Before the ascension of Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones Jr. was widely considered the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter. Unfortunately, like so many extraordinary athletes, Jones didn’t know when it was time to fade gracefully into history.
Tonight, the 42-year-old Jones will fight unheralded Max Alexander (14-5-2, 2 KOs) for the equally unremarkable IBS North American Continental Cruiserweight Title. Jones is hoping to snap a three-match losing streak that’s included a pair of knockout defeats.
As much as it’s understandable for Jones to want to go out on a high note, he has absolutely nothing to gain with another bout. His last three losses have proven beyond any doubt that he’s no longer the fighter he once was, and even a victory over a punching bag like Alexander isn’t going to change that.
Even worse, there’s the distinct possibility that Jones will lose yet again, presumably forcing him to go back into training while he searches for an opponent he can beat. A boxer with 54 career wins should not be in this position, and seeing him go further and further down this spiral is just painful.
Perhaps the ideal outcome tonight would be a split decision in favor of Jones. That way, he wouldn’t have to go out with a loss but would have had yet another sub-par showing that might—if boxing fans are lucky—convince him that hanging up the gloves is the right move.
By no means is Jones the only great boxer to have slogged through this kind of ugly coda to a brilliant career, but that doesn’t make his version any easier to watch. Jones needs to figure out what he’s going to do with himself when he retires, because coming back to get punched in the head by men a dozen years his junior has (shockingly) not proven to be a good option for anyone involved.