A Roy Jones fight is strictly a solo act, more performance art than competition. Whether it's Jones's rather fluid idea of matchmaking or just his virtuoso abilities, he hasn't suffered the prospect of danger at the hands of an opponent since...well, forever (or at least since he beat James Toney, in 1994, the last time he fought a reputable fighter). And for that matter his fans haven't enjoyed a thrill in about as long.
To compensate, and justify his overly grand purses from HBO, Jones, the undisputed light heavyweight champion, has tried to supersize his events, fast-food-style. For one bout (against 100-1 long shot Eric Lucas) Jones handicapped himself by playing a basketball game on the afternoon of the fight. More recently he value-added a lopsided match—against a lightly regarded and little known foe named Clinton Woods—with a prefight rap performance.
And now, in a move that smacks more of stunt work than of ambition, Jones plans to jump from the comfort of his weight division to fight John Ruiz, a rough-and-tumble character who holds the nearly irrelevant WBA version of the heavyweight title. " Ruiz is a big guy, and my life is on the line," Jones told reporters after he signed a precontract agreement for the fight last week. True, Jones is up-ping the ante, at least compared to singing for his supper, but the 40-pound difference ( Jones, who usually fights at about 173 pounds, plans to go into this fight at 190; Ruiz expects to weigh in at about 230) shouldn't present Jones with much difficulty. When Jones has finished escaping the comparatively clumsy Ruiz for 12 rounds, the fight will rank as a classic gag, not a historic moment.
As organizers set about making this match (there is the matter of securing a date and site to provide Jones with his $10 million asking price, and Ruiz with his $5 million), there will be much talk of how Jones is placing himself in jumbo jeopardy, how few fighters have been successful in this foolishness (the move from light heavyweight to heavyweight has been a career trap for many), and how hard Ruiz bangs (he did deck Evander Holyfield). Maybe by the time the fight is made and we've heard this drumbeat long enough, Jones will actually come off as reckless, perhaps even hopeless.
But that's not the Roy we know. From here, he will seem very, very shrewd.