Father figures to play role in Jones Jr. fight

Updated: March 20, 2009, 12:08 PM ET

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Reason to smile: Roy Jones will have his father back in his corner on Saturday.

Jones goes home again

Roy Jones Jr. is 40, coming off a lopsided loss to Joe Calzaghe in November and nowhere near the fighter he was when he was king of the world from the early 1990s until 2004, when he was brutally knocked out twice by Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, and then lost a third consecutive fight when Tarver easily outpointed him in their 2005 rubber match.

Although Jones bounced back to win three fights in a row, including against Felix Trinidad, who was even more badly faded than Jones, his modest winning streak ended when Calzaghe pitched a near-shutout for a lopsided decision.

Roy Jones, Joe Calzaghe

Al Bello/Getty Images

Despite a lopsided loss to Joe Calzaghe, Roy Jones soldiers on.

A few months later, Calzaghe retired as the undefeated light heavyweight champion, content with his career and place in boxing history.

Jones could have done the same years ago, but instead he soldiers on. He has always done things his own way, and he is not ready to go quietly into the night.

So Jones (52-5, 38 KOs) returns to the ring Saturday night (PPV, 9 ET) against onetime contender Omar Sheika (27-8, 18 KOs) in the headline bout on Jones' promotional company's hybrid boxing/mixed martial arts card. But instead of facing an elite opponent in a big-time fight at a famed arena, Jones is going back to his roots -- in more ways than one.

He'll fight at his hometown Pensacola Civic Center in Pensacola, Fla., for the first time since wiping out Ricky Frazier in two rounds to retain the light heavyweight championship in January 1999. But adding to the seems-like-old-times feel to the fight, Jones will have his father, Roy Jones Sr., in his corner working with trainer Alton Merkerson.

Boxing and MMA
TV lineup for Saturday night's boxing and mixed martial arts pay-per-view card (9 ET, $29.95) from the Pensacola Civic Center in Pensacola, Fla.:

• Boxing, light heavyweights: Roy Jones (52-5, 38 KOs) vs. Omar Sheika (27-8, 18 KOs), 12 rounds
• MMA, heavyweights: Roy Nelson (13-3) vs. Jeff Monson (27-8), 3 rounds
• Boxing, cruiserweights: B.J. Flores (22-0, 14 KOs) vs. Jose Luis Herrera (16-5, 16 KOs), 10 rounds
• MMA, heavyweights: Bobby Lashley (1-0) vs. Jason Guida (4-4), 3 rounds
• )MMA, lightweights: Din Thomas (22-8) vs. Gabe Lemley (13-8), 3 rounds
• MMA, light heavyweights: Dennis Hallman (39-12-3) vs. Danny Ruiz (5-3), 3 rounds

Jones Sr., known as Big Roy to many, taught his son how to fight and trained and managed him during the early part of his career until Roy Jr., tired of his father's domineering ways, banished him in 1992.

Their reunion comes as something of a surprise given their years of estrangement and the poor way their last brief reunion ended. But Big Roy is back simply because his son asked him.

"I needed a tune-up. I needed an overhaul," Jones said. "And the only person that can do that is the person that taught me."

Big Roy said he was happy to be invited back.

"He never stopped being my son," he said. "Coming back was just as simple as him asking me to help him with this fight. That's all it took and here I am."

It wasn't that easy for most of Jones' career. While he was winning titles in four divisions with Merkerson in his corner, Big Roy didn't attend the fights, although he was always welcome. Jones would make sure a ringside seat was set aside for him in case he showed up.

Big Roy never did come back, though, which he said he doesn't regret.

"I was always a part of it in a sense," he said. "I always watched so I never did really miss it. Sometimes you've just got to let him go and do it. I can't live his life for him. If I could I wouldn't because there wouldn't be anything for me to be proud of. I don't have any regrets. It was his decision and whatever way he decides was up to him."

Said Jones, "Our relationship is very unique. He can either stand back and watch or come in and help. I am never against the help, but if you don't want to help I can respect that too. I respect that but he is my dad, and if he wants to come in and help he can do that too. If he didn't want to help, I wouldn't be mad."

Their estrangement lasted for many years until a brief reconciliation in 2005, when Jones asked his father to help him train for the third Tarver fight.

It didn't go well. Jones lost badly and Big Roy was gone again. At a bizarre brunch with reporters months later in Memphis, Jones blamed the loss on his father, saying that subconsciously his father's presence didn't allow him to win.

"If I knock him out, who'll get the glory? Everybody would have given the glory to Roy Jones Sr.," Jones said at the brunch. "No glory would have gone to God nor myself. So would that have been right? If I won that fight any kind of way my father gets all the glory."

Amir Khan

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

Roy Jones Jr., left, blamed his rubber match loss in 2005 to Antonio Tarver on his father, Roy Sr.

Big Roy heard about those comments but said he didn't pay much attention to them and that he didn't hesitate to return to the camp for the Sheika fight.

"I am his father and he is my kid. Regardless of what he says, he is still my kid," Big Roy said. "Sometimes he might not know what to say, or he may be looking for someone to blame. A father is meant to be blamed. So if I can help him that way also, I will because he is my kid. He is still my youngin' and I am still his father, so any way I can help him [I will]. If it means putting blame on me then, I will help him."

In the wake of the third Tarver fight, Jones also blamed his father for going against their pre-arranged deal that Big Roy and Merkerson would alternate rest periods between rounds in which they would speak to him.

"It was established before the fight who would talk, but it changed during the fight," Jones said at the Memphis brunch. "You [Jones Sr.] push Merk out of the way and talk, and now I can't get Merk to say nothing. I'm seeing it all and trying to deal with all this. Somebody didn't stick to their side of the agreement. You know who it was. It's a pretty deep statement, but my father don't deserve [the glory]. He's a sharp guy. If he stuck to the plan, it all works for everybody. But he didn't stick to the plan."

They could perhaps be headed down that same path again because Jones said the plan for fight night against Sheika will be for both of them to give instructions in the corner.

"They were two different boxers and they have two totally opposite styles," Jones said, comparing his father and Merkerson. "My dad's style is basically my foundation and that's where I've been lacking, in my foundation. Things that I haven't been doing a lot lately because I got away from my foundation and I need to catch up on that. Merk, on the other hand, has added a lot of things to my game that I needed as I got older. They both have their own styles that are pretty good for me."

Big Roy said he isn't concerned with who does the talking. He just wants his son to fight well.

"I'm only concerned about getting him ready," Big Roy said. "He can take anybody into the corner that he wants. I just want him to be prepared and be ready."

Diaz brothers change foes

Brothers Antonio and Julio Diaz, scheduled to fight on separate pay-per-view cards, have both had their opponents change this week.

Former two-time lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo, nursing an injured Achilles tendon, withdrew from his welterweight fight with Antonio Diaz (45-5-1, 29 KO) on Top Rank's March 28 "Tijuana Thunder" card, but Diaz will remain on the show and face Mexican prospect Javier Castro (19-1, 17 KOs).

Julio Diaz

Javiel Centeno

Golden Boy is scrambling to find a replacement for Julio Diaz, right, after Joel Casamayor pulled out of their April 4 bout with an injury.

Julio Diaz (36-4, 26 KOs), a former lightweight titleholder and Antonio's younger brother, was supposed to face former champ Joel Casamayor on April 4 on Golden Boy's all-lightweight pay-per-view card. But Casamayor withdrew because of a back injury.

Golden Boy looked to match him with Castro, but he was a bit heavy and took the fight with Antonio instead. Now Julio Diaz probably will face fringe contender Rolando Reyes (30-4-2, 19 KOs), who has won four in a row since a decision loss to Castillo in 2006.

"It had been a disaster for the Diaz brothers but we've managed to resurrect both of their fights," said Sean Gibbons of Sycuan Ringside Promotions, which promotes Julio and works closely with Antonio.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.


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