Still a talker, Roy Jones sets out to prove he's still a fighter
Roy Jones fights Joe Calzaghe on Nov. 8 at Madison Square Garden
Jones won two titles at two weights in '03, but lost three straight the next year
A win over Calzaghe would cement Jones as one of the greatest ever
Roy Jones Jr. says his name so often during interviews you'd think he's trying to remind himself of who he is and convince himself that he's still relevant.
"Roy Jones is going to look good doing whatever Roy Jones does," he says, sitting in a hotel lobby before his fight against Joe Calzaghe this Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. "You don't ever want to miss a Roy Jones fight."
That might have been the case five years ago when Jones was 49-1 and thought of as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world and one of the greatest fighters ever after going up in weight to win the heavyweight title and going back down just eight months later to regain the light heavyweight title. But there's some doubt as to how good a fighter Jones is now.
As Jones, 39, sits down after a blustering press conference to promote his fight with Calzaghe and looks back at his career, he admits that might have sacrificed his legacy in the short term to accomplish something he thinks will (when he's finally ready to retire) help cement it in the long run. He understands that his legacy took a major hit when he lost three straight fights (two to Antonio Tarver, one to Glen Johnson) from 2004-2005 after his historic 2003 year, but contends that wasn't, as he says, "the real Roy Jones."
"It's a very simple explanation. To go up [in weight] and do something that hadn't been done for 106 years, I was going to have to sacrifice something," says Jones, who had to shed 25 pounds of muscle after beating John Ruiz for the WBA Heavyweight title five years ago. "I killed myself to get back down and do it and, believe it or not, I was in worse shape the first fight than in the three that I lost. I put my body through a lot and I didn't have to do it. After I had won the heavyweight title and the light heavyweight title, there was nothing really left for me to do. After that I was just fighting because that's what people wanted me to do. I should have said no and given my body time to recover, but I didn't."
The fact that he didn't take time off and went on to lose three consecutive fights -- two by knockout and another by unanimous decision -- continues to hang over Jones and his legacy. While he says he would probably still be fighting even if he had won those bouts, there's some doubt as to what would have been his motivation to continue on the heels of his 40th birthday in two months. It's clear he's still got something to prove to himself and his critics, even if he isn't willing to admit it.
"I probably fell victim to my own arrogance and letting people determine who I fought and when I fought," says Jones. "At the same time, when I went up in weight I knew I was going to pay a price. Whatever the price was, I was willing to accept."
There is certainly an argument to be made that Jones' drastic weight gain and loss in 2003 may have been a factor in turning the once untouchable fighter into a perceived has-been, but it will forever be an issue left up for debate. There's nothing Jones can do now can that will really change that. Given his age, it would be a stretch to claim that anything he does now will change the perception of him during his prime.
He simply isn't the fighter he once was, but then again no one would expect him to be at his age. He isn't as fast or quick on his feet or with his fists, even though that's never stopped him from running his mouth. In fact, he recorded a rap song for his fight with Calzaghe where he croons, "You can call me the comeback kid, the win here is going to make my comeback big, this time I'm going to bring out the old me, seven-punch combos, yeah you know me."
While he may never be his old self, the current Jones is doing something that the old Jones was often criticized for failing to do: taking risks and taking on the best fighters. In fighting Calzaghe, the undefeated (45-0), undisputed light heavyweight champion, Jones is taking on his best opponent in close to 15 years. A win would be his most impressive since beating Tarver in 2003 and his first over a pound-for-pound-rated opponent since he beat James Toney in 1994.
"It's going to be my toughest fight because of my age and the amount of punches that Joe throws," says Jones. "He's not the most ferocious fighter I've ever fought, but if you take into account my age and the amount of punches he throws, it's going to be the hardest. James was probably the most skilled fighter I ever fought and Joe is right up there."
Jones wanted this fight so badly that he actually set it up himself, without a promoter or any middlemen, flying to Cardiff to meet with Calzaghe personally to finalize a fight that both have wanted for some time and most fans wish would have taken place a decade ago when they were still in their prime.
"After Joe beat Bernard Hopkins [in April], I went to the press conference and I told Joe that he had a great fight and I'm glad he was able to show people what he's made of," says Jones. "I told him if he really wants to do business let me know and we'll get together," says Jones. "He texts me the next week telling me he's going on vacation but when he comes back he wants to talk. I texted him back and a week or so later we're sitting in a hotel and we made it all happen. We cut the deal down the middle 50-50 and closed it that day."
It's a fight that Calzaghe believes he needs in order to cement his legacy as one of the best fighters in the world before he retires. While the same could be said for Jones, he certainly isn't letting on that he has anything left to prove -- even to his critics, who believe he is finished.
"I'm the gate keeper," says Jones. "[Calzaghe]'s got to come see me. He's got something to prove, not me. They know what I can do, that's why they want to see him fight me. I'm the measuring stick. Even at 39, they want to see what he can do against Roy Jones. Can you really deal with Roy Jones? He's the one with something to prove."
That may be so, but if Jones is able to be the first fighter to defeat Calzaghe, he too, will have cemented himself as one of the greatest fighters ever. If that happens, Jones won't be the only one repeating his name after Saturday night.