It was a night for the loonies. Big loonies and small loonies. Black loonies and white loonies. Old loonies and young loonies. The grandest, looniest loony of them all was easily identifiable, he being the one whose face adorned all those promotional signs and posters: the local kid from the Bronx, Lou (Honey Boy) Del Valle. What in the world was Loony Louie thinking?
For an entire week Del Valle, the WBA light heavyweight champ, had dumped on the accolades of Roy Jones Jr., the WBC light heavyweight champ and—insert Oscar De La Hoya whine here—by far the best fighter on the planet. " Roy Jones doesn't like to get hit," Del Valle said at last Friday's weigh-in at Madison Square Garden. "And he doesn't take punches well."
Need more? Hey, Louie, how 'bout Jones's beloved rottweiler? "Not as tough as mine," Del Valle boasted. Hey, Louie, how Trout Jones's reign as champ? "Over," he said, grinning. "I'm gonna beat Roy Jones, and all of you are gonna apologize for not believing."
Even after all was said and done Saturday night at the Garden, after Jones had used 12 rounds to turn Del Valle's face into tomato paste, the loonies stayed out in force. Hey, wasn't that Tommy (Hit Man) Hearns at the postfight press conference, begging Jones for a title shot? Hey, isn't Tommy (Hit Man) Hearns 216 years old? " Roy Jones is a good fighter, not a great one," said Hearns. "If he fights me, it's his real chance to prove his greatness. If Roy Jones beats Tommy Hearns, that shows he's the best." But Tommy, aren't you a little—ahem—washed up? "I'm the man who'll beat Roy Jones," he said.
And what of Reggie Johnson, that all-important IBF light heavyweight champ? (Writer's note: While typing this story, I swatted a fly and was immediately named WBO light heavyweight champion.) Johnson too was at the fight, watching closely as Jones switched repeatedly from righty to southpaw and took the crafty Del Valle apart like a Lego set. "I'm the guy who'll take Roy to the limit," said Johnson, who, at an unspectacular 38-5-1, has been taken to the limit a few times himself. "For the first time someone will match his speed, power and arena wits. For the first time, he'll get beat."
Maybe it's the money talking. (Del Valle, a former sparring partner of Jones's, earned $850,000 for the fight, Jones $4 million.) Maybe it's just that boxers, being disciples of Muhammad Ali, like to gab. Whatever the case, Roy Jones Jr. has a seemingly unmatched ability to squeeze stupidity out of the masses. Del Valle entered the ring hopping, skipping, jumping and pointing every which way, while his outfit, with a sequined top featuring the Puerto Rican flag, glistened under the lights. As soon as Jones, calm and reserved, appeared in the ring, Del Valle was in his face, mugging like an attention-deprived child.
He learned quickly: You do not pull a pit bull's tail. You do not tick off Roy Jones Jr. "He's a great fighter, I'm a good fighter," Del Valle (27-2) said after the bout. "He's so fast...he can do anything he wants to at any time he wants to."
It's hard to pick just one Jones moment from the fight. Perhaps it was in Round 5 when Jones glided away from Del Valle, danced a five-step jig and pounced back with a hard right. Perhaps it was midway through the sixth. Until then Del Valle had answered many of Jones's hardest punches with a shake of the head, as if to say, You can't hurt me, Roy. In the sixth the chiseled Jones threw three consecutive steaming rights to Del Valle's schnoz. They had to have hurt. But Del Valle shook his head anyway. Jones smiled, nodded and shrugged his shoulders. The message was clear: No problem. I'll just keep smacking you around—punk.
Del Valle's finest moment came in the eighth, when he caught Jones with a thunderous left to the chin. Jones stepped back, leaned forward a bit, then fell to his butt. It was the first time he'd ever been floored as a pro. "Mother———knocked me down," he told his corner in disbelief at round's end. "That was a good shot."
Of course, Jones got up and won easily. But even he couldn't escape the night's lunacy. Before and after the unanimous decision, Jones and his promoter, the flavorful Murad Muhammad, spoke of their longing to battle Evander Holyfield for the heavyweight crown. Jones dined with Holyfield in Atlanta recently and, Jones said last Friday, "I told him that I'd really like to fight. It'd be a great opportunity." Muhammad says that he has offered Holyfield $20 million and that Holyfield-Jones is No. 1 on his agenda.