Roy Jones Jr. - Should He Have Stayed At Heavyweight?

23.10.06 - By Norm Tollman: Roy Jones Jr. (50-4, 38 KO's), until recent years, was often considered to be the best pound for pound boxer in the world. That is, until he met up with Antonio Tarver, on May 15th, 2004, losing by one-punch knockout in the 2nd round. This was the 2nd fight between the two, the first occurring in November 2003, when Jones won a controversial 12-round majority decision over Tarver. In both cases, Roy Jones Jr. looked like a shadow of his former self, often being roughed up and pushed around by the lanky Tarver. Eight months previous to Jones first meeting with Tarver, in March 2003, Jones had bulked up to 193 lbs and defeated John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title.

On that night, Jones fought as usual, throwing fast, powerful combinations, landing at will and making Ruiz look badly overmatched. Jones, to his credit, easily won the fight, winning a one-sided 12-round decision victory. Following this victory, Jones, unquestionably, had any number of opportunities to fight anyone he'd like in the heavyweight division, from Vitali Klitschko to even Mike Tyson. Jones' performance against Ruiz was so masterful, that many boxing experts felt that Jones had an excellent chance at beating anyone in the heavyweight division.

However, instead of sticking it out and fighting one of the top heavyweights and making a lot of money, Jones did a very odd thing, he decided to move back to the light heavyweight division and fight Antonio Tarver. Why Jones would decide to scrap the title to fight in a division (light heavyweight), against a fighter like Tarver, neither of which are widely popular with the fans, is a mystery to me. To be honest, it almost seemed like Jones was purposely trying to underachieve, like he felt he wasn't worthy of the acclaim he was receiving after winning the heavyweight title. Why, on earth, would Jones decide to fight Tarver, a fight that made Jones a fraction of the amount of money that he would have made if he had elected to fight someone like Tyson or the Klitschko brothers? Was it fear? Surely, Roy Jones jr. couldn't have felt that the public would care more if he beat someone like Tarver, than a top level heavyweight like the Klitschkos, could they?

At the time Jones fought Ruiz, I would have given him an excellent chance of beating any of the heavyweights, particularly the Klitscho brothers. Nevertheless, Jones decided against staying at heavyweight and elected to move down to the light heavyweight division, where he was eventually stopped by both Tarver and Glen Johnson in 2004. At the same time, Jones looked weak and lethargic in both fights, a hallmark for someone that has been forced to drop weight in a hurry.

As many already know, Jones not only had to drop 25 lbs to make the light heavyweight division, he had to drop 25 lbs of pure muscle. It's a scientific fact, that anytime someone takes off a great deal of muscles, it leaves them weak and slower. However, instead of getting a clue that he was no longer able to fight at the light heavyweight weight limit, Jones decided to stubbornly fight on, as if he could will himself to fight at a top level at this weight. Of course, it didn't work, as evidenced by yet another Jones loss, in October 2005, against Antonio Tarver.

So, if Jones had been smart and decided to stay at heavyweight following his defeat of Ruiz, how would have he done against the top heavyweights. Below, I give my predictions to the potential match-ups that could Jones could have met up with. At the time, there were only four real appealing opponents for Jones to fight, in my opinion. The other heavyweights either had no belt or simply weren't interesting enough for Jones to waste time fighting.

1.) Wladimir Klitschko: While Jones would be at a serious size disadvantage against the 6'7," towering Wladimir, I see this fight being easily winnable one for Jones, mostly because of his far superior speed and ring movement. Though, Jones would get hit with a fair share of Wladimir's long jabs, I think it would be only a matter of time before Jones wears him down and pounds out a decision victory. Wladimir is strong in the opening rounds, but badly tires as the fight goes. Jones, of course, would wait him out and dominate in the 2nd half of the fight, possibly knocking down the big Ukrainian once or twice in the process.

2.) Vitali Klitschko: This is a bad match up style wise for Vitali, in that he's always had problems against crafty boxers, for example, Chris Byrd, who boxed circles around Vitali and forced him to quit in the 9th round. Jones, without a doubt, is a much better boxer than Byrd, and would make Vitali miss punches all night long. I can see Vitali growing frustrated as the fight goes on when he sees that he can't land his big punches against the quick moving Jones. Like with Wladimir, I see Jones ultimately tiring out Vitali and winning by 12-round decision.

3.) Mike Tyson: This would easily be the best fight of the bunch, mainly because of Tyson's power and speed, both of which would make him a threat for as long as this fight lasted. I see Tyson catching Jones early with some big shots, and hurting him. However, Jones would be cautious enough to avoid being caught flat like he did against Tarver, allowing him to quickly recover from the shots. After weathering the storm in the early going, Jones would begin to land vicious flurries in the later rounds. Finally, with Jones landing at will against a defenseless Tyson, I see the referee stopping the fight in the 10th round.

4.) Chris Byrd: For many people, this would probably be a boring fight to watch simply because they would tire of watching both of these boxing geniuses fight a tactical battle. However, for boxing fans that appreciate technique, like myself, this would be a great pleasure to watch. That said, I don't think Byrd would be even remotely fast enough to deal with Jones outstanding speed and skill. This would be a shut out victory for Jones, as he would win every round of the fight due to his incredible speed.

Article posted on 23.10.2006

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