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Articles of 2004

Jones leaves us wanting more

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Roy Jones Jr. could have picked up a thing or two from Butterbean. Had Jones managed to do so, not only would he be known as one the greatest boxers of any era, but also cherished as the present-day savior of the sport.

The 35-year-old light heavyweight champ admitted to me last week he's nearing the end of the proverbial road. He said he has one more fight left in him, perhaps two, after his rematch with Antonio Tarver this Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

Jones said he wants to perform once more in front of his hometown fans in Pensacola, Fla. He also would like to arrange a big-money heavyweight showdown with either Mike Tyson or Vitali Klitschko, a bout that would be too big for the Florida panhandle.

But if Jones can't entice Tyson or Klitschko to dance, it's no big whoop. He'll retire happy and wealthy and carefree. He'll shoot hoops or raise his cockfighting roosters or make rap CDs.
Will anybody be devastated to see him go? Unfortunately, the void he'll leave won't be nearly as vast as it should have been.

Jones could have been as significant as Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Leonard. Jones' skill level is that scintillating. In my opinion he should be considered among the top handful of all-time greats. But his inability and, more importantly, unwillingness to connect with the people and give them what they craved can leave us to wonder how much more entertaining his career might have been.

Butterbean did more to advance boxing's popularity than Jones ever cared to.
Jones has always been quick to use Michael Jordan analogies when referring to himself, so allow me to do the same: Jones could have been to boxing what Jordan was to basketball. Jones certainly had the requisite talent to carry his sport into he 21st century, but his personality wouldn't allow it.

Where Ali and Leonard fed off the fans and the media — they gave back as much as they received — Jones has no use for them. There has been a chip on his shoulder from the time corrupt judges cheated him out of the gold medal at the 1988 Olympics.

Two weeks ago Jones had scheduled a conference call with the international media, then kept them waiting for 75 minutes before canceling it. He showed up for his makeup call last week, yet made it a point to answer most questions with as little insight as possible. And while Jordan had the commercial foresight to address the value of presentation and articulation on his way to becoming a mainstream celebrity, interviewers listening to Jones' conference call were lucky to decipher every third word. I had to wait for a transcript of the interview before I could write this column.

Jones will be remembered as conceited and uninspired. He cared less about his legacy than he did about finding the optimal convergence of the easiest possible fight and the biggest possible payday.

On a day-by-day, fight-by-fight basis he was borderline intolerable. He was nauseatingly arrogant yet dubbed “Reluctant Roy” for constantly hesitating to test the amazing gifts God bestowed upon him. There were no epic trilogies. There seemed to be more policemen, milkmen and singing mailmen on his resume than capable contenders. Fans were so disgusted by his modus operandi they were stirred to the point of staging a “Roycott” for his July 2001 pay-per-view mismatch with Julio Gonzalez.

It has been said Jones suffered from a lack of quality opposition over the course of his career. I disagree. Had he been more willing to extend himself, he would have given us plenty of matches to get excited about.

For much of the past five years fans were clamoring for Jones vs. Darius Michalczewski. It would have been a huge fight, but Jones balked. Of course, when Michalczewski was recently defeated (by the Gonzalez of “Roycott” fame), Jones was quick to state that result only proved all along Michalczewski didn't belong in the ring with him. Richard Frazier, Reggie Johnson, David Telesco and Richard Hall all were worthy, but not Michalczewski? C'mon.

Jones also could have followed the lead set forth by other great champions and granted rematches to the most notable names on his ledger. Bernard Hopkins and James Toney carped long and hard for another shot, but Jones never gave them one. Alas, when the victor refuses to honor a legitimate and lucrative rematch request, it gives the impression he must feel like he got away with something the first time and is too afraid to do it again.

In truth, Jones would have been the big favorite in either rematch or against Michalczewski or Buster Douglas, whom he had agreed to fight in the late 1990s before pulling out over fears he could get hurt.

Jones routinely played it safe. He did so mainly because of the heartbreaking debilitation suffered by close friend Gerald McClellan in a 1995 war with Nigel Benn. Be that as it may, extreme caution is not a redeemable quality in a prizefighter.

Despite all the criticism, however, Jones' career was rather impressive when digested in its entirety.

The lone blemish on his record of 49-1 with 38 knockouts was a questionable disqualification, and a loss he easily avenged. He owns victories over two men (Hopkins and Toney) currently listed among the pound-for-pound best. He won a piece of the heavyweight title (wink, wink) against John Ruiz, then dropped 18 pounds to re-establish his light heavyweight reign eight months later over Tarver.

Jones labored against Tarver in that comedown fight, but it was the only time in 15 years as a pro Jones was involved in a match that was even remotely competitive. Yes, that lends itself to Jones' cautious handpicking of opponents over the years, but it's also testament to how much better he was than anyone else, dating all the way back to a time when Milli Vanilli was considered hot.

But late in the Tarver fight, Jones found something deep within. Through that beautiful back-and-forth battle we saw that Jones possessed more than just boxing skill. For the first time we saw he had the heart of a champion.

If Jones wins again as expected Saturday night, he will have proven his previous performance was a fluke. He said he was preoccupied with thoughts of Tyson, maintaining his 199 pounds from the Ruiz fight just in case. Jones lost nine percent of his total weight in a short period of time to face Tarver instead, and Jones appeared weak.

“That night, Antonio Tarver on the scale of one to10, was a 10,” said Jones' longtime trainer, Alton Merkerson. “Roy Jones Jr., on the scale of one to 10, was a 4 1/2 or a 5, and he still managed to pull the fight off. He came into the ring with nothing. I gained a lot more respect for him through combat. I saw him go to another level I had never been exposed to before.”
The prediction here is that Jones will beat Tarver by a wide margin on the scorecards Saturday night. Jones is too talented to look sluggish against anyone twice. He's just too damn good.
Jones is special. He knows he's special.

It's a shame he never felt a responsibility to help make his sport a little more special, too.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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