By Jordan Ingram
The players on the U.S. Olympic Basketball aren’t the only athletes looking to redeem themselves in 2008.
When Roy Jones Jr. fights the undefeated Ring Light-Heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe in November, he will be trying to recapture the magic that once was his career.
After three-straight losses (two by knockout) at the hands of Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, the public’s perception of Jones as unbeatable was shaken. Even with three-straight rebound wins over Prince Badi Ajamu, Anthony Hanshaw, and Felix Trinidad, HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant still isn’t impressed.
“He’s the same fighter as when he lost to Tarver….the only thing that’s changed is the quality of his opposition,” Merchant said. “He had a nice fight with Trinidad but I don’t consider Trinidad to be much anymore so I think he’s been able to use his name to keep his career going like many veteran fighters.”
Despite the name recognition that the Florida native brings to any fight, he’ll be entering Madison Square Garden as an underdog for only the third time in his career. In bouts where the critics voted against Jones, he’s currently 2-1 with the sole loss being a unanimous decision in the rematch against Tarver.
Though Jones hasn’t been counted out many times in his career, the 5-foot-11 fighter actually basks in people doubting him.
“That’s my favorite spot being the underdog because you truly get a chance to perform,” said Jones. “Whenever I’m chosen to win people say that it’s expected but when you’re the underdog, at that moment you can really show the people something.”
The last time Jones won as an underdog, he became the first middleweight titleholder to win the heavyweight championship in 106 years, with a victory over John Ruiz. In retrospect, Jones believes that the dynamic achievement speaks volumes about his ability and that of Bob Fitzsimmons more than a century ago.
“I’m the only man alive that could accomplish such a feat,” said Jones. “I paid the price for it [with the Tarver loss] but that’s what I have to do- to do what nobody else has done.”
According to Merchant, Jones defeating the Welshman would put him back at the top but that it’s not Jones top priority.
“I don’t think the idea is relevant because the winner of the Jones-Calzaghe fight will claim their number one but so will whoever wins the Tarver-[Chad] Dawson fight and they’ll have legitimate claims,” said Merchant.
Winning the bout won’t be an easy task for the 39-year-old Jones who will have to deal with a very intelligent, busy puncher in Calzaghe. Jones says that securing the important victory over his British opponent will prove an important point to those who said he should retire after the violent nature of his recent losses.
“It shows that it isn’t over until God says it’s over and that’s all I want to prove,” said Jones.
The outspoken former Olympic silver medalist doesn’t have too many points left to prove in his career. When he defeated Ruiz, Jones was at the top of his game in the eyes of many.
At the time he was 48-1 with quality victories over the likes of James Toney, Bernard Hopkins, and Virgil Hill. During his spare time he even found time to appear with Keanu Reeves in “The Matrix Reloaded.”
Had he defeated Tarver and Johnson, Jones admits that he wouldn’t even be stepping foot at MSG.
“I doubt if I still would’ve been fighting,” Jones said. “God must not have been done talking through me yet and wanted me to come back and re-prove myself.”
In Jones’ quest to regain respect, a victory over Calzaghe will open up the opportunity to one-up Fitzsimmons in his eyes. After Fitzsimmons original run as the heavyweight champion, he moved down two weight classes to defeat George Gardner in 1903 and won the light-heavyweight championship.
Since the super middleweight division wasn’t developed until the 1980s, Jones has every intention of adding another title to his mantle. Calzaghe is the current Ring Super Middleweight champion but a bout against the Welshman at 168 might not occur because he wants to retire after the fight.
The persistent Jones shrugs off the notion and would be anxious to win a belt at super middleweight regardless of the titleholder. He also doesn’t rule out another fight for the heavyweight title.
“I really want to regain the super middleweight title because I would take it a step further than Bob Fitzsimmons did because there wasn’t that division then,” Jones said. “However, if I don’t get a shot at the super middleweight title than I’ll fight [Wladimir] Klitschko at heavyweight and call it a day. That’s the beauty of Roy Jones…he can fight anywhere.”
Jones even added sending out another legendary fighter on a good note.
“I tried to get Oscar De La Hoya to say that he’d fight me on December 6th after I fought Calzaghe November 8th and he wouldn’t take it,” said Jones confidently.
Merchant, on the other hand, feels that Jones wanting to fight an upper echelon fighter like Klitschko isn’t realistic on his part.
“He moved up and beat a guy [Ruiz] that I regarded as a mediocre heavyweight and that’s good for him,” Merchant said. “If he throws out names like Klitschko than to me he’s just talking about making money.”
Since veteran fighters like Calzaghe and Jones are looking for financial gain at the latter stages of their careers, Merchant points to the winner of the Hopkins- Kelly Pavlik as next in line.
Both fights could bring enormous fanfare with Jones owning a victory over the 43-year-old Philly native and Pavlik having a considerable amount of buzz.
The only thing for sure in Jones’ mind is that Hopkins would have no true intentions of wanting a rematch against him.
“I love Bernard Hopkins to death but he has not wanted to get into a rematch with me,” Jones said. “Bernard Hopkins only wanted a rematch when he nobody else wanted to fight him. He hasn’t wanted to fight me since he got back into the limelight and got a big name for himself. He can fight anybody but if he fights me it’ll be his very, very last fight and I know that.”