Roy Jones Jr.: On the Cusp of True Greatness

Rich GrovesContributor INovember 1, 2008

Over a long and highly decorated career in boxing Roy Jones Jr. has had to take some harsh criticism. Many have questioned the quality of his opposition over the years simply due to the one-sided nature of most of his fights. I think we can see in retrospect that from his wins over Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Felix Trinidad, Virgil Hill, and John Ruiz, just to name a few, that he has had the best opposition available to him.

As Jones enters the twilight of his career, his fights become more interesting, with unexpected outcomes. This has been historically true of all the all-time greats. From Muhammad Ali’s loss to Leon Spinks, and many touch-and-go wars toward the end of the great Sugar Ray Robinson’s career, we see that when a blazing-fast fighter slows down just a tad, wonderful battles that are good for boxing ensue.

When a fighter is able to pull a victory out of the fire of defeat is truly the measure of greatness. Look at Leonard’s first win over Tommy Hearns, Evander Holyfield’s fights with Riddick Bowe, his unexpected difficulty with Bert Cooper, and Ali’s win over Joe Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manilla" to see examples of what I am talking about.

As brutal as boxing is, we long to see great fighters in battles where years of their lives are left in the ring. With that said, Jones has not had the chance to transcend this magical barrier between an all-time great and an upper-echelon placement in the “all-time greats.” This is a distinction that is reserved for fighters like the ones that I have mentioned.

Jones’ crowning achievements over the years have been lopsided routes with some obviously overmatched good fighters. Even in Jones’ conquest of Ruiz, it was the weight that was Jones’ opponent, not Ruiz himself. Once he got back to light heavyweight, however, true chaos ensued.

Was it Jones slowing down with age, or was it truly the issues with moving back down in fighting weight? Antonio Tarver, a good fighter but not a great one, beat Jones in each of their three matches, including the first match that was scored for Jones. Then, of course, there was the debacle against Glen Johnson.

So after his relatively one-sided affair with Felix Trinidad, we have a Roy Jones who is an unknown. He demonstrated his amazing ring generalship and pot-shotting capability that made him great, but against a diminished threat in an old, easy-to-hit Trinidad who relies on a punch that didn’t likely make the journey to light heavy with him. Essentially, a fight completely made for Jones, on Jones' turf.

On Nov. 7, we will get the chance to witness Roy Jones Jr. versus another very good and certainly unique fighter in Joe Calzaghe. In this fight, each fighter has his own advantages. Calzaghe’s speed and work rate are his, while Jones’ advantage is that Calzaghe does not seem to have a true knockout punch.

In this fight you will see Calzaghe eclipse Jones' work rate and Jones hitting Calzaghe with fewer, but more effective punches. As the rounds go on, we will see a touch-and-go battle of Jones' ring generalship versus Calzaghe's speed and punch volume. This will make it difficult to predict the scoring, as some judges weight one over the other.

Toward the middle of the fight, Jones will realize that Joe has eclipsed his punch output and he will need to ask some very difficult questions of himself. What we are all waiting for is whether he will actually get an answer.

I believe he will, and we will begin to see the emergence of the second-coming of Roy Jones Jr. A fighter who realizes that his speed and agility have diminished some and must compensate by becoming a brilliant tactician.

Jones will get through the initial shock of Calzaghe’s speed and work rate and will eventually pound out a close points victory, something B-Hop was not able to do.