Is Roy Jones about to get shocked?
By Scoop Malinowski
It is an absurd, almost unthinkable notion...that Roy Jones could be defeated on November 8th by Antonio Tarver. But the more you hear Antonio Tarver talk, the more and more interesting this fight becomes. Of course, talk often means nothing in boxing, where punches count the most. But sometimes - if you listen closely - you can hear what could be the faint hints of a shock upset.
When Evander Holyfield stunned boxing by stopping Mike Tyson back in 1996, it was virtually unimaginable. Holyfield was considered "shot" at 34 and many feared for his health. 99% of the media predicted a Tyson win. But Holyfield knew something most of us didn't. The Real Deal first showed signs of dominating Tyson months before their November fight - it was at the initial Las Vegas press conference, the day following Tyson's KO of Bruce Seldon.
When Holyfield had his turn to speak at the podium - with Tyson sitting nearby - this is what Holyfield said:
"Tyson might frighten you (the media), but he doesn't scare me. This is my game, my trade. I've been everywhere he has - except prison. You can't just outbox him, you have got to be prepared to fight. The point is, to beat a guy like that, you've got to fight him to get his respect. And then box him. If he puts you in a corner, you have to fight. If you have space, then you can box. You have to do both. And if a guy can't fight, he's not going to win. I'm ready for November 9th. I want to be champion of the world again. Everyone hypes Tyson up to be the man. So, you beat him, you become the man. We all know what fear is, but Tyson knows he's going in with a guy who isn't afraid of him. He knows I have been through a lot of adversity, same as him. But all big punchers are affected when they get hit. They're used to doing the hitting...and I don't think Tyson's the sort of guy to get up when he goes down..."
At that point in the press conference, Tyson rose from his seat and shouted threats and insults at Holyfield. Clearly, Holyfield analysis of Tyson had touched a sensitive nerve. It was apparent at that moment, Holyfield knew how to defeat Tyson. So, to me, sometimes a fighter's words before a fight actually do mean something.
Now, Tarver - if you listen to him - sounds like he may indeed actually be ready to win. I like what he's saying and how he's saying it. He's definitely not here to pay tribute to The Roy Jones Show. He's coming to thrash Jones. And Jones is not happy about it.
Here are some of Tarver's comments last week:
Antonio Tarver: "Here today I stand here as the unified light heavyweight champion. And my first defense out of the box, bring on the man, Roy Jones, Jr. The guy with all of the accolades. The guy that is supposed to be unbeatable and invincible and unstoppable. Bring him on. I'm not here to pay homage to Roy like everyone else.
This is what I’m made of. It is a risk I don’t mind taking because this is the business I’m in. Because I know what a victory over Roy Jones gives me. That’s what I want. That’s how I’ve seen myself for years and that’s how I’ve painted this picture. This isn’t something that’s happened over the last three years. It’s something that I’ve known since I took my first run in 1988.
I don’t know what Roy’s trying to do. I’m not paying any attention to that. I’m ready and as you can see, I’m hungry. I don’t blame the man for wanting to fight Tyson. He hasn’t been focused on boxing in some time now. For six years. That’s not the Mike Tyson we all know and love. He’s only a shell of himself. If he wants to go for an easy payday, he has a great chance of beating Mike Tyson. You can’t say the same about Antonio Tarver. This time, for the first time in your career Roy Jones Jr., the risk outweighs the reward.
Deep down in Roy Jones’ heart, he knows that. He knows that.
When November 9th gets here, I’ll have a reason to be emphatic. I’ll have a reason to shout with joy. Believe in yourself and follow your dream. It will come true. I am witness to that.
No concern. We have a binding contract. This clown wants to make all kinds of excuses and put a damper on my parade. As long as he shows up on November 8th and I don’t care if they bring him in on a throne. The same people that bring him in are going to have to carry his ass on out of there.
I’m ready and I’m determined to show the world on November 8th. I’m going to rewrite the book, baby.
It doesn’t matter as long as I believe. And the people that believe in me.
The experts have been proven wrong a whole lot of times in boxing. It’s just going to be another time.
The majority of those people came for the payday. I’m coming to make Roy Jones pay. That’s the difference. I'm not coming to pay homage.
I’ve been doing this since 1979. You don’t look like this with all of my years of boxing without knowing what you’re doing. "
Are you getting Roy in his prime?
"I’m getting him. You tell me if he’s in his prime or not. I don’t know. He looked damn good against Ruiz didn’t he?
He’s facing the most dangerous fighter he’s ever faced. Bar none. As far as being defensive. I’m going to destroy him. I’m a hungry fighter. A hungry fighter that’s determined to destroy him. I won’t stop until I’m victorious on November 8th. He’s facing the most dangerous fighter he could face.
[I thought this next part is the most interesting thing Tarver said...]
Roy Jones has always known what Antonio Tarver’s capabilities were. You can write it any way you want but you can’t see me through Roy Jones Jr.’s eyes. And no one can see him through mine. Fighters know each other. He knows my determination. He knows my ability. A slick confident southpaw with power in both hands. A defensive wizard and a guy that knows his way around that ring. I’m no Richard Frazier, I’m no Michalczewski. I am a guy that is seasoned through the amateurs, dominated at all levels and I came back and took the biggest risk of all when I didn’t have to. That’s face Eric Harding, the one considered the second best light heavyweight in the world, not because he got a win over Antonio Tarver but because of his competitive fight with Roy Jones, Jr.
I came back and I destroyed Eric Harding. That in itself speaks volumes. I fought this guy when I didn’t have to. If I was one of these other pretenders I would have sat back and said, "Please Roy Jones, give me an opportunity."
It didn’t happen that way. I took the risk. I came back and set that record straight. I’m undefeated as far as I’m concerned because everybody knew I was ill prepared in the first Eric Harding fight. It took a broken jaw, because I was winning on all scorecards at the time of the broken jaw. I would have gone on to win that fight had that broken jaw not happened.
It wasn’t my time. I had to take three steps back in order to go forward.
In come Buddy McGirt, Charles Muniz and John Hornewer. Now we are equipped, with the dream team, to push forward. God said we are not going to have you come in as another mandatory challenger. We are going to have you step in the ring as the unified light heavyweight champion."
Who will enter the ring first?
"For me to have to sit here and defend my status as champion is unheard of. I think it’s a shame for boxing for them to even try to sugarcoat this matter. It’s an outcry. Sugar Ray Leonard, Muhammad Ali, he came in last when he fought Joe Frazier and there was no name bigger than Ali at the time. He hadn’t lost his championship in the ring. They stripped him of his title. But he stepped up in there because he has respect for the boxing game. Unlike Roy Jones, Jr.
This guy has been crying over spilled milk ever since the ’88 Olympics. The media has been pacifying this bumpkin. And it’s ridiculous. Me sitting here defending myself about who is going to come in first and who is going to come in last.
I’m coming in last because I’m the unified champion. He had three opportunities to defend against me. Three times he opted out of it. So who should come in last? Give me my respect. My prerequisites as champion, I deserve it. I earned it in the ring, unlike Roy Jones, who went out and purchased it (Tarver said Jones allegedly recently bought the IBO 175 title - as the IBO recently re-instated Jones as 175-lb. champ.). He didn’t want to walk in the ring without his belt.
If he wants to come in last, tell him to put the WBA championship up. The heavyweight title. We can fight for that.
He’s not angering me. I’ve been ready. I’m not angry. I’m ready to take my rightful spot in the boxing game. I’m ready to be crowned. This is long overdue."
Clearly, Tarver is not here for just the payday.
Tarver, interestingly, revealed that Jones supposedly eluded fighting him three different times. I know of at least one. A few years back Tarver won an IBF-sanctioned eliminator and became the IBF mandatory to face Jones for the light heavy belt. Tarver said Jones then wrote a letter demanding Tarver fight a second mandatory...to "earn" his title shot. Jones wanted to fight the limited David Telesco instead of Tarver. The IBF ended up following Jones' orders and forced Tarver to fight Eric Harding who, as we know now, broke his jaw and beat him.
Jones was asked about this in yesterday's conference call. "I told Tarver to go beat a top 10 opponent. And he got beat," said Jones. Jones then said it was "stupid" to think he would duck a light heavyweight to go on and fight a heavyweight (Ruiz). But Roy Jones did NOT DENY writing that letter to the IBF.
No reporter yesterday asked Jones if he wrote letters to dictate the sanctioning bodies to force Glenn Kelly, Clinton Woods, or Richard Frazier to go fight eliminators to earn their shot at Jones. THIS could be the smoking gun. This fact could be the proof that Jones really knew Tarver was more of a threat than he wanted and so he jived his way out of a fight where he might look ordinary or unspectacular. Tall, rangy, smart, powerful southpaws who can box might be Roy's kryptonite.
This example illustrates how mental edges are born. In Tarver's mind now, he KNOWS Roy wrote that letter to the IBF to avoid him. Just like Lennox Lewis knew Hasim Rahman tried to get out of their rematch clause to fight David Izon or Brian Nielsen on Don King's ill-fated card in China. Lewis had to take Rahman to court and then finally a judge forced the rematch. Bottom line is Lewis knew Rahman tried to avoid him. We know what happened when they did fight their rematch.
Just like Lewis knew Mike Tyson forked over $4 million in step-aside money to fight Bruce Seldon instead of himself. Lewis KNEW Tyson tried to avoid fighting him. We know what happened when they eventually did fight.
There are many other examples of mental edges and fighters avoiding others.
So Tarver kept after Jones and pestered him relentlessly. As if he knew something we didn't. In public, at press conferences, in interviews, Tarver hounded Jones, though few took him seriously. Finally, after Jones beat Ruiz, Tarver again insulted Jones at the press conference and Jones finally agreed to fight Tarver. And now he's kept that promise.
Which brings us to yesterday's conference call. Both Tarver and Jones said many interesting things:
Tarver spoke first and he sounded relaxed, ready and his state of mind emanated an unbreakable confidence. There was no agitation or discomfort in his voice. There were no long pauses in any of his answers, in other words no doubts were perceptible.
"We're going to change the face of boxing on November 8th.
We can taste this victory.
I've always respected him and what he's achieved as an athlete, pro and amateur. In my heart of hearts, I always knew I was capable to get the job done. More than anyone else he's ever fought. I'm the only one for the job. No one has my thinking ability in the ring, my speed, my power, my defense or my boxing ability.
Jones makes mistakes. He always has, but he gets away with it because of his raw, natural talent. But with me, he's finally in there with somebody who has the speed to catch him. I'll be ready to counterpunch him. And, with me, one mistake could be his last. He's in for a helluva fight and he knows it.
He avoided me for three years and shot up to heavyweight. I want to know why?"
What weaknesses do you see in Roy Jones? "His weakness is Antonio Tarver! I'm his weakness. This is a dangerous fight for Roy Jones and he knows it.
This fight will be where Jones is finally pushed to his limit. You look at his big fights with Ruiz, Hopkins and Toney. Nothing great happened in those fights. I'm gonna let him know he's in the dangerzone every minute of every round. That mental pressure breaks most guys down. It will not be a cakewalk for him. You will not see him clown and try to look cute and bore people.
Roy Jones has been ultimately challenged. We're gonna see what he's made of. I'm gonna lay it on the line. And I would not be surprised if the first three or four rounds resemble Hagler-Hearns.
I don't think he's afraid. He's a smart businessman. For years he's known who NOT to fight. And Roy has a history of ducking his toughest opponents. And I've just always been one of those fighters regardless of how the media sees me. Roy Jones sees me. I think he has reservations in his heart about Antonio Tarver. Because he knows that I have the ability, the skill, the talent, and the determination to get the job done. I know that in his heart, he knows he's in for a heckuva fight on November 8th.
We finally agreed to terms (yesterday). Roy insisted on an immediate rematch."
Im ready to change the face of boxing. I'm a people's person, I'm fan-friendly, approachable. I'm what the boxing world needs...a breath of fresh air. I have a date with destiny."
Jones, who pulled out on his appearance on The Best Damn Sports Show Period on Thursday and has a history of always being late to his own press conferences (two hours late for the Ruiz PC), came on about 15 minutes later from Pensacola. At first he sounded curt and tight with his responses to questions. His voice sounded a little different than usual. Someone asked if he was sick with a cold. Jones said it was his allergies...
"When the job gets too hard for Roy Jones Jr., it's time for (his alter ego) RJ to take care of it. RJ is probably gonna come out for this fight. It doesn't happen very often but (Tarver) has the right credentials to bring out the me in me, that I don't like to see. It kind of scares me because I don't like to be like that. He's like the Incredible Hulk, he be tearin' sh-- up."
Why is Antonio Tarver so confident? "I don't care how confident he is. Don't mean nothin' to me. He can't whup me. And I know that. I'm stopping him. I don't care what round. I'm stopping him. He's hoping for a lucky punch."
What are your future plans, go back to heavyweight? "I'm not sure yet, see what's going on. I ain't goin' nowhere soon."
Is Tarver your biggest threat? "I can't see it. You got his big mouth for a big target all night. He's going to sleep."
How was losing the weight to get back to 175? "I had to run a whole lot more, diet more, play more basketball for extra cardio. You're hungry all the time. I'm mad, frustrated. Pissin' me off more and more the feeling of losing weight. Making all that sacrifice makes me want to kill. Oh, he gonna pay for this. He asked for this, he begged for this, he's the only reason I'd come down again to 175.
My subconscious is mad as hell for some reason. And I don't know why. When I get in the ring, I'm gonna tear his ass up. And I can't wait."
Why take this fight? "The real truth??? The man has been beggin' for a payday, I said I'd give him a shot."
"Style-wise yeah (he's the toughest). Just because he's so tall. And left-handed. Spend it (the $50 for PPV). You might want to see this. You don't get to see me like this often.
I will not be very careful for this fight. I know it's not the right way for me to be. But I repeat, 'I REFUSE TO BE CAREFUL.'
Doesn't this give him a better chance? "Hell yeah!"
"He thinks he can land that one, good shot? Well good for him. The way I'm going into the fight gives him a good shot. 'Cause RJ don't worry about defense. That gives him a better chance."
"He wants to land a lucky punch. Well, I hope he gets lucky."
"I'm not God. I can't predict the future."
What about the supposed resolution about who comes in the ring second? "I can't talk about it. They told me to shut my mouth."
"I appreciate all your questions, champ's gotta go."
And Jones suddenly disconnected himself.
I know it sounds improbable and - to some - even ridiculous. But this fight may be much more of a fight than anyone expects. It is not going to be another one-man exhibition against a setup second fiddle. There are evidences that Jones is somewhat vulnerable now. Maybe overconfident too. Chinks have appeared in his armor. He did get caught cheating on steroids earlier this year (regarding the Richard Hall fight in 2000). He did say straight to the TV cameras a few years ago that he would fight Jirov and that guy in Germany. He did tell us this April that Evander Holyfield was the second best heavyweight in the world after himself. Were these deceptions outright lies? Or errors in judgement? Are these the first apparent clues that confirm Jones (almost 35) is declining? What is the real truth about why he wrote that letter to the IBF? Will Jones' amazing superhuman skills inside the ring also show signs of diminishing? Is Antonio Tarver mentally strong enough to conquer "the most arrogant man in sports history, a megalomaniac?" (As one very respected veteran sage recently termed Jones.)
But then again, Tarver's brash mockery of Jones, calling him an "ego-maniac," "spoiled brat," "hypocrite," "country bumpkin" may come back to haunt. It may give Jones the extra incentive to really want to destroy Tarver in a sadistic way.
I'm captivated by "Jones vs. Tarver: It's Personal." This is a superfight. For the first time in a long time someone is challenging Jones who actually truly believes he can destroy Jones. Who believes he has the tools to destroy Jones.
This fight is going to finally show what many have been waiting a very long time for. We're finally going to see the superhuman talents of Roy Jones tested and challenged in a real, competitive fight.
We may see one of the greatest performances ever in ring history. We might even see one of boxing's biggest shockers. The feeling is in the air something unforgettable is coming on November 8th.