Boxing Brains or Brawn? Roy Jones, Jr., Joe Calzaghe and Tarnished Legacies

Joe PASContributor IJuly 29, 2011

Calzaghe pummeling Jones in their 2008 match
Calzaghe pummeling Jones in their 2008 matchAl Bello/Getty Images

Glamorous lifestyles, money, women, cars and legacy—this is often the case with champion boxers. They have everything an average Joe could want, but it's all to common for that to slip away into the wilderness as they get older.

It's no secret that boxers earn millions of dollars from fights, fame and their fortunes. But what's money when you haven't got your health? Every so often a fighter will stay in the game for way too long, chasing money, dreams and feats that are out of there grasp because time catches up with them.

They then become a name—a name for young lions entering their prime to beat up and enhance there own legacy. At the same time, these youngsters are handing out a severe beating to these once-great fighters and affecting their health. Just look at Muhammed Ali, Wilfred Benitez, Meldrick Taylor and more recently James Toney. Ali has Parkinson's; Wilfred doesn't know who he is anymore; Taylor has a severe speech impediment and James—with all due respect—is going to need a translator in the near future. In recent interviews I couldn't understand a word the guy was saying.

Now on the flip side of that you have fighters who rise to the top, stay at the top and retire in their prime or so with the glamorous lifestyles, Money and, most importantly, their brains. Some with a few losses maybe, some without. Rocky Marciano, Marvin Hagler and Carlos Monzon to name a few. None of whom ever took a severe beating in the ring young or old. 

Now this is where Roy Jones, Jr. and Joe Calzaghe come to mind. Both are legends in there own right. RJJ, the former pound-for-pound great and boxing extraordinaire, was one of the great performers in the ring. Beating greats like Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Felix Trinadad and even moving up to heavyweight and defeating the respected John Ruiz. But more recently he took beatings from BHop, Tarver and has been, in hard to watch moments, knocked out by Danny Green and Denis Lebedev—two fighters who wouldn't deserve to be in the ring with Jones in his day. 

On the other hand, you have Joe Calzaghe, former unified super middleweight champion and light heavyweight champion. Considered as one of the greatest fighters who as ever come out of Great Britain, he is and a retired, undefeated fighter. He didn't want to fight for big money in the U.S. for much of his career, remaining in Britain instead. He took the scalps of numerous challengers, most notably the great Chris Eubank and, a then-undefeated Jeff Lacy and Michael Kessler. Then in the last two fights of his career went over to Las Vegas and New York and beat Hopkins and none other than Jones.

Now obviously I'm aware of the arguments. Would Joe have beaten Roy in his prime? And Calzaghe never fought anyone in there prime. I can see where your coming from. But what I'm trying to say is that if Calzaghe was protected from big fights so much, it's forever damaged his legacy. Or was he just smarter than your average Joe and is an example for other fighters to follow because, at the end of the day, he is a retired undefeated world champion?

Legacy is an important thing in boxing. Fighters bang on about it, and many fighters have left legacies that will be remembered for generations. But the question is: If you were a fighter, which road would you take? One that meant you beat the best there had to offer, again and again, in multiple world titles in multiple weight divisions. But say you stayed in there too long and towards the end of your career you where involved in some vicious beatdowns, knocked out time after time? This put your health on the line, risking serious and permanent injury every time you got in the ring, forever tarnishing your legacy.

Or would you take the route that meant you lurked in the shadows, winning fight after fight against average opposition and every now and then beating the names of some once-great fighters? You where the one handing out the beatings to the golden oldies, but retired when your time was up, still undeafeated, still world champion, still in your prime. Not once did you foolishly risk serious injury in the ring, which meant you left with your brains intact. But you would have a few people questioning your legacy.

Still, I know which one I would choose.