Jones content on giving a little bit more of himself to fans and media

Updated: November 7, 2008

Jones turns over new leaf

NEW YORK -- For about a decade, Roy Jones was widely considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, a nearly untouchable force who won titles in four divisions without seriously being challenged. But for an even longer period of time, Jones held another distinction -- the most difficult fighter on earth for the media to deal with, a reluctant superstar with little to say and less interest in promoting his fights.

Although Jones is no longer atop the pound-for-pound list, he has turned over a new leaf when it comes to media relations and promotional acumen.

In days gone by, Jones would be considered early if he was only an hour late for a news conference. Now, it's not unusual for him to beat reporters to his media appointments. And instead of being brief -- he spoke for all of 17 seconds and took no questions during the final press conference before his third fight with Antonio Tarver in 2005 before storming out -- Jones now seems to actually have fun engaging with media members, laughing and joking throughout a small media gathering a few weeks ago in the hours before the Bernard Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik fight in Atlantic City, N.J.

In days gone by, Jones would never have allowed HBO's cameras to follow him constantly for the "24/7" series as he has done for the past few months.

And certainly, Jones (52-4, 38 KOs) would never have taken the time to provide blogs for ESPN.com about his training camp or given an audience to a boxing writer in his Manhattan hotel suite like he did Thursday afternoon.

Battle of the Superpowers
TV lineup
The schedule for Saturday's HBO PPV card (9 p.m. ET) from Madison Square Garden in New York:

• Light heavyweights: Joe Calzaghe (45-0, 32 KOs) vs. Roy Jones Jr. (52-4, 38 KOs), 12 rounds, for Calzaghe's world title

• Welterweights: Zab Judah (36-6, 25 KOs) vs. Ernest Johnson (18-2-1, 7 KOs), 10 rounds

• Junior welterweights: Dmitriy Salita (28-0-1, 16 KOs) vs. Derrick Campos (17-5, 10 KOs), 12 rounds

• Junior welterweights: Frankie Figueroa (19-2, 13 KOs) vs. Emanuel Augustus (38-29-6, 20 KOs), 10 rounds

But that is just what Jones has done during the buildup to his fight against light heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe (45-0, 32 KOs) at Madison Square Garden Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET).

Ed Keenan, a publicist who has worked on Jones fights since 1995, said he thinks Jones began to slowly change his approach after being knocked out by Glen Johnson.

"There was like a transformation because I think he knew everyone was writing him off," Keenan said. "And as Roy got older he realized, 'Hey, there's this world out here that I never opened up to in the past.' I think it just comes with age and being happy with yourself."

There are two reasons for Jones' sudden interest in talking, being on time and engaging in promotional activities.

One is that it's his show now. In previous promotions, Jones' company, Square Ring, was involved, but not in charge. Jones would receive a guaranteed purse from whichever promoter he was working with and even though he stood to earn more based on how profitable the event was, he was content to take his guarantee and not do much promoting.

That changed a bit before Jones' last fight in January, when he beat Felix Trinidad to re-establish himself in a fight Don King promoted. Jones worked during that promotion because his purse depended almost entirely on how the fight sold. It did very well, selling more than 500,000 subscriptions, but Jones didn't get nearly the money he was owed by King, leading to their break. Under their settlement, Jones got his freedom from King's option on his next fight and Jones let King off the hook for the seven figures he was owed.

Fight Credential

Calzaghe-Jones
For all the stories, podcasts, videos and news on Joe Calzaghe's showdown with Roy Jones in New York, visit the Fight Credential.
"I fought Tito for free. I knew Tito was going to take a whupping and I knew Don was not going to give me my money," Jones said. "But I also knew, unless I beat Tito or someone with the caliber of a name of Tito, I wouldn't get to fight Joe. So I had to do that to get to where I had to go next. Sometimes, you have to do that to know when it's time to sacrifice and make that move."

Now, Jones' company, run day-to-day by former King attorney John Wirt, is handling the fight with Calzaghe on its own, although Calzaghe's company, the in-name-only Calzaghe Promotions, is due 50 percent of the profit.

That means Jones is in charge and must promote if he wants to make money.

"I have to start shifting my hat toward promoting. So you have to start looking at it like it will benefit you as a promoter by doing all this stuff," Jones said, relaxing in his midtown suite. "Now, you're working for yourself, not somebody else. I got to get out and do the promotion. When you're dealing with the promoter you got to battle with him about something he's not giving you that you want and he wants you to go do all these things [to promote the fight] and I'm like, 'Nah.'"

"I have noticed some change," said Alton Merkerson, Jones' longtime trainer. "Usually, when somebody is dictated to or told when they have to do something they're not as willing to do it. Roy's job as a boxer is to get ready for a fight and be the best he can be. It's other people's job to promote the fight. Now he's got his own company running things and he's learned that he has to take that extra step to make it go well, like being on time. Giving a little more of himself to people than before is part of that."

The other reason Jones, 39, says he's been so much more engaging is because he is simply having fun in the twilight of his great career.

"I enjoy what I'm doing again and when you get older you get smarter," he said. "Before, I wasn't enjoying it at all. You're dealing with a promoter or you're dealing with stuff that wasn't what you want or the way you want it. But now I got to enjoy it. At this point in my career, it's the best thing for it. And I'm having a good time now. Before I wasn't having a good time. But I made the proper changes, found the right people, and it makes it fun for me."

Jones also said he has grown weary of the cat-and-mouse game with the media.

"It ain't worth the battle no more," he said while watching football highlights. "Now it's like you're at the end of your career, so you can let people know what you are thinking, let people know your frame of mind, where you are coming from. It ain't gonna hurt you. I don't want to hide no more."

Jones says he regrets not realizing sooner that he should have embraced the attention more.

"I didn't let people see my face more often. After all, how can you deny people this," he said, pointing to his broad smile. "That's the only regret I got. It's really wrong that I didn't come out. I should be talking to you all every day. I should be telling you all what's on my mind every day. That's the only problem I had. It's not necessarily just the press, either. It's everybody. Anybody who wanted to look and see me smile, I should have been talking. I denied a lot of people a lot of smiles. I don't know why. I be forgetting.

"I got caught up in this world. You can't get caught up in the world. You have to remember what your purpose was. And I got caught up in the world. And even when I fought Tarver and Johnson and then Tarver again, I was fighting them. But was I fighting them because I wanted to fight them? Nah. I just didn't have anything planned. I can't remember the last time I had something planned for my fans when I went inside a boxing ring, outside of boxing. I always had something planned. Not only did Roy beat this dude, he did this. He did that. Since John Ruiz, I haven't had that any more. I have to apologize to ya'll. I have been cheating all of us. Now my bag of tricks is back open. Now I have something back for ya'll. I have some making up to do."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

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QUICK HITS

Klitschko

• Heavyweight titlist Vitali Klitschko (36-2, 35 KOs), who came out of retirement after almost four years and stopped Samuel Peter in a dominant performance in October to reclaim a belt, was ordered this week at the WBC's annual convention in Chengdu, China, to face mandatory challenger Juan Carlos Gomez (44-1, 35 KOs) in his next fight. If the sides do not make a deal, a Dec. 19 purse bid will be ordered. "This is exactly what we wanted," Gomez promoter Ahmet Íner said. "This is a great day for Arena Box-Promotion. We got Gomez vs. Vitali."

Pavlik

• The WBC is at it again. At its annual convention, which is going on this week in Chengdu, China, the council ordered middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik to face his No. 1 contender, Marco Antonio Rubio. The fight is already in the planning stages for Feb. 21 in Pavlik's native Youngstown, Ohio. However, the WBC said it will strip Pavlik of its belt if he doesn't pay sanction fees for his last two fights, neither of which were title bouts. He faced Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins above 160 pounds in matches the WBC was not affiliated with, yet it is still demanding fees.

Pacquiao

• The WBC is also demanding payment of sanctioning fees from Manny Pacquiao for his last fight, when he knocked out David Diaz to win the organization's lightweight title. If Pacquiao, who faces Oscar De La Hoya at welterweight on Dec. 6 in a nontitle match, does not pay the WBC within in 15 days, he will be stripped. Former junior lightweight titlist Edwin Valero, who is serving as one of De La Hoya's sparring partners, will face Antonio Pitalua for the interim belt. If no agreement is reached, a Dec. 1 purse bid was ordered. If Pacquiao is stripped, the winner of Valero-Pitalua would become the organization's titleholder.

Guzman

• Joan Guzman (28-0, 17 KOs) will face Ameth Diaz (25-7, 19 KOs) on Dec. 20 in Guzman's native Dominican Republic in a lightweight title eliminator, Sycuan Ringside Promotions' Sean Gibbons told ESPN.com. The fight will be at lightweight even though Guzman failed to make the 135-pound limit for a fight against unified titleholder Nate Campbell in September, which forced the fight to be canceled hours before the first bell and sent Campbell into bankruptcy because neither fighter was paid.

Ngoudjo

• With Paulie Malignaggi having given up his alphabet junior welterweight title to face lineal champion Ricky Hatton Nov. 22, the IBF's leading contenders, Herman Ngoudjo and Juan Urango, will meet for the vacant belt. Urango promoter Leon Margules of Seminole Warriors Boxing and Ngoudjo promoter Yvon Michel made a deal this week and avoided Thursday's scheduled purse bid. They'll meet Jan. 30 in Montreal, where Ngoudjo is based. Urango, a former titleholder, lost his belt to Hatton. Ngoudjo lost a tight decision to challenging Malignaggi in January. Ngoudjo-Urango likely will be televised on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."

• Former junior middleweight titlist Roman Karmazin (36-3-1, 23 KOs), idle since his 10th-round upset TKO loss to Alex Bunema in January, has secured a release from promoter Don King and is scheduled to return to action against an opponent to be named on Dec. 20 in Los Angeles, where he lives, according to adviser Steve Bash. Karmazin will fight at middleweight and plans to stay there, but Bash said he'd return to junior middleweight for a meaningful fight.

Gamboa

• Featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa (12-0, 10 10 KOs), the 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist who defected and is now one of boxing's fastest rising contenders, will have a shot to win a title in just his 13th fight, albeit an interim title. With titleholder Oscar Larios sidelined because of a severe cut suffered in his Oct. 16 defense against Takahiro Aoh, Gamboa will face Elio Rojas (20-1, 13 KOs) for an interim belt. Rojas earned a shot by winning a title eliminator against Hector Velasquez in his last fight in September.

Cook

• Junior lightweight titlist Nicky Cook (29-1, 16 KOs), who upset Alex Arthur in September to win the belt, makes his first defense Dec. 6 in London. Cook will face British countryman Stephen Foster Jr. (24-2-1, 16 KOs), who lost a tight decision to Arthur in a slugfest in his only previous title bout in December. "It's fantastic to be fighting for the world title again and this time I won't let the opportunity pass me," Foster said. "It won't be a case of third time lucky, this time I'm going to win it. I came so close to beating Arthur last year and I'm still kicking myself about it now. If only I had followed up when I hurt him in the 11th round with some more big punches then I could have been crowned champion. That was a year ago. I'm ready to give Cook a real fight for his title." Also on the card, lightweight Amir Khan aims to rebound from his stunning first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott in September when he faces Oisin Fagan.

Maccarinelli

• Although Cook-Foster headlines promoter Frank Warren's Dec. 6 show in London and there will also be a lot of attention paid to Khan's comeback fight, there is also another title bout on the bill. Enzo Maccarinelli (28-2, 21 KOs) will attempt to reclaim his old alphabet cruiserweight title, which he lost by knockout to David Haye before Haye vacated it to move up to heavyweight. Maccarinelli will face Johnathon Banks (20-0, 14 KOs), who is trained and managed by Emanuel Steward. Maccarinelli hasn't fought since suffering a second-round knockout loss to Haye in March. "It's been a while since my fight with Haye and I'm not going to dwell on it. What happened, happened and it's in the past," he said. "Since the fight I've just had my head down and been putting the hours in the gym correcting what I did wrong and I believe that I'm better than before. I've got to prove a lot of people wrong."

Viloria

• Top Rank's much-discussed card in Macau, which has moved around and had been most recently slated for Dec. 13, has been pushed back at least until late January, Top Rank's Bob Arum saidl. He said the move was made at the request of the host Venetian resort. Among the bouts that had been talked about for the card, which has been on the drawing board for months, was junior flyweight Ulises Solis defending his title against Brian Viloria.

QUOTABLE

Rahman

"Klitschko will regret he chose me to replace Povetkin. Like Lennox Lewis, I will knock him out and take those belts. And then, I am going to beat his brother Vitali, too." -- Former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman, on replacing injured Alexander Povetkin to challenge unified titleholder Wladimir Klitschko on Dec. 13 in Germany.

QUOTABLE

Klitschko

"Hasim Rahman is a tough and experienced fighter. I will definitely not underestimate him. He is always talking big -- I know that back from a fight when he was supposed to meet my brother Vitali. But that does not impress me." -- Unified heavyweight titleholder Wladimir Klitschko on Rahman.