Roy Jones Jr.’s Greatness: Where Does He Rate?

By Mike Casey on September 17, 2015
Roy Jones Jr.’s Greatness: Where Does He Rate?
Roy Jones confused and surprised us in much the same way as the young Cassius Clay.

Phenomenon or just a fast guy who got away with it in the time that was granted to him? Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder…

Some years ago, when Roy Jones Jr was in his glorious pomp as a seemingly unbeatable fighter, historian Herb Goldman raised the eyebrows of many when he rated Roy the greatest pound-for-pound boxer of all. Jones, at that time, was on a great winning run and had even stepped up in weight to cheekily pinch a portion of the heavyweight championship from John Ruiz. A lot of people got very excited about that and one boxing publication immediately elevated Jones to fifth place on its list of all-time great heavyweights.

Then came the big crash. In November 2003, in his next fight after defeating Ruiz, Jones dropped 18 pounds in weight and barely retained his WBC light heavyweight title by a majority decision over Antonio Tarver. In a rematch six months later, Jones was shockingly knocked out in the second round. Then followed a ninth round knockout loss to Glen Johnson and a unanimous points defeat to Tarver in their rubber match.

As the carpet was cruelly pulled from under Roy’s feet, so the pendulum swung to the opposite end of the scale and the criticism of him rained down in torrents. What was quite surprising to me was how younger fans were much more dismissive of Jones than their older counterparts. When Roy’s greatness was debated on one of the many forums, the following comment got a lot of support: “Fighting policemen and school teachers doesn’t get Super Roy nowhere. He wasted his time and his prime fighting BIG BUMS.”

Oh well, nothing like getting it out of your system. When discussing boxing’s greats, it seems there is little room for Roy Jones at the halfway house. Either he is one of the elite or nothing at all. These extreme views are confirmation in the minds of most objective fans that Roy Jones is one of the hardest men to rate in an all-time perspective. For every pro there seems to be a con where Roy is concerned. It is very easy to be wise after the event in his case and equally easy to understand the lavish praise that was heaped upon him at that magical time in his career when he was near untouchable.

Here is what Herb Goldman said when defending his choice of Jones as the greatest: “My ranking of Jones in such a dramatic fashion had to do not with his accomplishments but simply with his skills. He has more and greater skills than any fighter I’ve ever seen in my life. The way he can hook and go immediately to a straight punch, the way he can fire shots from all angles, his domination of every opponent he faces.

“I’ve never seen a comparable fighter in my life. I went out on a limb in making that pronouncement at that time. I don’t think I was that overboard. Now it’s true that Mr. Jones’ accomplishments in terms of being in great fights, in terms of being a superstar of his period, do not begin to equal his skills. That’s the down side. Of course, to make great fights it takes two to tango and Mr. Jones is so far above his competition that there are no great fights out there for him, certainly within his own weight classes.

“Now in terms of looking at the careers of certain fighters, certainly there are a number of men who outshone him in that respect. But I still maintain that Mr. Jones is the most skillful, the most overpowering man, pound-for-pound, in the history of boxing. I don’t think even Sugar Ray Robinson was as dominant over his opposition as Roy Jones has been. That takes nothing away from Sugar Ray. But I have never seen a phenomenon like Roy Jones. Of course Roy Jones knows it, too. He knows what he wants, what he doesn’t want. He’s a star. He won’t fight here. He will fight only here. He’s his own promoter, more or less. So he’s certainly not everyone’s ideal of what a fighter should be. But in terms of skills I think he’s the greatest.”


Can I appreciate Herb Goldman’s perspective? Yes, I can. When Roy Jones was on top of the world, when he was almost impossible to hit, when he was throwing punch permutations that couldn’t be found in any textbook, I defy anyone to say that he didn’t make them gasp. However long some of us have studied the fight game (40 years and counting in my case), we are all thrilled and mesmerized by any fighter who flaunts the rule book and/or sends a tingle down our spine with his sheer explosiveness.

My fellow contributor, Matt McGrain, was certainly hit by the Jones thunderbolt and recently rated Roy 29th among the all-time pound-for-pound greats. Said Matt: “Roy Jones was a phenomenon, one of those one-in-a-lifetime talents that comes along and just dazzles. Of all fighters that appear on film, Jones is the one who appears most otherworldly. For all that the other phenoms in boxing history are extraordinary it is Jones who has the appearance of being plugged into a totally different matrix; he was a fighter upon whom gravity seemed not to work the magic that left the professionals with whom he shared the ring earthbound.” 

Only after the event, only when things have calmed down and we are in possession of all the facts, do we suddenly become clever and start pontificating over mere morsels of detail. But then we are so often blind to detail in the excitement of the moment.

For one thing, Jones fought a lot of ordinary and very ordinary fighters. Through no fault of his own, the light heavyweight division was depressingly barren of quality talent during his reign. All things are relative and we shouldn’t forget that experts of a certain vintage from 60 or 70 years ago were telling their readers that Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore never encountered the level of opposition faced by Sam Langford or Philadelphia Jack O’Brien. Nevertheless, Jones hardly helped himself by studiously avoiding opponents he regarded as genuine threats.

Roy Jones confused and surprised us in much the same way as the young Cassius Clay. Both men dazzled their opponents in similar fashion. Roy and Cassius both had their weaknesses — what fighter doesn’t? — but these were masked by an unconventional style of fighting that completely perplexed conventional fighters who expected a conventional fight.

Archie Moore, old but still very much a top contender of enormous experience, simply couldn’t figure out Clay. Liston was similarly hypnotized. Duran could cope with Ray Leonard when Leonard engaged him in their first fight in Montreal. But in the rematch in New Orleans, Ray played the taunting clown and Roberto just couldn’t understand it. No “proper” fighter, as we used to call them, can understand a fighter who doesn’t want to fight properly.

Jones, like Clay/Ali, was also a tremendous and multi-talented athlete in his prime. Beautifully supple, super fast and indeed gymnastic in many ways, Roy got away with moves and punch combinations that would have been the death of lesser talented boxers. Could he take a punch? How solid was his chin? Both questions were repeatedly asked and we never got definitive answers because Jones was so rarely struck by a truly destructive blow or volley.


When Roy was finally toppled, another question was posed: was he more of an athlete than a truly great boxer? Had his speed and athleticism, his amazing elasticity, enabled him to get away with it for longer than he might have done against the more stellar opposition of bygone days? My gut instinct tells me that the likes of Gene Tunney, Sam Langford, Ezzard Charles, Billy Conn, Archie Moore, Harold Johnson, Joey Maxim and Jimmy Bivins — not to mention other greats of the 175-pound division — would have found out Jones in their own good time.

The somewhat forgotten Jimmy Slattery was a similarly instinctive fighter to Jones, with a great sixth sense, plenty of funky moves and probably greater skills. Michael Spinks and Bob Foster would have also had the ring intelligence to solve Roy’s puzzle over a series of meetings.

Could Roy have beaten any of these fighters? Yes, I think it is possible that he would have beaten a few of them at the first time of asking, by kicking up the kind of sandstorm that they had never previously encountered. Even the greatest of aces occasionally get caught out. But in a two or three-fight series, I think these exceptional men would have picked Roy’s lock and exposed him. The truly great boxers of that earlier era were exceptional at learning from their mistakes (remember how Tunney learned from his torrid defeat to Harry Greb). They would have spotted Roy’s limitations and fashioned a game plan to trap him the second time around.

Naseem Hamed, who befuddled his opponents in a similar way to Jones, came a major cropper when Marco Antonio Barrera abandoned his usual style and outboxed Hamed to such an extent that the English wizard never fought again. Jones didn’t quit the ring like Naseem, but Roy was never the same fighter thereafter. He had nowhere near the career longevity of the aforementioned greats because he couldn’t revise his fighting style.

Roy was unquestionably a skillful fighter, but it is significant that he slid so dramatically once his great speed and reflexes deteriorated. Suddenly the cupboard seemed bare and he had little else to offer. He was unable to adjust his style in the manner of the post-1967 Muhammad Ali. Very quickly, Roy became a shell of his former self. Against the earnest but frankly ordinary Glen Johnson, a tired and drained Jones collapsed almost tamely and was out for quite some time.


People say that dropping all that weight after the Ruiz fight was Roy’s permanent undoing. I don’t doubt for a moment that it was a major factor. But Archie Moore went up and down in weight throughout his career, often dramatically so. He was famous for his Aboriginal diet, where he would simply chew his meat and swallow only the juice. Bouncing up and down the weight scale didn’t crush Moore and relegate him from the great to the ordinary. Why? Because he knew how to fight in umpteen different ways.

However, Ted Sares, my fellow writer and author, believes that we cannot underestimate the damage that Jones did to himself. Says Ted: “One thing I have always believed is that if he had not lost the muscle mass after the Ruiz fight, he would have been just fine. But by losing that weight so rapidly, I think it impacted both his ability to take a punch and his reflexes. When he fought Tarver after the Ruiz fight, he was noticeably gaunt and his skin color was the same as Bowe; when Riddick fought Golota, right there and then, Jones should have retired.

“Sometimes Jones irritated boxing aficionados for what appeared to be an indifference to the sport, such as when he participated in a semi-pro basketball game the day of a fight with Eric Lucas, a tough fighter whom Jones later stopped. But this was simply Jones showing off his athleticism.

“A prime Roy Jones was as good as it gets. Had he retired after the first Tarver fight, his record would have been 50-1 and his place among the top five modern all-time greats would have been well justified. As it is, he still will rate among the top ten on my lists because, as Larry Merchant said during the Brannon fight, he was ‘Oscar Peterson with Boxing Gloves.’ And if fast fingers and a hardwired sense of swing defined Peterson, fast hands and a seldom-seen sense of reflexes defined Jones.”

Dan Cuoco, director of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO), is similarly impressed with Jones. Says Dan: “During his prime Roy Jones’ style, like Muhammad Ali’s before him, was unique and based more on his athleticism than traditional boxing technique. Jones possessed an extremely high boxing IQ and had great awareness in the ring. He had an innate ability for judging distance and creating angles. He didn’t waste punches and was very patient in the ring. Jones possessed good punching power as a middleweight and better than average punching power as a light-heavyweight. He was a master of every punch in the book.

“Although Jones possessed an excellent left jab, his jab output was low. His unorthodox strengths were his blazing speed and his ability to potshot his opponents with right hands, left hooks and uppercuts. I consider Jones both a great fighter and athlete. When he finally retires I believe Jones will be rated as an all-time top 20 fighter in both the middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions.”


In 2008, when Roy Jones was still at his peak, boxing analyst Mike Silver published his contentious and landmark book, The Arc of Boxing. Among many others, Mike interviewed trainers Teddy Atlas and Freddie Roach, as well as Mike Capriano Jr., the son of Mike Capriano Sr., who discovered and trained Jake LaMotta. All three gentlemen were asked their opinions of Roy Jones.

Teddy Atlas commented: “Roy uses his reflexes and his anticipation rather than technique. His technique has a lot of holes in it. I don’t think any real boxing guy would argue with that. I don’t even think Roy would. There are a lot of technically better fighters, but he depends on reflexes, a sense of anticipation, timing, those kind of great talents.

“But the old-school contenders would have taken advantage of that. They would have set him up for punches. I mean these guys would have taken advantage of Roy’s technical flaws and they would have put him into position to expose them. Then I don’t think his speed and talent would be flaunted so much. I don’t think it would be up there for us to bow to anymore. Instead we would have said, ‘Well he certainly moved back quickly before he got caught with that left hook that put him on his ass’ or ‘Wow, that looked like a real fast punch he just threw until he got hit with that body shot right after it.’

“The old-timers would have had answers to his moves and instead of being awed by his speed and power, we probably would have been looking more at his flaws. We wouldn’t have been saying ‘Wow, look how fast he is.’ We would have been saying ‘Wow, look at the way he pulled back and got caught with that left hook, look at the way he drops his hand for that uppercut, and look at the way Archie Moore saw the opening and dropped a left hook on his chin. Gee, too bad he wasn’t taught better. You know what? That fella Roy Jones could have been a good fighter. He had a lot of ability.’

“I think Roy Jones is a terrific athlete. He has a terrific combination of speed and power. But you know what? I don’t think he gets past Archie Moore. And he doesn’t get past Harold Johnson, Ezzard Charles or Billy Conn either. I could name ten old-timers within four minutes of thought that he doesn’t get past. I mean these guys, especially in that division, were freakin’ monsters!”


Freddie Roach told Mike Silver: “Roy Jones is a tremendously gifted athlete but he is technically flawed. He crosses his legs. He walks with his left foot first when he goes to his right, when he makes that cross. If I see a fighter doing that I know I’m going to attack right away because once those legs are crossed like that I’m going to put him right on his ass. He walks heel to toe a little bit. He doesn’t stay on his toes like a fundamental fighter should. He gets away with it because he has such blinding speed. But with him getting a little bit older, speed is something he is going to lose, and when those speedy guys lose that split second it’s only a fraction of a difference but it takes a toll on them. The speed was enough to get them by. Back in the old days you needed a lot more than speed to get by.

“I think Archie Moore and Bob Foster are beating Roy Jones, and even Michael Spinks, who came a little bit after them and was a pretty good fighter.”

Mike Capriano Jr. commented: “Roy is not in the same area of quality as some of the people we’ve spoken about, certainly not the quality of an Archie Moore, Lloyd Marshall, Jimmy Bivins or Gus Lesnevich. My goodness! Jones as one of the greatest light heavyweights of all time? Let him box Floyd Patterson at 170 pounds. Patterson would beat him both as an amateur and as a pro. Victor Galindez and John Conteh would have beaten him. Archie Moore would have banged him around. In a fight between Roy Jones and Saad Muhammad I’m betting Saad.

“To be great you have to go through the killers — provided you survived and were not damaged too badly. Look at Moore’s opponents. I mean this is ridiculous! There is no way you can rate the fighters of today with the fighters of that era. I don’t care what they do or how many title defenses they put up.

“You can’t blame Roy Jones for not having the competition for proving himself when he was at his peak. I’m blaming the guys that rate them. I wouldn’t characterize the fighters as being at fault for being overrated. It’s the people that come up with these ‘all-time rankings’ who are at fault. The guys that rate the all-time great fighters don’t have the understanding, they don’t have the exposure.

“Just a few years ago they were making Shane Mosley another Robinson. Then he fought Forrest and is beaten twice. There are no Robinsons, no Armstrongs, no LaMottas.”

Top 25

Mike Silver cannot rate Jones among the Top 25 light heavyweights or middleweights of all time and agrees with many of the views of messrs. Atlas, Roach and Capriano. “However, I wanted to take another look at Roy in his prime,” says Mike. “So I picked out two of his old fights that are available on YouTube. I avoided the many fights Roy had with second and third rate competition in which he looked spectacular, because those opponents would have also been a cakewalk for any of the ring greats that preceded him. I chose Jones’ 1996 and 1997 light heavyweight title fights vs. Mike McCallum and Montell Griffin (first fight), two of the better boxers he faced during his prime.

“Mike McCallum was one of the best boxers of the 1980s and a bit of a throwback to an age when boxers were well schooled, skillful and cagey. When he fought Jones he was 39 years old and past his prime but he was not a shot fighter and could still box and move. This was no third-rate patsy awed by Jones’ speed and power, but a seasoned professional with excellent boxing skills who also took a good punch. Knowing that he could not match his 27-year-old opponent’s speed or power, Mike fought a clever strategic fight, using a busy left jab to keep Roy off balance and pressure him to the ropes.

“Always balanced, and ready to attack or defend, McCallum assumed a tight defensive posture and forced Jones straight back with his left jab. Jones, instead of moving off to the side, often found his back to the ropes where he was less effective. It was also surprising to see how many times he was thrown off by McCallum’s feints. In addition, the old pro was able to slip and counter many of Jones’ leads. After five rounds McCallum had a slight lead but Jones, with youth on his side, pulled ahead. Yet he was never able to dominate McCallum and often appeared tentative and lacked aggression. No matter how you scored it, every round was closely contested. 

“Three months later the great Eddie Futch, who trained McCallum for his fight with Jones, had Montell Griffin employ the same strategy. On the tape of the fight, in between rounds, Eddie can be heard telling Griffin to feint Jones out of position and interrupt his rhythm, use combinations, and move him back with the jab to force him against the ropes. Griffin was instructed not to stand up straight but to come in low and move from side to side.

“It was these tactics and the ability to time and slip Jones’ punches and then counter with left hooks that kept the bout close. Jones tried his best to land a haymaker and end the fight but he kept missing the big punch. His usual stance, with his feet too far apart, did not allow him to step in quickly and counter Montell when the opportunity presented itself. At the end of eight rounds the Daily News had Montell slightly ahead, as did many objective observers. In the ninth round Roy, out of frustration, hit Montell when he was down and was disqualified.

“The controversial ending did not obscure the fact that Roy Jones, (who some were prematurely calling the best fighter who ever lived!) could not dominate an over the hill 39-year-old ex-champ (McCallum) or a decent but limited boxer (Griffin) who in years past would not have rated a title shot. The more I watched these two films, the more I agreed with the assessment of the aforementioned trainers.

“I couldn’t help but wonder what would have happened if we replaced the 39- year-old McCallum and the modestly talented Griffin with fighters named Jose Basora, Kid Tunero, Jock McAvoy, Len Harvey, Holman Williams, Sam Baroudi or Jimmy Bivins. I purposely didn’t go to the familiar names such as Conn, Moore, Charles and Foster to emphasize that the depth of talent in this sport 60 or more years ago was not confined to just a few superior boxers. In those days the competition at the top was brutal and you needed a lot more than speed to gain contender status.

“One significant ingredient common to these fighters was missing from Roy’s technical repertoire — craftiness. Sugar Ray Robinson had it, Archie Moore had it, so did Duran, Louis, Emile Griffith and Harold Johnson, to name just a few. It enabled them to be effective against good fighters for many years. These old-timers remained a force to be reckoned with and could still exhibit their cagey moves well into their thirties. Jones, a tremendously gifted and powerful natural athlete, never developed this quality and had nothing to fall back on — except ordinary boxing skills — once his athleticism and speed diminished. By age 34 he was washed up.”


Boxing writer, author and analyst, Springs Toledo, is measured in his all-time assessment of Jones and makes some interesting observations: “You don’t beat Bernard Hopkins and James Toney unless you’re a great fighter,” says Springs. “While there is a tendency to overstate the middleweight Jones in all-time tournaments, his off-the-charts athleticism makes him an interesting prospect in three divisions. ‘Interesting’ isn’t necessarily ‘winning’ however. He had nothing approaching the experience needed to deal with the top-tier, though there would be several who would be troubled by his speed and power. 

“We’d have to begin by assuming he’d fight them in the first place. Do you see him signing to fight Bob Foster at light heavyweight? I don’t. Jones has a well-documented track record of not fighting guys he should have fought, especially at super middleweight where he squandered his prime fighting has-beens, non-threats, and part-time fighters. He’s touted by media muppets as a four-division champion but that’s just magical thinking. He never fought the true champion in any of those four divisions and he never faced the next best contender when he was rated one or two by The Ring during his prime years.

“Due to a combination of factors that include a confused championship field and Jones’ safety-first mentality before and especially after Benn-McClellan, Jones has zero actual championships to show for a long career. He has only belts. This explains why he consistently defends the sanctioning bodies’ ideas of what a champion is.

“Someone ought to tell him that an honest assessment of his career would make him look better than perpetuating fantasies about WBS championships. Ezzard Charles was the best fighter at light heavyweight, but never became champ. Charley Burley was the best fighter at welterweight and middleweight, and never became champ. Sam Langford, like Jones, was the best in at least three divisions (middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight), and is remembered as history’s greatest uncrowned champion and perhaps the greatest fighter, period; but never became champ.

“That’s a sample of Jones’ company. By contrast, boxing history has plenty of second-rate contenders who happened to have the right style and a golden opportunity to seize a divisional crown, however briefly. The fact that Jones was, at one point or another, the premier fighter in three divisions is a serious laurel.

“Jones’s effectiveness was rooted in athleticism. A technician he was not. That explains why guys like Moore and Duran and Hopkins had success late in their careers against bigger men and why Jones hasn’t. Technicians usually have longer primes and longer careers and can be counted on to defeat athletic types. Jones, like Hamed and Ali, was an exceptional athlete. He could turn the tables on better-schooled fighters and even a few great ones. But let’s not get too infatuated with his highlights. Had he faced a pre-Baroudi Ezzard Charles, he’d have gotten clocked by the tool box like Hamed was by Barrera.

“Is Jones an all-time great? I wouldn’t include him in the top 30. Was he one of the greatest fighters of his era? Yes, though Hopkins has pulled ahead of him.

“Was Roy a great fighter? Yes; no qualifiers.” writer Ted Spoon sees it this way: “Roy was special. Rating him has always been the tricky part. The greatness in Roy’s career lay in the fact he used his athleticism to cast an illusion — that he was too good. Single-shot-ambushes emphasized the hit-miss ratio, making opponents fight shy, all the while their game plan dissolved. This wasn’t a master at work. He didn’t block all exits. He relied on the crack of the whip, on the threat of a counter if you found yourself out of position.

“Admittedly, what he did have he had in abundance — speed, pop and great awareness. If you couldn’t get Roy out of his zone you were in trouble and that may include some great middleweights, maybe even a great light-heavyweight or two. 

“What I took from the Hopkins and Toney fights is that Jones was certainly above the likes of Naseem Hamed, though I believe the results flattered him. Bernard and James did not have the right styles to beat him. The likes of Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler would eat Roy’s shots and force the issue, not be in awe of it. A top middleweight I could see Roy beating is perhaps Dick Tiger, though that would be a tightrope of a fight. At light-heavyweight I’m open to surprises but things get much more hairy. Loughran, Tunney, Conn, Moore, Charles, Foster and Spinks are no-go zones.

“To conclude I would say Roy was indeed great, he was of made that stuff, but think of it like 14-karat gold.”


We are very fortunate in the fight game. In working out our own all-time rankings, we can delve into a rich tapestry of history and talent that goes back decades to the beginning of the gloved era. This can be as good as it is bad, since any Top 100 pound-for-pound listing that we compile is going to be most noticeable for its alarming number of illustrious absentees. Yet, such is the historic spread of quality, it is no disgrace to be ranked 21st, 51st or even 101st.

I can’t place Roy Jones in my Top 50, so where do I place him? Truth be told, I don’t know. I have yet to tackle the mountainous task of compiling a Top 100. What I do know is that Mr. Jones is a gloriously awkward customer when it comes to judgement day, the square peg you keep clutched in your hand as you dither over its proper place. I suppose that is why he so intrigues me. Phenomenon or just a fast guy who got away with it in the time that was granted to him? Like beauty, it is in the eye of the beholder.

Mike Casey is a writer and Founder & Editor of ALL TIME BOXING at He is a freelance journalist and boxing historian and a member of the International Boxing Research Organization (IBRO).

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Roy Jones Jr. vs. James "Lights Out" Toney - November 18, 1994 - HQ

Roy Jones Jr vs Mike McCallum 34th of 63

Roy Jones Jr vs Montell Griffin 35th of 63

Roy Jones Jr vs John Ruiz

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  1. Daniel Harmon 06:15pm, 02/28/2018

    I’ll say it.  Roy Jones in his prime was the most amazing boxer I have ever seen.  Go back and look at what the great Emanuel Steward said about him.

  2. David 07:44pm, 01/28/2016

    I’m Glad we have Video of these Old Time fighters because Grandpa can no longer b.s. us of “back in my day they were superhuman.” No they weren’t. Theyre were some good and some bad. But superior? Come on. Stop with the bull.

    There are “Old Timers” who lost before they were past their prime to so-so fighters. And yet they rip on Jones winning in his prime?

    There was also a lot of hyped up fighters back then because they could. When you are completely dominating your field, those who could have been at the top, can’t. And now they are just labeled “contenders.”

    Even when you see a fighter have 100+ fights, many are fights with club fighters. Fill in fights to keep busy and collect a paycheck. Later generations had fighters fighting less but also fighting against healthy, well rested top fighters when they did. Back then, you could fight a guy coming off a knockout/concussion the next week or month.  Probably a lot of punchy fighters fighting.

  3. David 07:25pm, 01/28/2016

    Tired of people acting like Old School fighters are just better. There were many flat footed fighters (especially in the HW division), fighters that couldn’t move their head, set up punches, etc. But Nostalgia takes over.

    Fact is, Bernard Hopkins and James T. were both very skilled pure boxers of old school training and both were taken to school but Roy Jones jr.

    SRR didn’t have that great of a defense. Offense, yes. But defense, no.
    Same with Muhammad Ali who did everything wrong in the book with keeping his hands down, pulling back, etc. And many many more.

    Roy did things in the ring that nobody before or since has done. The combinations were the most creative boxing has ever seen. His placement of his punhces, timing, movement, etc.
    Was he technically flawed? YES, but so were many others just like Ali and SRR.

  4. andrew 05:57pm, 10/13/2015

    Mike: Ali’s post 1967 ‘adjustment’ was nothing more than proving his ability to absorb unbelievable punishment. His jaw was broken, his kidneys mashed until they peed red and, finally, he was beaten into the vegetative state he has been in for so many years. Being unable to do the same is the best thing Jones - or any other fighter - could do.

  5. Jethro Tull 10:35am, 10/06/2015

    Yes, Greb would be able to pressure Jones despite a distinct lack of size relative to Jones and much less punch.

    What complete and total shite.

  6. Mike Silver 07:00pm, 10/05/2015

    Greb would not have to match Jones’s speed—in the same way he did not have to match Tunney’s speed, or in the same way Frazier neutralized Ali’s superior speed and Marciano did same with Charles and Walcott—all superior speedsters. If you are a superior PRESSURE fighter and stay glued to your opponent you can neutralize his speed. It takes a special fighter to do this and Greb, Frazier and Marciano were special fighters. You don’t match speed for speed—you stay on top of the guy and don’t give him room to breath, overwhelm him and keep him on the defensive. That was Greb’s specialty. Tex Hassler is right.

  7. Jethro Tull 11:41pm, 09/26/2015

    What evidence is there that Harry Greb could match Jones’ speed?

  8. Tex Hassler 01:47pm, 09/26/2015

    Roy Jones would have a tough time beating Harry Greb,who could match his speed, Ezzard Charles, Bob Foster or many other all time proven greats. Jones was great but not in the same class at Tunney or some of the others at Light Heavy.

  9. Big Wally 09:51pm, 09/22/2015

    Jones is an all time great

  10. Jethro Tull 03:31pm, 09/20/2015

    “Had Jones gone down to Cruiser weight, I think he would perhaps have done just fine.” - Good call.

    Roy Jones hurt himself badly by dropping so much weight and so quickly.

    I think that speed was his entire game, as it were, and once that speed was gone, he was quite vulnerable.

    Having said that, any of the light-heavyweights you mention above that were boxers and not big punchers had precisely no chance of beating Jones. They couldn’t hurt him and were not going to outbox him.

    The other thing to remember was that he was 34 or 35 when he had his series with Tarver and a lot of great fighters were washed up at that age.

  11. PhilipA 02:33pm, 09/19/2015

    Great and detailed article, although you completely left out his steroid abuse,  which severely impacts on his legacy.

  12. Eric 02:15pm, 09/19/2015

    Roy Jones is definitely a top 15 Light Heavy, and could arguably a top 10 all-timer in the 175lb division. I think people sell Roy & Mike Tyson short because they forget how great both fighters were in their prime. A prime Jones has an excellent shot at beating the Tommy Loughrans, the Harry Grebs, the Billy Conns, etc. I could see Roy being in the bottom half of a top 10 listing for lt. heavys if we excluded some of the real old-timers like Bob Fitzsimmons or Sam Langford. Kind of hard to realistically rank a fighter from that era with modern fighters.

  13. David T 12:57pm, 09/19/2015

    Even though I am a big fan of the old timers to say that RJJ isn’t in the top 50 is a bit harsh. Agreed he didn’t go out of his way to fight the best but to be fair a fair few didn’t want to know either. None of our guys Benn, Eubank wanted anything to do with him - Calzaghe was smart and waited for the right time - in his prime RJJ outclasses Joe as good as he was.  Just one correction - hamed did fight again after Barrera however can’t blame you for not remembering it!

  14. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 09:38am, 09/19/2015

    He was a rare physiological specimen….but here’s the elephant’s dick in the room…..he artificially enhanced those attributes (only for Richard Hall you say?!) and typical of those that follow this “sport”....nobody really and truly gives a fuk as long as they can see someone get beat up.

  15. FrankinDallas 07:30am, 09/19/2015

    Gus Lesnevich? Really? Philadelphia Jack O’Brian? WTF
    were they going to do in the ring with RJJ before they got

    Only on

  16. raxman 09:13pm, 09/18/2015

    this has got me thinking of those great, not just boxers but athletes who built their careers on incredible god given skills but were - unlike RJJ - able to stay at the top despite father time robbing them of these gifts.
    the 2 boxers that spring to mind are obvious - Floyd (watch his fights at 130&35;, no one is talking ring general ship and ability to decipher his opponents) and of course Bhop, who although didn’t have the blistering speed and reflexes of the juniors to lose, but still, at 50, used complete boxing technique to stay at the top.
    in other sports. anyone? I’ve got 2. Jordan went from the guy who destroyed you by flying, to a maestro of the jump shot.
    Federer’s serve and volley game of his youth, adapted to both age and the slower courts to play a near flawless baseline game

  17. raxman 09:00pm, 09/18/2015

    this piece highlights everything you need to know about Jones. he certainly was more athlete than boxer - or should we say athlete first, boxer second. it was always going to happen that, like ali, he relied on his speed and reflexes. unlike Ali, RJJ just didn’t have the chin.
    i think once roy retires he’ll be suitably placed back in the list of all time greats - not top 10 p4p but certainly top 100. these last years of club level opponents along with the first round ko loss to Green and schooling from Joe C will be forgotten - just as the 2 dozen odd fights that Duran had at the end of his career were
    we’ll remember RJJ for his domination of Bhop at 160 and Toney at 168 and his long term ruling of a (admittedly talent depleted) light heavy weight division.

  18. Ro 07:06pm, 09/18/2015

    Gtfoh! If roy ain’t a top 15 lt heavy, there is no such thing as boxing

  19. GlennR 02:34pm, 09/17/2015

    Great article.
    Probably the hardest boxer of all time to rank IMO.
    Beat plenty of bums but then dismantles the likes of Toney (i don’t buy the “wrong style” thing)

    I do know one thing about him though, the sport of Boxing would have been the lesser without him

  20. Lee 02:30pm, 09/17/2015

    Nice to see the Rochdale Thunderbolt himself-Jock McAvoy get some love here,
    I also wonder whether Len Harvey might not have given Jones Jnr a test?

  21. KB 02:30pm, 09/17/2015


    The Hagler that Beat Hearns wins.

    the Hagler that beat Duran loses.

  22. peter 01:37pm, 09/17/2015

    Marvin Hagler got lost in the shuffle in this article and the comments. A Hagler-Jones fight would be the one to watch.

  23. KB 12:28pm, 09/17/2015

    Jones is a very bright guy and is known to be able to multi task on an uncommon basis. I think h fought that way as well. It’s part of who he is. He can go from rap gibberish to analyzing a fight in a NY second.

    He also does a great job in breaking down a fight on HBO. He is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’ll have him with a crumpet and some sugar if you please.

  24. nicolas 11:21am, 09/17/2015

    While Archie Moore went from heavyweight to light heavyweight and back, the difference I think was that Moore to the best of my recollection did not go above 190. Had Jones gone down to Cruiser weight, I think he would perhaps have done just fine. Why he went down to Light heavy again was stupid. While I thought the Tarver knockout was perhaps just a lucky punch, it was rally his fight with Glenn Johnson, that showed his abilities in downward mode. You could see in his body language how he hated being in the ring. that knockout was also very devastating. Also to note that in losing these fights, and later in the rematch to Hopkins, he lost to older men..

  25. Eric 08:20am, 09/17/2015

    Roy was probably his best at 168lbs but I would still rank him among the all time great light heavyweights. Top 5 IMO would be:

    1. Gene Tunney
    2. Ezzard Charles
    3. Archie Moore
    4. Michael Spinks
    5. Bob Foster

  26. KB 06:57am, 09/17/2015

    Jim, In his defense, Roy fought an ungodly number of champions, future champions,  or former champions.

  27. KB 06:34am, 09/17/2015

    Whew! That was one heck of a fine read. While I am an unabashed fan of Jones and have him ranked in the top ten, this was a very well-documented effort and reflects one hell of a lot of work. Thank you.

  28. Jim Crue 05:41am, 09/17/2015

    Another terrific article.
    I must disagree with Alec.
    1] safety first
    Roy did not fight the best opposition
    2] limited opposition
    though not Roy’s fault it’s a MAJOR factor in ranking an all time great
    In the 1950’s Archie Moore fought in succession
    Harold Johnson
    Nino Valdez, a heavyweight
    Bobo Olson
    Rocky Marciano, HW champion
    So Archie went up and down in weight
    It’s well know that Roy and his handlers knew he had a weak chin which is why he selected weak opposition and it was and continues to be proven. Why he continues to fight is another story.
    3] and most important, great fighters do not get cold cocked by the likes of Tarver and Glen Johnson. The point is made that Roy was not able to adjust his style.
    I think historian Herbert G Goldman had to do some fast talking after Roy was clocked by the afore mentioned fighters. To say he dominated his opposition like no other, it seems, does not take into account his level of opposition. And as Lou Duva once told me, “Hopkins could not carry Ray Robinsons jock strap”
    Roy made lots of money and good for him.
    With all respect I agree with Teddy Atlas and Mike Silver and others. And unlike Alec I take this article seriously.
    With respect to all
    Jim Crue

  29. Clarence George 05:30am, 09/17/2015

    Mike:  One of the best pieces I’ve read on Jones.  Maybe *the* best.  Like you, and no shortage of others, I find it rather difficult to rank him.  Despite the enormous damage he’s done to his reputation over the past several years, he was a tremendously exciting and unquestionably gifted boxer.  Jaw-dropping to watch him in his prime, even against so-so opposition.  But among the top 10?  Well, not my top 10.  By the way, completely disagree with Alec’s “No offense to Archie Moore, but Roy easily beats him.”  Nah, I doubt that Moore would even have found him much of a challenge.

  30. Mike Casey 04:48am, 09/17/2015

    ‘2008’ was a simple typo - please excuse it.

  31. Alec 04:15am, 09/17/2015

    Also, saying Roy was in his peak at 2008 is extremely laughable, watch the Ruiz fight to the Tarver I fight.  Even there he is CLEARLY, not the same.

    Most modern boxing historians clearly recognize Roy as one of the greatest fighters they have ever seen.

  32. Alec 04:13am, 09/17/2015

    Wow…. The author couldn’t put Roy Jones Jr in his P4P Top 50? Roy was special, arguably more athletically special than any fighter that ever lived. Did he have holes in his technique? Absolutely. Did he need the greatest technique ever? Absolutely not for one second. He had talents that he used to allow him to be better than any fighter could be on pure technique. Look at Bernard for an obvious example. As great as Bernard was, Roy was clearly better in his prime (weird he beat him). This just stinks of “old timer harping on the good ol’ days. Roy in his prime is absolutely one of the best to ever do it, just watch his fights. Roach, and Atlas sound like idiots here. No offense to Archie Moore, but Roy easily beats him. He is too gifted, Moore would not beat Roy. If Roy really wasn’t that “great” just because of “technique”, then how did he clearly have the best run through the 90s? James Toney had all-time great talent & technique, how far did that get him (weight drained or not). Throw out the textbook when rating Roy. He was a completely different animal.

    Sorry there is just no way I can take this article seriously.  Roy had a rough fall off, for the same reasons stated above.  After dropping all that weight from heavyweight, he CLEARLY was not the same fighter in the Tarver I fight, not even close.  A human being is not meant to move weight like that competitively at 36, especially in a sport like boxing.  Just like his incredible gifts allowed him to reach levels only all-time greats reach, his fall would be similar.  I will echo it again, Roach & Atlas can say all they want about Roy “just being a great athlete” or whatever, but at one point do you stop being a traditionalist and call a diamond a diamond?  At the end of the day in a boxing match, you want to win.  Why would a guy try to fight extremely traditionally technical, when he can do more incredible things to absolutely dominate?  Oh right, he wouldn’t.