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Maybe now, finally, Roy Jones has created some real intrigue. Whether it was his panic diet (he needed to lose 25 pounds to return to his light heavyweight domain) or age (he's 34, after all), Jones ran into more trouble than he had expected in a tightly contested tide bout against Antonio Tarver last Saturday at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Suddenly his supernatural talents in the ring were no longer a given, no longer the reservoir from which he had drawn one casual victory after another. Finally, for whatever reason, Jones looked human.
Now he's back on our level, or at least Tarver's. The 34-year-old Tarver stretched Jones the full 12 rounds and won the crowd, if not the decision, in a fight that was scheduled as little more than a $5 million time killer-grudge match for Jones. The fascination, such as it was, centered on Jones's daffy decision to dip back into the 175-pound ranks, after having put on 25 pounds of muscle to win the WBA heavyweight tide earlier this year. Otherwise, why would anyone bother watching?
But Tarver pushed the action, almost from the opening bell, forcing Jones into the corner in nearly every round, at which point he rained blows upon the fighter everybody acknowledges as the world's best, pound for pound. "If he's Superman," said a completely unmarked Tarver afterward, "then I've got kryptonite in my fists."
Two of the three judges were not persuaded by Tarver's flurries, apparently feeling that Jones's power in the center of the ring carried the day (the third judge scored it even), and allowed Jones his homecoming victory. But fair or not, the decision could not erase the images of Jones struggling to keep Tarver off him, absorbing more punches than he ever had before.
That was simply the result of his "sweating off 25 pounds," Jones said, "[which] was tougher than I thought." He put forth the notion that he won not because of his otherworldly ability but because of his courage. Had he not, in fact, dug down in the final rounds, long after his stamina had deserted him, he'd have lost not only his light heavyweight bid but also his heavyweight title (which will go vacant if he loses at any level).
In the past Jones has exercised an exuberant arrogance, creating obstacles just to keep boxing interesting for himself, and us. He once handicapped a bout by playing in a professional basketball game the day of the fight. And what else was moving up to heavyweight to fight John Ruiz about except to create drama where there would otherwise be none? For that matter, he said he slugged it out with Tarver just so they wouldn't end up counter-punching and "just looking at each other and [making] you all bored."
Now, as the talent gap is being bridged, there may be more drama than is good for him. He talks of one last fight at heavyweight, preferably with former champ Mike Tyson, before he goes out. That's all that interests him, if the money is right Of course, if Tyson watched Tarver pummeling Jones and getting away with his life, well, that might interest Tyson too.