Roy Jones: Going Down the Highway

By Michael Schmidt on December 19, 2011
Roy Jones: Going Down the Highway
BoxRec currently has Jones as the 17th best cruiserweight in the world (Andrew Snook)

It is hard, if you have any ounce of humanity, to watch a human being, like or dislike, disintegrating in the public domain…

I am going down the highway and I am very, very late to my destination but I do have one. Burl Ives, who the old-timers would surely remember, is singing “It’s a Holly Jolly Christmas…” My Caddy is not sounding healthy and it shouldn’t. I bought it used a few years ago for a song and a dance so to speak. I am looking at my $15,000 diamond studded Rolex and I am still thinking of Burl Ives, and the movie Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. There is a scene about all his acquisitions, and his thought that they are nothing now but garbage, trinkets and trash. In the movie, Big Daddy, Burl Ives, you see, is dying of cancer, and has come to realize that all his acquisitions don’t mean a proverbial hill of beans now that his health is fading. The Caddy, a nice looking trinket, used. On the Rolex, well you would have to be kidding old Schmidty on that one. A gift from a friend for longtime friendship and a friend in need a friend in deed. Otherwise, not a chance I am wearing that thing. Besides just think how many boxing mags, posters, or old photos that blue diamond baby would buy. I switch the radio, and on comes The Boss Springsteen, “Meet me tonight in Atlantic City…” Good, that’s terrific, and indeed I will meet somebody in Atlantic City, as it is Ward vs. Cobra weekend. Switch. On comes the old French crooner, Charles Aznavour; “Yesterday, when I was young…The taste of life was sweet as rain upon my tongue…I ran so fast that time and youth at last ran out…the friends I made all seemed somehow to drift away and only I’m left on stage to end the play…The time has come for me to pay…Yesterday when I was young.” Roy Jones will be, this coming January 16th, 43 years old. Rome is burning Roy. That is, so to speak specifically, Jim Rome, he of ESPN Radio, burning, and Charles Aznavour’s song is taking me back to that radio show of last week. No longer fast, no longer young.

Last week, to little fanfare, Roy Jones fought in Atlanta, Georgia, against one Max Alexander, whose record toppled to zero wins, six losses, and a draw of his last seven gladiatorial efforts.“Boxers stay too long, hang on too long, do damage to themselves physically, to their legacy” (Jim Rome is Burning, “JRIB”). Roy Jones now has a record standing at 55 wins and eight losses. Since 2004 he shows a record of six wins, seven losses, four of those losses by knockout.

Where and why does the slow ride down start. “I did not think Roy Jones would ever be one of those guys…It looks bad for him right now…this is sad, because I was at Roy’s last fight, last weekend, in Atlanta, and it was pathetic (JRIB).” An aging beauty Hollywood type queen. A young actress self-imploding. A big time lawyer litigator, drinking too much, getting old, no longer litigation staccato-like in thought, forgetting the words, the case. An NFL running back, or quarterback, getting old, getting hammered game after game, untouchable of yesteryear. One’s thoughts go to that iconic picture of legendary football player Y.A Tittle, bloodied, down on both knees, helmet off. The agony of defeat as the old Wide World of Sports TV show use to start with. The submission in thought written all over poor old Y.A. The final realization that it truly is over, that wonderful ride of sports hero untouchable.

Practitioners of various art, at such a championship caliber, don’t fade easily into the abyss. What makes them great makes them often end up bad. In one form or fashion they are fighters. They have fought for every life inch to get to that big time level. Painter, lawyer, stockbroker, model, fighter, actor. Oh, these magnificent artists, they, in their twilight years, still look the part. But in the battlefield they can’t fool THEM. There are the not-so-kind critics. There are the “I loved you when you were on top but I love to hate you now that you are on the slide” bottom way types. Then there is the paying public. The boos. This is, after all, at the end of the punch you in the face or body day, the entertainment business. Not the show we used to see. Not the show we paid to see. Then there are just the flat-out “haters.” Nothing to relish more than seeing a fat cat go down the drain.

It is hard, if you have any ounce of humanity, to watch a human being, like or dislike, disintegrating in the public domain. In terms of “the sweet science” it is of course, more often than not, more raw and exposed than in other endeavors. Beatings, knockouts, blood, tears, mental breakdowns, death, and so it goes in front of one’s eyes. Reality show indeed. Benny Paret by the ringpost. Oliver McCall, Heavyweight Championship meltdown. No Mas. “This is scary, this is Ivan Drago-Apollo Creed kind of stuff…this is the kinda thing, Roy gets in the ring with a Klitschko brother down the line, he could be dead…it ends with him maimed or dead…(JRIB).” It of course begs the question, and so it has been asked, as to who is bending Champion Roy Jones’ ear, if anyone. In his own mind no doubt still fast, still the best. Excuses,yes indeed. Line them up for old warriors: Bad training camps, distractions, did not cut weight properly, just had an off night and it happens, awkward opponent….What do you say to a fighter that in his prime was virtually unbeatable? Forget the naysayers, and the oft repeated statement that Roy did not fight anybody or perhaps ducked out of hard fights. What does one say to the conqueror of in-their-primes Thomas Tate, Bernard Hopkins, James Toney, Mike McCallum, Virgil Hill, Otis Grant, John Ruiz, and Antonio Tarver, amongst others. In the same vein what does one say to a warrior of spirit in Jones, whose contemporaries in Tarver, at a similar age of 43, and the ageless Methuselah in Bernard Hopkins, still thrive in and at the top of the pugilistic arena? It is ,so it would appear, easy for legendary fighters to suppress the thought that they are “done” or “finished,” and to convince themselves, sometimes with the help of the not too helpful, that they can still dip into the magic well of youthful greatness. Ali vs. Holmes and Berbick. Sugar Ray Robinson, into the mid-1960s fading into the small club circuit venues. Louis getting smashed by the Rock. Oh what a sorry visual list that goes on and on.

BoxRec, the internet computer boxing rating service, currently has Roy Jones the 17th best cruiserweight in the world. In that context there are many Promoters, and many young gun fighters, rightfully seeing Roy Jones as a legitimate fight and indeed they should. This is boxing. Survival of the fitness and protect yourself at all times, inside and outside the ring! A rating of top 17th in the world is still a lofty hit and this is the pain business. Young guns unholster your weapons it will be. Roy Jones knows that. The fighter in him knows that and the fighter wants it. Draw! I am told that the Jim Rome has a daily listening audience of over two and a half million people! Roy Jones is still apparently a topical subject for possibly the wrong reasons, but nonetheless. In the European field of battle big bucks still command. In terms of the Roy Jones brand “he can always be a traveling sideshow (JRIB).” The travelling sideshow back in Dec. of 2009 ended up down under and Roy Jones ended up down under, that of a first round stoppage to Danny Green. That stunning stoppage was hard to gauge in terms of just how far Jones had slipped. The punch that first knocked Jones down reminded one of the Jerry Quarry vs. George Chuvalo knockout when Quarry was hit high on the temple area and lost his equilibrium. The type of shot that sometimes freakishly happens and leaves a boxer earthquake wobbly. The recent Denis Lebedev knockout was an entirely different matter. It was Roy, out face first, Tarver, Johnson style. Tenth round but nonetheless as Rome is burning, “highlights of this guy (Jones) getting beaten are frightening .Where are the people around him, why aren’t they telling him, Roy you got to stop fighting…hangers-on, trying to collect the next paycheck…it is disgraceful…(JRIB).” According to JRIB Jones makes a quarter of a million dollars via his HBO contract so money is not an issue. That seems like an astounding amount given the appearance schedule. Besides, as the vig man says, it is not what you earn, it is what you save at the end of the day.

Only Roy Jones knows why Roy Jones fights. Requiem for a Cruiserweight, Budd Schulberg style. We all hope not. I briefly spoke to Roy at the Pacman vs. JMM fight in the media room. He was, as an understatement, not being surrounded as the superstar that he is or was. Take that in your own fight fan context. Apparently his last fight was before a head count of perhaps 1000 fans in the old, not too shiny, Atlanta Civic Center. According to JRIB “it’s going to end badly and this is a guy that always said he would never ever be this guy.” Where does this leave Jones and his legacy? Where does he fit in as a Light Heavy great amongst the Charles, Moore, Foster, and Spinks types, amongst others? And where does he fit in as a middle, with Robinson, Monzon and company. It’s hard to say. Jones was always a boxing technical nightmare. Hands down, wrong footed, balance heavy on one leg or the other, right hand palm open to block shots way too obvious and telegraphing the fact that shots were not going to come from that side at that point and so the list goes on. The counterpoint of course is that Mr. Champion Roy Jones had speed and reflexes, mental toughness and a mix of other Championship attributes that made him virtually untouchable in his prime. Not so now of course.

Roy Jones has a rap video, “Ya’ll Must Have Forgot.” At last count that video has over six million hits on Google. No Roy. we all must not have forgot, not at all. Burl Ives, trinkets and trash, garbage. Charles Aznavour, “Yesterday, when I was young…I used my magic age as if it were a wand and never saw the waste and emptiness beyond…” My old Caddy is still pretty on the outside but the engine is starting to rumble down. I am one lucky SOB to be as healthy as I am after all I have done in my life. Meet me in Atlantic City, meet me in Atlantic City….

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Legendary Roy Jones Jr vs Max Alexander (Promo)

Roy Jones Jr. - Ya'll Must Have Forgot (video)

roy jones jr vs otis grant (full fight) - part 1

roy jones jr vs otis grant (full fight) - part 2

roy jones jr vs otis grant (full fight) - part 3

roy jones jr vs otis grant (full fight) - part 4

Roy Jones Jr V Denis Lebedev (FULL FIGHT) 1/3

Roy Jones Jr V Denis Lebedev (FULL FIGHT) 2/3

Roy Jones Jr V Denis Lebedev (FULL FIGHT) 3/3

Roy Jones Jr vs Virgil Hill 25 04 1998

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  1. mike schmidt 06:18pm, 12/21/2011

    right on raxman- the cotto old man thing makes it seem like that fight was a lonnnnnng time ago

  2. raxman 03:36pm, 12/21/2011

    mike s - i think that’ll show if mosley truly is shot. canelo is the perfect stylistic match up for shane. he always did like the ones that come straight at him. a throwback to growing up sparing and fighting mexicans. for canelo it has to be his last cherry pick fight though - most like sugar is a shell of his former self regardless of style and canelo will walk him down - so after that its time to fight some of the other young guns in the division. to put this in perspective mosley was considered the old man when he fought then young (26) gun miguel cotto - and that was nearly 5 years ago!!

  3. mikecasey 10:05am, 12/21/2011

    One hundred per cent agreed. Now I know for sure that I have found my home! Merry Christmas, everyone!

  4. Mike Schmidt 08:01pm, 12/20/2011

    Stay tuned Thresher. There are rumours thsi week that Canelo may fight Mosley. Forty years old, record the past ten years, 8-7-1 with one NC- batting slightly over fifty percent, averaging less than two fights over ten year period. I still can’t figure out why all the excitement about the Pac vs Mosley fight but what the hey- here you go again

  5. the thresher 07:07pm, 12/20/2011

    To put this in perspective, Jones is 6-7 since Tarver #1.

  6. MIKE SCHMIDT 06:46pm, 12/20/2011

    Yes indeed Raxman. By the time Champ Roy did the first Tarver fight it is important that we remember he was already hitting the 34 range.

  7. pugknows 06:33pm, 12/20/2011

    Very good answer to Shane. It’s important to treat all posters with respect even if they throw darts at you. That comes with the territory and that’s something that’s important for the site’s reputation. Posters will stay away if they are insulted. .

  8. raxman 05:19pm, 12/20/2011

    roy was never a great boxer - that the main difference between he and the other oldies in tarver and hopkins. roy was always about his reflexes and athleticism - the two things pep said go first (thanks yank) - what a shame he didnt hang em up after ruiz or (lennox lewis style) after tarver and not give him the rematch.

  9. the thresher 03:47pm, 12/20/2011

    I think Rossman was the one who put the finishing touches on poor Mike Quarry, I do have a section on Mike in a chapter titled “Inspiration” but it might be in my second book. I used to watch Mike fight a lot live. He was a real tough kid. Half Jewish and half Italian like the old day guys. He was a throwback boxer who had that one great fight.

  10. MIKE SCHMIDT 03:42pm, 12/20/2011

    BOXING IS MY SANCTUARY- I am not on that chapter- skipped ahead and see you have him at 15. Hagler at 11- we can argue that one for another day- draw with Vito, barely beating, by the scorecards, Duran over fifteen….By the by I am at page 177 Alex Ramos- GREAT GREAT GREAT- and what a jog down memory lane- Bobby Chacon, Joe Alexander ( what a great scrap with one of my favs Jerry Quarry, Jeff Merrit, big Stan Ward who is now a coachee and has female champ Jennifer “razor”  Barber. I do not see yet anything on Mike Rossman one of my other favs during the seventies- Ted if you know or have a copy of one of the great knockouts - Rossman vs Nixon 1 am really trying to get a copy of that.  Am going to finish the read over Christmas.

  11. the thresher 03:15pm, 12/20/2011

    Mike. it’s in one of my chapters in Boxing is my Sanctuary. I had him high but I think I said that if he keeps losing, he would move south and that’s just what he did. prior to Tarver Number One, he rates among the greatest. He was an ATG. Now, that has changed. Like a lot of great fighters , he seems hell bent on ruining his legacy. It’s almost a punishment for his fans.

    His level of opposition was incredible. I think he has been in the ring with over 25 opponents who were a world champ at one time or another.

  12. "Old Yank" Schneider 01:24pm, 12/20/2011

    The Thresher—David mentioned to me that a minor “debacle” that happened with his press credentials. Other than that, I’m unaware of any “debacle in Atlantic City”.

  13. mike schmidt 01:18pm, 12/20/2011

    Bang on Thresher re: Ruiz fight. I recall at the time thinking that was it—he could nothing any bigger or better than that. By the by I also thought that Ruiz was going to grab, mall, and brawl Champ Jones and would be just to big. I wonder where we would all have him listed on pound for pound if he had stopped right there. By the by Thresh—would be interested in knowing where you and the rest of the lads put Champ Jones on your pound for pound list.

  14. the thresher 12:39pm, 12/20/2011

    By the way, here is the full Pep quotation (from my blog The End Game):

    “I was champion of the world and there’s three things that go and that’s how a fighter knows that he’s all done. First, your legs go, but if you got reflexes, you can see the punches coming, and you can bob and weave. The second thing is that your reflexes go, and the third thing is that your friends go, and you know you’re all done when there’s nobody hangin’ ‘round no more.”—Willie Pep

  15. the thresher 12:33pm, 12/20/2011

    I meant “The Debacle” at Atlantic City last week.

  16. the thresher 12:32pm, 12/20/2011

    Someone, David, Michael or Old Yank mentioned this. What was this? Or is this some kind of inside joke?

  17. Joe 12:12pm, 12/20/2011

    All that’s left now is for the IOC to give this man his gold medal.  Unfortunately for RJ, when he finally got caught he got KO’d.  Roy is one of my absolute favorite fighters - too bad we are seeing the modern day demise of one of the greats.  I wish he could simply call bouts and cockfight in Pensacola.  This is worse than the Real Deal.

  18. the thresher 12:12pm, 12/20/2011

    The other essential thing here is that Roy ruined himself when he went up in weight to fight Ruiz and then came down too fast to fight Tarver. He never recovered from that loss of muscle mass. His first fight with Tarver evidenced that as he was gaunt and his coloring was on the yellow side. He looked exactly like Riddick Bowe did when Big Daddy fought Golota. He was totalkly drained and never got his refelxes back after that. I think it also had an impact on his concussability becuase the Johnson KO remains a hard-to-explain one.

    Bottom line: Reason for Roy’s boxing decline was coming down in weight to fight Tarver.

    Reason for his current issues: Financial.

    No big mystery here. It’s not like he has dementia (yet) and if he gets out and goes into something safer, he will end up alright. My exit plan for him would be to fight 2 or 3 more easy ones and then go out with a decent payday notwithstanding the risk.

  19. the thresher 12:04pm, 12/20/2011

    This may be all about money. He just may owe the IRS a lot of money. That recording thing he tried to make work might have backfired on him. If so, the saga will end like Joe and Ray.

  20. mike schmidt 11:43am, 12/20/2011

    Thanks Mike. Interesting Note-down to one driver-sad sad sad.

  21. mikecasey 08:53am, 12/20/2011

    Schmidty, a great writer called Dave Anderson wrote a classic in Robbie travelling to Pittsfield, Mass., for a fight in the early sixties before he retired. He had a driver to take him there and that was it. The once famous entourage had vanished! Nice article and well done. I understood it completely.

  22. Mike Schmidt 08:17am, 12/20/2011

    Mike C. I recall a Sports Illustrated article on Robbie on his last tour of duty and it sure was sad. Yank I agree with you. Style wise I like pressure guys and technically sound guys like Juan MM but based on what Jones did to some VERY VERY top notch guys in their prime I think he certainly should be deserving of consideration as a pound for pound top ten guy all time or hovering close to….

  23. "Old Yank" Schneider 07:54am, 12/20/2011

    Schmidty—Jones at the top of his game had the speed to break every rule in the book and look amazing doing it. I.E. Why jab your way in when a lead left hook is quicker than any jab your opponent has seen? Why carry your right hand high when you can move your head as fast as most fighters can move their hands? Jones has done much to devalue his image by carrying on too late in his career. Still, I rate him highly based on what he looked like in his prime.

  24. mikecasey 07:46am, 12/20/2011

    Roy is following the Robinson route now, Schmdity. But Robbie ran out of money. Can’t believe Roy has, but somebody here might know different. Sad.

  25. mike schmidt 07:19am, 12/20/2011

    Thanks Shane as well. If the crap has been anointed “Holy” it must be some kind of crap indeed and even more so in this festive season. And “pathetic,” yes, we have invoked a human feeling of pity, sorrow, pathos, to the article- why it has taken a holy life like form unto itself. Ah well can’t please all the peanut gallery—holy crap, gosh batman—sorry fearless editor just having some fun….more fun….

  26. mike schmidt 07:06am, 12/20/2011

    Thanks Pete. I have not seen the Willie Mays stumble but yes you get the drift…

  27. Shane 05:47am, 12/20/2011

    Holy crap, what a pathetic article. I couldn’t even read the story, as it went off on tangents that i just couldn’t follow (what the hell the author was saying).

  28. Pete The Sneak 05:42am, 12/20/2011

    Mike, in sticking with the quotes theme: “Those who do not learn from History are condemned to repeat it.” (Philospher, George Santayana)...Roy must’ve forgot. I remember him clearly saying that he will not be one of those boxers who will stay in the game too long and end up getting hurt and/or paunchy. This of course was in reference to what had happened to his friend (and one of my favorite fighters) Gerald McCleland. Really sad to see and yes Mike, you are correct, Roy was virtually unbeatable in his prime and certainly does have an incredible legacy to protect regardless of what anyone thinks, he was the best fighter in the world at one time. Lastly, to add one more to your list of awesome analogies of Great athletes that have remained past their primes to capture glory, Willie Mays stumbling in the outfield in a NY Mets uniform trying to make plays that he would have made blinfolded in his prime. Nice article Mike. Peace.

  29. mike schmidt 04:48am, 12/20/2011

    Nice Pep quote Old Yank. With Tarver and B Hop still near or on top it has to be a tough one for Champ Jones to guage- don’t really know and don’t know if anybody had really asked him the hard questions in detail about his recent performances- maybe we all have too much respect to go down that trail directly with him- sensitive subject- where do you put Champ Jones, in his prime, in pound for pound- I like pressure fighters so the Duran Chavez types are my faves, but you have to have Jones, in his prime, way way up that pound for pound list

  30. "Old Yank" Schneider 04:28am, 12/20/2011

    Mike—I too wonder if Roy has any friends left to tell him the truth. “First your legs go. Then you lose your reflexes. Then you lose your friends” (Willie Pep).

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