“Man, what are you smokin’,” was the response I got from my friend, Scott, when I proclaimed that Roy Jones will make short work of Joe Calzaghe in Madison Square Garden this coming Saturday.
I have to admit, I’m not surprised by the response. Who would be dumb enough to predict a 39 year-old fighter, who has lost three of his last four fights, will easily dominate an undefeated and younger champion? Oblige me as I explain the method to my madness.
Number one: While Roy is one year shy of 40, Calzaghe, at 36, is only three years younger than the “old man.” Those of you who don’t follow boxing that closely may be quite surprised by Calzaghe’s advanced age—that leads me to reason numero dos why your money should be on Jones.
If Calzaghe seems relatively new to the scene for a 36 year-old it’s because he has spent the majority of his career fighting in Europe. His last fight, a win by decision over Bernard Hopkins in Las Vegas, was his first outside of Europe (in contrast, Ricky Hatton fought two of his first nine fights in the U.S.).
While Calzaghe will have a large gathering of cheering fans from across the pond in attendance, most fighters feel somewhat out of their element when fighting away from home (in his 39-fight career, Floyd Mayweather has never fought beyond the shores of the lower 48 states). Roy, on the other hand, loves to fight in Madison Square Garden, boxing's most storied venue.
Reason three: The motivation factor. In my opinion, Roy’s age is not the reason why his skills appeared diminished in his fights against Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson. I believe it was a lack of motivation. It wasn’t Roy’s hands, but his head and heart, that were not up to the task. It’s desire, not skill, that many fighters lose in the later stages of their careers.
Training to be adequately prepared for ten rounds of professional boxing is brutal, and Roy has trained for 54 previous pro fights. It seems obvious that Roy knows he could regain some luster for his legacy with a dominant performance in this fight and that is what is fueling his flames of desire.
I watched Roy in an incredible performance against James Toney in 1994. Toney wouldn’t throw punches and Roy was intent on counter-punching. So Roy made the riskiest of boxing moves against a hard punching foe. He literally put his hands at his waist and stuck his head out.
He was completely unprotected except for his ability to move his head out of the way each time Toney threw. After evading a few potential knockout shots, Roy finally got his counter shot—a left hand that sent his opponent staggering to the ropes.
While Ali had his rope-a-dope, Roy had the "chicken move." (That’s "chicken" as in bobbing his head like a rooster in the barnyard, not afraid like a chicken.)
Somewhere inside Roy Jones is the level of skill that innovated that bobbing-rooster-head move that was so astonishing to witness. Roy Jones can solidify his position high on the list of best "pound-for-pound" fighters in history.
In order to do that he must fight with abandon. Roy can’t be as cautious as he was early-on in his win over Felix Trinidad. A big fight on a big stage is enough to motivate "old" Roy to once again expose the amazing young talent that earned him a stellar reputation as a great fighter.