Commentary

The most significant fights of Jones' career

Think Joe Calzaghe is bringing something to the table that Roy Jones hasn't seen before? Think again. Don Steinberg looks at the key fights in Roy Jones' career.

Originally Published: November 4, 2008
By Don Steinberg | Special to ESPN.com

Roy JonesAP Photo/Eric JamisonAntonio Tarver, right, handed Roy Jones his second professional loss in 2004.
A look at the pivotal fights in Roy Jones' career:

Final Amateur Fight
Opponent: Park Si-Hun
Date: Oct. 1, 1988 -- Seoul, Korea
Result: Park by decision in 3
Why it matters: It was a day that will live in infamy for the Olympics: A terrible -- and possibly corrupt -- decision that awarded South Korean Park Si-Hun a gold medal over Jones in the light middleweight finals at the 1988 games, even though Jones had outclassed Park. Jones, 19, had entered the finals showing the world his blazing speed and power. Park had arrived via a series of questionable home-country decisions. In the opening round, Jones blasted Park with left hooks, landing 20 shots to Park's three, but Olympic scoring then was subjective and not based on hit counts. Jones pounded Park into a standing-eight count in Round 2. By the third round, Park seemed ready to go. But three out of five judges scored the fight for Park. There was outrage, and a U.S. coach said he saw a South Korean official trying to bribe judges. Still, Jones was named outstanding boxer of the Games.

Pro Fight No. 22
Opponent: Bernard Hopkins (22-1)
Date: May 22, 1993 -- Washington, D.C.
Result: Jones by decision in 12
Why it matters: Who could have known that such a lackluster fight would produce more than a decade of trash talk about a rematch that has never happened (at least so far) between two future Hall of Famers? This was the first title shot for both Jones and Hopkins, for the IBF middleweight belt that James Toney had vacated in moving up to super middleweight. Both men seemed overwhelmed by the occasion and reluctant to engage, pulling back on their own punches. In Round 1, they combined to throw 61 jabs, and only two landed. Jones swung his left glove down at thigh level and jumped in with occasional hooks. Hopkins bull-rushed and landed some good rights, but when the action was done he had swung and missed 523 times. Television commentators likened the Washington, D.C., fight to watching legislators filibuster on C-SPAN. But Jones took the decision and was finally a champion.

Pro Fight No. 27
[+] EnlargeJones/Toney
Getty ImagesRoy Jones, left, outwitted James Toney in a battle between two of boxing's most intelligent fighters.
Opponent: James Toney (44-0-2)
Date: Nov. 18, 1994 -- Las Vegas
Result: Jones by decision in 12
Why it matters: Jones followed Toney to the super middleweight division and soon challenged for the IBF super middleweight title. In a battle of fast-handed showboats, Jones dominated to win a lopsided decision. He repeatedly beat the bullying Toney to the punch, and Toney continually seemed to be standing off balance in odd postures. He was leaning forward awkwardly in Round 3 when Jones cranked him with a flying left hook that sent Toney squat-walking backwards all the way to the far turnbuckle, where he crash-landed for a knockdown. Toney said after the fight that he had to drop from 207 pounds and was exhausted. He barely gave Jones credit for the win. But the victory, giving Jones (27-0) a title in his second division, finally brought him acclaim as one of the sport's top pound-for-pound athletes.

Pro Fight No. 36
Opponent: Montell Griffin (27-0)
Date: Aug. 7, 1997 -- Mashantucket, Conn.
Result: Jones by KO in 1
Griffin and Jones
AP Photo/Matt YorkRoy Jones proved how devastating a puncher he can be when inspired knocking Montell Griffin out in one round in their rematch.
Why it matters: Jones never got a chance to avenge the injustice he'd suffered at the Olympics, but his return bout with Griffin was sweet revenge. Five months earlier versus Griffin, he'd been leading on two judges' cards when he knocked Griffin down to a knee -- then foolishly hit him twice while Griffin was down. Referee Tony Perez counted Griffin out, but New Jersey boxing chairman Larry Hazzard jumped in and reversed the verdict to disqualify Jones for hitting a man illegally, his first pro loss. In the rematch, Jones made no mistakes. He staggered Griffin with the fight's opening punch and within 20 seconds sent him flailing into the ropes for a knockdown. Jones headhunted for two more minutes until he caught Griffin leaning back, landing a leaping left hook to the chin. Griffin went down and, in punch-drunk stumbling, couldn't get up. Jones often seemed content to go the distance in his prime, frustrating fans. But this showed how quickly he could get to the point when he meant business.

Pro Fight No. 49
Opponent: John Ruiz (38-4-1)
Date: March 1, 2003 -- Las Vegas
Result: Jones by decision in 12
[+] EnlargeRoy Jones Jr.
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesRoy Jones dominated a much larger John Ruiz to pick up a heavyweight title -- and become part of history.
Why it matters: The rap on Jones was that he fought nobodies in his best years, but his seven opponents from 2000 through 2002 had a combined 173-5 record at the time they fought Jones. He had run through the light heavies and was now targeting Ruiz, who had upset Evander Holyfield two years earlier to win the WBA heavyweight strap. Jones undertook a secretive muscle-building program with fitness guru Mackie Shilstone -- he even weighed in wearing a shirt to hide his 20 new pounds. Still, he gave away 27 pounds to Ruiz, and some believed as soon as Jones absorbed heavyweight body blows, he'd be done. Ruiz came out punching low, trying to drive Jones to the ropes. But Jones set the rhythm. Keeping the action in the middle of the ring, he jumped in with lead rights and one-two combinations and ducked under Ruiz's counters. A right cross and left uppercut bloodied Ruiz's nose in Round 4. Ruiz's corner begged him to be more aggressive, but that didn't happen. The unanimous decision made Jones the first former middleweight champ in modern history to take a heavyweight crown.

Pro Fight No. 51
Opponent: Antonio Tarver (21-2)
Date: May 15, 2004 -- Las Vegas
Result: Tarver by TKO in 2
Why it matters: In their first fight six months earlier, Tarver had given Jones his toughest test, and Jones summoned what he needed to eke out a decision and win back the light heavyweight crown. In that seesaw battle, Jones seemed exhausted by Round 6, and Tarver surged. It was all even after 10, and in the final rounds Jones dug deep to pull out a majority decision. Jones blamed the massive weight loss after his heavyweight adventure for his fatigue. For this rematch, when Jay Nady asked the fighters if they had any questions, Tarver famously said: "I have a question. You have any excuses tonight, Roy?" Midway through Round 2, Tarver backed up his bravado. Trapped in a corner, Jones kept his right hand out after throwing it, and both men cranked up left hooks. Tarver's arrived first -- a devastating, tight shot to Jones' unguarded chin. Jones collapsed, briefly out, and barely rose, groggily, at nine, but Nady waved the fight off. The loss was the sudden start of Jones' final act. He would be knocked out by Glen Johnson later in 2005 and lose the rubber match to Tarver, putting the remainder of this career in comeback mode.

Pro Fight No. 56
Opponent: Felix Trinidad (42-2)
Date: January 19, 2008 / New York
Result: Jones by decision in 12
[+] EnlargeRoy Jones Jr. and Felix Trinidad
Al Bello/Getty ImagesRoy Jones' savvy skills proved too much for Felix Trinidad, right, to overcome.
Why it matters:After three straight losses and time away from the sport, Jones fought once in 2006 and once in 2007, winning uninspired and barely noticed decisions over Prince Badi Ajamu and Anthony Hanshaw. Though tarnished, Jones remained a brand name looking for a marquee fight. Somehow, as he turned 39, a match at 170 pounds against punched-out former welterweight slugger Trinidad (who at 35 hadn't fought since retiring 3 years earlier) seemed intriguing. It was -- for a while. Trinidad landed crisp left hooks early as Jones laid back and took mental pictures, occasionally flashing clearly superior speed. Jones started landing right-hand leads in Round 5, and by the 6th the rout had begun. Jones dropped Trinidad with a short right in the 7th -- and did it again in the 10th to take a wide decision. Jones final chapter hadn't reached the end yet.

Don Steinberg, a winner of the Boxing Writers Association of America's award for best column in 2005, covers boxing for The Philadelphia Inquirer.