victory by entertaining the fans with a rendition of his single, "Can't Be Touched."
Fortunately for the health of everyone involved in the sport, there's no old-timers division for aging pugilists. On the other hand, there appears to be little oversight, as it's up to each fighter to decide when he will hang up the gloves and exit the ring for the last time.
Sports Illustrated's Chris Mannix feared for Jones' future after this victory:
There were calls before the match for Jones to give up fighting, but the middle-aged prizefighter wasn't hearing it.
"You do think about it but it's hard to leave when you know you still got it. I know I still got it," he told ESPN's Dan Rafael prior to the fight.
Marvin Jones of the Oakland Press gave his thoughts on Jones and James "Lights Out" Toney—who was slated to fight Evgeny Orlov on the undercard—before the fight:
Perhaps Jones and Toney, who’ve each had pretty good paydays, are both in financial straits. Or perhaps they both love to fight so much that they can’t do without it — as long as there’s a promoter who’ll sign them up. Either way, this can’t end in a good way for both fighters—unless they stop themselves. And apparently, that’s easier said than done ... even 20 years later.
However, it's difficult to dissuade any athlete who engages in individualistic pursuits for a living. When the bell rings, it's just you against the world on a lonely expanse of canvas—the trainers in your corner well out of sight and out of mind. This is especially true for a fighter like Jones, who dominated the 1990s and is considered by many to be one of the all-time, pound-for-pound great punchers.
With another victory under his belt, expect Jones to chase 60 wins. This benchmark could be what keeps the HBO analyst going at his advanced age. He's no Archie Moore or Bernard Hopkins, but Jones won't quit until he decides he's good and ready.