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Jim Lampley Wistfully Recalls The Roy Jones That Was

Kryptonite could bring the Man of Steel to his knees. Greek mythology’s Achilles was unconquerable in battle, but he could be brought down

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Kryptonite

Even Superman was not wholly impervious to danger and the specter of defeat. Kryptonite could bring the Man of Steel to his knees. Greek mythology’s Achilles was unconquerable in battle, but he could be brought down if struck with a strategically placed blow to an unprotected heel.

The only two boxers that longtime HBO blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley has observed who were so preternaturally gifted that they superseded the normal bounds of human excellence were the younger, nearly-perfect versions of Muhammad Ali and Lampley’s current HBO broadcast partner, Roy Jones Jr. But each of those superheroes of the ring eventually encountered a relentless opponent that incrementally stripped away the insulating layers that had made them such very special fighters. It was not so much another living, breathing human being who served as the kryptonite that revealed their fallibility as the unseen thief that comes silently in the night, stealing tiny bits and pieces of their exquisite talent until only a shell of what had been remained.

On Feb. 8, in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., the 49-year-old Jones (65-9, 49 KOs) presumably brings down the curtain on his 29-year professional boxing career when he takes on a carefully selected designated victim, Scott Sigmon (30-11-1, 16 KOs), in a scheduled 10-round cruiserweight bout. The plan is for Jones, a world champion in four weight classes and a surefire first-ballot International Boxing Hall of Fame inductee whenever he becomes eligible, to go out in a blaze of out-of-the-spotlight glory. But if boxing history tells us anything, it is that not everything goes according to plan even for those who have enjoyed the panoramic view from the summit of Mount Pugilism. Mike Tyson, 19 days from his 39th birthday, never fought again after he was stopped in six rounds by plodding Irishman Kevin McBride on June 11, 2005, and Bernard Hopkins, 29 days from his 52nd birthday, was finally obliged to acknowledge the natural laws of diminishing returns when he was knocked out in eight rounds by Joe Smith Jr. on Dec. 17, 2016.

“I have read reports that he is saying this will be his last fight and that’s very encouraging and gratifying to me,” Lampley said of his friend’s farewell appearance, which by any reasonable criteria is coming a good dozen years after what should have been his career’s optimal expiration date. “I don’t know of a single soul in our little universe of boxing who wants him to keep doing this. We all know realistically that it’s certainly of no value to his legacy as a fighter.

“I’d be lying if I said that I never once made a comment to him or tried to engage him in a conversation as to why he was still doing this. The last time I did so he made clear to me that, in his view, it wasn’t something he had to defend to me. He was going to do what he was going to do and that within our friendship it was important for me to accept that. I accepted it. Probably five or six years have gone by since the last time I had a discussion with him about it.”

The most revered gods of war are held to a higher standard than fighters of a lesser pedigree. It thus should come as no surprise that those members of boxing’s most exclusive club are sometimes resistant to step away from something that always has defined them more than anything they could ever do outside of a roped-off swatch of canvas.

“You always think of yourself as the best you ever were,” Sugar Ray Leonard, he of the four announced retirements that didn’t stick, once said. “Even if money is not an issue, and you have other options, you never lose that belief in yourself as a fighter, particularly if you’ve been to the very top of the mountain. (Being retired) eats at you. It’s hard to finds anything else that gives you that high.”

Ali lost three years of his prime to his banishment for refusing to be inducted into the Army during the Vietnam War, but, unlike the stop-and-start Leonard, Jones’ response to every warning sign that he was on the downward slope of that figurative mountain was to keep fighting on, all the while holding fast to the distinctive style he shared with Ali. It was those non-traditional mannerisms, which worked so spectacularly well when Ali and Jones were at their best, that sometimes produced disastrous results when their fundamental deficiencies were exposed.

“The direct comparison is Ali,” Lampley said of the closest thing to Jones he has known, both in good times and not so good. “I’ve said a thousand times that there were only two fighters in the history of the sport, certainly since I’ve been watching boxing, whose physical talents were so overwhelming that they could take apart the tool kit and put it back together in any way they wanted – lead with a hook, lead with a straight right hand, dispense with the jab, back away from punches rather than duck and slip. Ali could do that for a while. Roy could do that for a while. But nobody can do that forever.

“That is why the tool kit is what it is, for normally talented human beings. It’s your protection in the ring. For a long time Ali and Roy didn’t need that protection. Then, when their bodies lost something and they weren’t so overwhelmingly physically superior anymore, they didn’t have that tool kit to protect them.

“The perfect and most graphic example is if you watch the first Roy Jones-Bernard Hopkins fight (on May 22, 1993). It’s all Roy Jones. If you watch the second Jones-Hopkins fight (on April 3, 2010), that’s all Bernard Hopkins. The difference is that, during the passage of time, Roy felt he never needed to employ the tool kit. Bernard, of course, was passionate about learning and amplifying and exercising everything in the tool kit. The amazing thing to me is that Roy knows the tool kit. He knows it as well as anybody. He demonstrates that as an expert commentator. He sits there and talks about what normal fighters should do, using the normal craft of boxing. But he never felt compelled to use any of that throughout his own career.”

For some, the best of Roy Jones Jr. was on display the night he picked apart fellow future Hall of Famer James Toney to win a wide unanimous decision on Nov. 18, 1994. For others, it was his utter domination of Vinny Pazienza en route to scoring a sixth-round stoppage on June 24, 1995. The highlight of Jones’ deconstruction of Paz was a sequence in which, holding onto the top ring rope with his right glove, he fired eight consecutive left hooks in a machine-gun burst, all eight connecting with the target’s increasingly busted-up face. It was an expression of creativity akin to a musical genius who spontaneously reproduces the rhythm in his head only he can hear. Think Miles Davis at the Newport Jazz Festival, Ray Charles at the Apollo, Count Basie at Carnegie Hall.

Said Seth Abraham, then-president of HBO Sports: “George Foreman (who did color commentary for Jones-Pazienza) told me after that fight only Roy fights like a great jazzman plays. He improvises. He does riffs. I thought that was such an insightful way to describe Roy Jones.”

For a majority of fight fans, however, the most lasting memory of Roy Jones Jr. came on March 1, 2003, when the man who began his pro career as a middleweight and won a world championship in that division, later adding super middleweight and light heavyweight titles, boldly moved up to heavyweight to challenge the much-larger but less-skilled WBA champion, John Ruiz. There was a school of thought that Ruiz was too big and strong for Jones and another that Jones’ speed and mobility would surely carry the day because talent is usually a more precious commodity than size.

It was, of course, no contest as Jones – who went off as a 2-1 favorite — darted in and out, pounding on the bewildered Ruiz as if he were just another heavy bag in the challenger’s Pensacola gym. The margins of victory on the official scorecards – eight, six and four points – scarcely reflected the level of Jones’ dominance.

But, as is sometimes the case, the showcase conquest of Ruiz actually marked the beginning of the end of Jones as a larger-than-life source of wonderment. Curiously, at age 34 he elected to return to light heavyweight instead of a more sensible reduction to cruiserweight. While it had been a bit of a chore to bulk up the right way to 193 pounds for the weigh-in for Ruiz (he was 199 the morning of the fight), paring 20-plus pounds of muscle was infinitely more taxing. In retrospect, it now seems apparent that Jones was never the same after the happy glow of his rout of Ruiz had subsided.

“He took 31 pounds of muscle off (that figure might be a tad excessive) and that can’t be done without a residue of damage,” Lampley said. “It just can’t be done, and he suffered from that, maybe permanently. I don’t know what his thought process was, why he thought it was important to come all the way back down to light heavyweight. I certainly get it that he was never a natural heavyweight. For him to remain in the heavyweight division would have been an aberration. I guess he figured that, as a big-name fighter, for him to fight as a cruiserweight, which was not a prestigious weight class at the time, would be like saying, `I’m going to go over here in the back closet and fight where you won’t see me.’ Maybe that was an option that was not acceptable to him.”

In his first post-Ruiz bout, Jones retained his light heavyweight titles on a disputed majority decision over Antonio Tarver. He followed that with a two-round TKO loss to Tarver in the second of their three fights, but that could be dismissed as a bolt of lightning that occasionally can fell even elite fighters. But it was in his next outing, on Sept. 25, 2004, against Glen Johnson, that it became apparent to all that Roy Jones Jr. had descended from on high into the ranks of the merely mortal. Johnson, a fringe contender whose willingness to mix it up superseded his good but hardly remarkable talent, gave Jones a taste of his own butt-kicking medicine until he literally knocked him cold to win on a ninth-round knockout.

For Lampley, it was like a repeat of another fight from another time, when Jones’ magnificent stylistic predecessor suffered a similar head-on crash with boxing’s crueler realities.

“The night that Ali fought Larry Holmes (Oct. 2, 1980, at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas) I heard – and I’ll never forget it – the greatest single line of boxing commentary ever, and it came from someone who wasn’t involved in boxing,” Lampley recalled. “I was in the executive suite at ABC in New York, watching the fight, which was one of the sport’s rites of passage. We all know the culture of boxing, the old giving way to the new. Ali vs. Holmes was just such a rite of passage. It had to happen the way it happened.

“In the late rounds, when Holmes was beating Ali to a pulp, I got a little jab to my rib cage. I looked to my right and it was Mick Jagger. Mick said to me, `Lamps, you know what we’re watching?’ And I said, `No, Mick, what are we watching?’ He said, `It’s the end of our youth.’ And it wasn’t just that for us, but for the whole audience.”

The night that Jones, who once had towered over boxing as if he were the Colossus of Rhodes, was pummeled by Johnson, reminded Lampley as no fight ever had of Ali-Holmes. Nothing would ever be quite the same again.

“How else could a relatively ordinary fighter, albeit one with a big heart and a big motor like Glen Johnson, knock the great Roy Jones into next week the way he did? That was not the Roy Jones we had seen before. It was a different person.”

But, as Sugar Ray Leonard noted, it is human nature to think of ourselves as the best we ever were. The Roy Jones Jr. who will answer the opening bell against Sigmon will have his hands low, leaning back from punches instead of stepping to the side, because that is who he was at his best. To do otherwise would be a concession to mortality, an acknowledgment that all glory is fleeting, and perhaps his last waltz around the ring will turn out better than it did for Tyson and for Hopkins. But whether it does or doesn’t, his enshrinement into the IBHOF in Canastota, N.Y., is assured.

“What I don’t understand is why, once the handwriting was on the wall – Glen Johnson, Danny Green, Denis Lebedev – why keep going after that?” Lampley said of Jones’ refusal to leave the arena when so many were urging him to do so. “That’s what I don’t understand, and never will. He’s never tried to explain it to me and I’m too respectful of him to have pressed the issue. I did at one point say to him, `I think you’re hurting your legacy and you’re not accomplishing anything here.’ He basically said to me, `That’s my business, not yours.’ So I said, `OK.’

“When it comes right down to it, I think there’s a part of Roy Jones who still thinks, and always will, that he’s still that Roy Jones, despite all evidence to the contrary. And he’s earned the right to think that way.”

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    August 10, 2018 at 7:14 pm

    i get an Unable to connect.

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Feature Articles

Lemieux vs. O’Sullivan: There Will Be Blood

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There is not much to dislike about Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan. The bald and mustachioed O’Sullivan looks like his name and fights like an Irishman named “Spike.” He rarely backs up and just keeps coming and coming until he wears out his opponent. And he is willing to take two to give one as he did against Antoine Douglass (22-0-1 coming in) in December 2017. The Douglass win, a KO, gave Spike a regional title, but more importantly put him squarely in the mix of top contenders. In fact, he has joined the growing chorus of those who want to fight Gennady Golovkin—and the early retirement payday that could follow. If he beats David Lemieux on the undercard of the Canelo -GGG mega fight on September 15 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, he just might get his chance, but that’s a big “if.”

Thus far, Spike’s only two losses have been to Chris Eubank Jr in 2015 and slick and tough Billy Joe Saunders in 2013. Since the Eubank loss, Spike (28-2) has won six straight, the last five by stoppage. When he KOd Melvin Betancourt in May 2015 in Boston, MA, the Dominican middleweight was 29-1. Today he is 29-6. Pleasing local Irish fans (and this writer), O’Sullivan has fought nine times in the Greater Boston area, bringing back memories of another tough Irish fighter by the name of Stevie Collins.

Lemieux

David Lemieux was also outboxed and shut down by Billy Joe Saunders in a clash of styles that favored Saunders. This time, the styles virtually guarantee a thriller for as long as it lasts. Lemieux (39-4) has 33 stoppage wins compared to Spike’s 20. His KO of Curtis Stevens still resonates as one of the more chilling one’s ever seen.

Unlike the globetrotting O’Sullivan, The popular Canadian fighter has done most of his work in Montreal but is 4-1 outside Canada losing his title to GGG at Madison Square Garden in October 2015. At stake in this one were the IBF, WBA, and interim WBC World Middleweight Titles. David was badly bloodied by Golovkin (then 33-0) but did not disgrace himself as he fought to win.

David is a tremendously powerful puncher with either hand and begins the stalk as soon as the bell rings. But Spike also generally moves forward at the opening bell. Something has to give here and it just might give early on. Spike is no BJS and moving away and slipping punches is not his strong suit. But it’s not in Lemieux’s DNA either. This is almost guaranteed to be a spine tingling, all action thriller. Fans had better stay glued to the telecast.

Chocolatito

In addition to Lemieux-O’Sullivan, it appears that all-action fighter Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (46-2) will also appear on the GGG/Canelo undercard, opposing Moises Fuentes (25-5-1). If so, this one will be over sooner rather than later. In fact, the promoters better have some solid fill-in fights on tap before the main event.

This is about as good as it gets; this is a boxing fan’s dream. Don’t miss it!

Ted Sares is one of the oldest active full power lifters and recently won the Maine State Champions in his class. A member of Ring 10, and Ring 4’s Boxing Hall of Fame, he was recently cited by Hannibal Boxing as one of three “Must-Read” boxing writers.

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Why Fury’s Bout with Pianeta is Bigger than Ever Imagined

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Artur Szpilka

Back in January of 2016, Tyson Fury got into the ring and upstaged him on live TV after he struggled with and eventually stopped Artur Szpilka in the ninth round. Now it’s being conveyed that WBC titlist Deontay Wilder will be ringside for Tyson Fury’s second comeback fight against Francesco Pianeta in Belfast Saturday night, and it’s expected that he’ll pay Fury back and get in the ring and upstage him and call him out.

Wilder quickly accepted Fury’s challenge on that night in Brooklyn, but Fury went away and in his own words overindulged with food, alcohol and drugs. And with that, the talk of Wilder vs. Fury died.

Since then, Wilder has established himself more as a title holder and, in the opinion of most, is thought to be the second best heavyweight in the world, ranking behind only Anthony Joshua. Two months ago in June, Fury made his awaited ring return and stopped a non-entity in Sefer Seferi. Throughout the spring and summer the talk of a showdown between Joshua and Wilder remained one of the foremost stories in boxing. Every time it looked close to becoming a reality it fell through, due mostly to how the purse split should be divided with each side blaming the other and avid fans of both fighters siding with their man. While arrows were being slung back and forth between Team Joshua and Team Wilder, the shrewd Fury slung arrows at both of them.

Tyson Fury is one of the greatest salesmen in boxing history and nobody uses social media better than he does. Seeing how hard Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn is to deal with, a light went off in Fury’s head and he began to shy away from AJ and began turning his attention towards Wilder, who has been riding a high since stopping Luis Ortiz in his last fight. Tyson, fully understanding that Wilder has never earned huge money for any of his bouts, understood that a match between him and Wilder could rival nearly any bout Hearn/Joshua could make, excluding one involving himself or Wilder. With that, someone must’ve got in Wilder’s ear and outlined the monumental upside it would be for him to face Fury and what beating him would do as far as helping him negotiate the anticipated fight with Joshua. Not to mention he wouldn’t be facing Fury at his best.

With Fury having lost a lot of the weight he gained during his exile, an impressive showing this weekend versus Franceso Pianeta would go a long way to help boost the interest in a Wilder-Fury bout. The Fury-Pianeta clash has been picked up by Showtime and that says a lot in regards to the way Fury can attract attention. With Wilder having committed to attend the bout, is there a morsel of doubt that he’ll be a big part of the broadcast?

The mere fact that Wilder will be there has increased the credibility among fans in that Wilder-Fury is no longer a press grab and it very well might just come to fruition. And to help increase the profile of a future bout between Wilder and Fury, it’s impossible not to believe Wilder won’t get into the ring after Fury wins and publicly challenge him. If Wilder does that, hopefully he’ll script what he says and not adlib because exchanging adlibs with Fury would be a losing battle for Deontay….even Muhammad Ali might be the underdog doing so because Fury is such a good talker and so quick-witted.

And if there’s any doubt about Fury being able to sling verbally and hype a fight between he and Wilder, I present his recent words….

“I’m just sat here thinking, isn’t it marvelous that the world’s biggest fight, Fury vs Wilder is going to happen and that smug little t****r Eddie Hearn has nothing to do with it at all.”

“He has nothing to do with the world’s biggest fight — or his little puppet on the string the fighter he’s got [Joshua].”

“They’re not involved in the biggest fight the world has ever seen, between the two biggest heavyweights on the planet.”

“The two most controversial — most outspoken heavyweights out there — both over 6ft 6, both talkers, one Brit. one American.”

“Isn’t it marvelous that this fight is going to happen and little Eddie ain’t got nothing to do with it.”

At the moment Fury is killing Hearn and Joshua on social media while at the same time convincing everyone within earshot that he and Wilder is the biggest fight in boxing and the authentic heavyweight championship. Along with that, Wilder and Fury are both going to earn their blockbuster payday facing each other and without fighting Joshua. The winner will easily be able to get a 50-50 purse split when he meets AJ, and there will be nothing Hearn can do about it….because Team Joshua knows that for AJ to be recognized as the true undisputed champ, he must beat the winner of Wilder versus Fury.

Another testament to the Fury factor is found in the odds. Earlier this week, a friend emailed me the pending Vegas odds on Wilder vs. Joshua and Fury vs. Joshua. In a proposed fight with Wilder, Joshua was listed a 2-1 favorite. However, if he were to face Fury, he’d only be an 8-5 favorite, signifying that Fury, with only two fights under his belt after a nearly two-and-a-half year layoff, is considered by the betting public to be the bigger threat to Joshua.

At this time it looks as though only a loss to Pianeta 35-4-1 (21), who’s never ranked among the top-10, can derail Wilder-Fury from becoming a reality, and even against a rusty Fury that looks doubtful. In Pianeta’s only title shot he entered the bout undefeated and was still bounced around the ring by Wladimir Klitschko as if he were a Spalding basketball. He had the advantage of being one of Klitschko’s sparring partners for a year prior to them meeting and yet he still couldn’t make it out of the sixth round.

Since losing to Wladimir in 2013, Pianeta has gone 7-3 (6) and in his last bout lost a 10-round unanimous decision to Petar Milas, who was fighting for only the 12th time as a pro. Fury looks in good shape based on his recent pictures on social media, and is one of the most difficult heavyweights to fight and look good against since Vitali Klitschko was at his best. True, Fury isn’t a devastating puncher and sometimes fighters who aren’t in his league can go rounds with him, but with so much on the line and Wilder observing from ringside, it’s nearly impossible to envision him losing.

The prospect of a Wilder-Fury confrontation has escalated the interest in Fury’s second comeback fight this weekend. It’s unlikely the actual fight between Fury and Pianeta will be fan-friendly, but the thought of Wilder being there to help launch their fight makes it worthwhile to see. Don’t be surprised if Wilder vs. Fury is announced in the ring after Fury’s bout concludes. And if that’s the case, or when it is announced, for the first time as the alpha heavyweight in the world, Anthony Joshua won’t own the headlines nor will he be the sole focus pertaining to the heavyweight division.

Like him or loathe him, Tyson Fury’s return has provided the division with an infusion of anticipation. And Joshua will ultimately benefit financially as a fight between him and the Fury-Wilder winner becomes that much bigger and lucrative for all the parties involved.

Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com

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What Are You Up To, Paddy Barnes?

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Paddy Barnes

For all the hullabaloo about Tyson Fury and his victim elect Francesco Pianeta in Belfast, Northern Ireland this weekend; for all the “Irish Eyes Are Smiling” rhetoric surrounding the return of Carl Frampton to Windsor Park, where he, too, will defeat an overmatched opponent in Luke Jackson; for all that and the barely concealed excitement with which writers and promoters crane their necks at the futures of both these men – for all that, the most intriguing and competitive fight on this Saturday Night’s big “Norn Iron” card is the rampantly ambitious attempt by Paddy Barnes to win a title-strap against Cristofer Rosales (27-3) in just his sixth contest.

This might not be quite Vasily Lomachenko taking on Orlando Salido in his second fight but Rosales, just twenty-three years old and fighting out of Nicaragua, will not be visiting Northern Irish shores to lose. In fact, the TBRB rank him as the worlds #2 flyweight, second only to veteran Donnie Nietes. Flyweight’s radiance may be on the wane but becoming the second best fighter at 112lbs is no small matter, no matter the drain being inflicted upon the division by super-flyweight, the new home of the fashionable small man. Rosales earned the right, and Barnes will have to take it from him.

Like Lomachenko, Barnes is a storied amateur, a two-time Commonwealth gold medalist and two-time Olympic bronze medalist.  Prior to his third swipe at Olympic glory, Barnes turned in a sterling performance in the World Series of Boxing, once controversial for straddling the amateur and professional codes so comfortably, now  seen as nothing more (nor less) than a nursery for top-class amateurs who are ready to mount an assault on the professional ranks.

Barnes began his assault on the professional ranks in the traditional way, beating up overmatched, underfed opposition with losing records.  In 2017 he staged his fifth fight, his fourth in Belfast, against Elie Quezada (21-6-3) who represented something of a step up, though to nothing like world-level where many were sure Barnes was headed.

Even against his taller, heavier, more experienced, switch-hitting opponent, Barnes looked good that night, feinting with the jab behind organized pressure-footwork, opening up shots to the body with jabs, outs-squabbling his rangy opponent when Quezada decided to throw. In the second, investment in the body paid early dividends as a withering short right-hand to the torso married earlier work done with the left hook to achieve a knockdown and nine-count. A ten count at the very end of the sixth was earned with a left-uppercut to the by then tenderized body of an overmatched opponent.

In between the two knockdowns there were naturally issues, the kind experienced by all raw prospects. For that’s what Barnes is, at thirty-one years of age and carrying an armful of amateur medals; professional fighting is different.

So it should be noted that Barnes repeatedly strayed low, and was so paranoid about his inability to keep his punches north of the borderline he apologized to the referee on one occasion without being warned. He hit Quezada when he was down after the first knockdown. He has issues with temperament that need fights to iron out.

More pertinently he was hit, often, by an opponent who was not afraid to trade with him.  Barnes is not a puncher. Quick and accurate, he’s very capable of hurting his opponents but not of turning them away or, as a rule, concussing them. This is problematic and demands careful attention by style, but Barnes does not box like a man who can seek but cannot destroy. He brings speedy pressure, using his quickness and natural balance to unseat an opponent and turn him, all while throwing fast combinations which tantalize between slickness and indeterminate.   Like Rocky Marciano, Barnes has a “land and it’ll do” rule of combat, unlike Rocky Marciano he’s not breaking any bones while he does it.

How is Rosales, a legitimately world class opponent, going to handle all this?

A possible clue lies in another fight Quezada lost. Also a Nicaraguan, last March he met Rosales over ten rounds in their shared hometown of Managua. Rosales won in a fun, bruising fight but was unable to stop his countryman despite throwing and landing a large volume of punches; the judges, a little unkindly I thought, awarded only a split decision but it was interesting that Barnes was able to get Quezada out of there and Rosales was not.

Nevertheless, Rosales was at a more advanced stage of his career and was rewarded (only after defeating the unbeaten Italian Mohammed Obbadi in Italy) with a shot at the strap held by the latest Japanese wonderkid, Daigo Higa. 15-0 with fifteen consecutive knockouts, Higa was favored to win that fight but after struggling with the weight was badly beaten by a vicious Rosales.

Much of this was put off on to Higa’s indiscipline on the scales, but Rosales was exceptional that night in Yokohama. Aggressive and direct, he is a big, big flyweight, pushing 5’7 and sporting a reach of nearly 71” by BoxRec. Rosales does little to favor this reach advantage. He is loose with his selected leads, booming over trailing right hands from outside and sometimes shortening up his own jab by stepping in; on the other hand he loves and administers serious punishment on the inside. Rosales is delightfully old-fashioned in his attitude to his physical advantages and is adapt with both hook and uppercut.

He used both of these to his advantage against Higa, positively bullying him in the eighth, before brutalizing him with his left hand in the ninth.  His corner pulled him after little more than a minute of that round.

Reviewing this footage, the right pick is absolutely clear: it’s Rosales. Bigger, he is probably the puncher in the fight, certainly the more experienced of the two, and he was equal to the relentless body assault Higa mounted early in their fight; but there’s more.

Rosales does not have a spotless record in the UK. One year before his defeat of Higa, he was being out-boxed by the less talented of the two Selby brothers, Andrew. Andrew Selby weathered a dramatic and forceful storm from the Nicaraguan late, but my impression was that he was good for his points win. Two years previous to this, Khalid Yafai, who holds a strap up at 115lbs, defeated him over eight rounds in another tough scrap.

Rosales travels well but not to the UK, and my impression while checking in with friends who follow the smaller men was that his reputation was firmer abroad than upon these shores.

What to make of this web of intrigue?  Has Barnes overstepped in agreeing to fight Rosales so soon based upon a week British rep? Or has Rosales falsely enhanced his status by beating up a weight-drained, crestfallen Higa? Is Rosales too big for Barnes? Or is his propensity for letting wasp-like, whip-crack fighters like Barnes inside a disaster of a style-matchup and one which Barnes, who has slightly faster hands, is primed to take advantage of?

Here’s the truth: I don’t know. I’ve had this fight under the microscope all last week and can’t pick a winner. Just when I think some crucial aspect has been revealed to me it is counter-balanced by some snippet of information from the other camp, or spied on the often single-camera video that spills out of Nicaragua.

I suspect the fight itself will be a thriller though. Both are busy, both have proven punch resistance, both come to fight, both want to mix it up close. The hand that is raised may be the one that is most tempered, the one most ready to shy away from what is natural. Can Rosales spear Barnes on the outside, making him pay for every step? Can Barnes resist the temptation to rush and use his superior speed to close the reach and height gap by staging a sometime counter-punching offense?

With all due love and respect to Tyson Fury, perhaps my favorite active fighter, and Carl Frampton, the man of the moment for the rampant Belfast fans, finding the answer to the above questions is the main reason I’ll be tuning in.

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