by Eric “Sugar Foot” Duran
Roy Jones Jr was the perceived fighter of the decade for 1990-99 and a future Hall of Famer. He was usually described as the perfect blend of speed and power mixed with natural athletic ability. A modern day Ali, a throwback Sugar Ray Robinson.
He literally never lost a round, casual fight fans even wondered if he had ever dropped a bead of sweat during his illustrious career.
He was Leonard after Leonard, Floyd before Floyd. A Picasso inside the squared circle.
May 15th, 2004. Las Vegas, NV, Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Roy Jones Jr was one year removed from capturing the WBA Heavyweight Title. He had stamped his 13-year career at that point, with a signature performance.
The bout was actually a rematch for Jones and Tarver. Their first encounter in November of 2003, was a tantalizing night of fisticuffs. It was the first time we saw Jones huff and puff in a fight. It was the first time we saw defeat in his future. It was the first time we witnessed Jones dig deep down inside to pull out a victory.
The lead up to the rematch was filled with what Tarver called, excuses. Many insiders and media pundits sided with Jones. They agreed his performance was lackluster due to the excessive weight loss. They expected RJJ to show up in the rematch, the way he did in the Montell Griffin rematch.
As referee Jay Nady was ready to end his pre-fight instructions, he asked one simple question. “Do you have any questions”? To which Tarver replied, “You have any excuses tonight, Roy?”
Flashback to March of 2003 when Jones had just embarrassed John Ruiz over 12 rounds to capture the WBA Heavyweight Championship.
After the bout, there was discussion about a possible match up against Evander Holyfield. Instead, he choose the bout with Tarver. Holyfield would later lose to a rejuvenated, James Toney. Jones, who at the time, was in the prime if his career. His speed and ring generalship, hands down, compared to any fighter in the history of the sport. He likely would have been a betting favorite, earned a bigger payday and coasted to another victory.
Instead, he passed on Holyfield.
Also, there were talks about an iconic clash against the most feared man on the planet, Mike Tyson.
Tyson was badly faded at this point of his career. He was basically a three-round fighter. However, he was still a draw, must watch TV. He still had the ferocity and the pre-fight hype to build a mega-event. And being that Jones Jr was a smaller fighter, Tyson may have been the betting favorite. There wouldn’t have been any issues regarding Showtime and HBO, they had just co-staged Lewis-Tyson.
What did Jones have to lose against Tyson? Honestly, anything more then a first knockout loss, Jones would have been revered for taking the risk.
Think about the possibilities and money left on the table when Jones decided to return to the light heavyweight division. Also, think about all the years he lost cutting all the muscle
Back to May 15th, 2004. After round 1, it seemed as though Jones was back to normal. He circled Tarver, darted in and out and landed at will. The universe was back to normal. Shut the TV off and talk about another stellar performance from Jones at the water cooler the following week.
With 1:32 left in the second round, Jones is falling back, preparing to throw a check left hook. Then the lights went out. A cosmic star had fallen.
Thud!!! Jones lay motionless under the turnbuckle courtesy of a straight left hand from Tarver. He tried valiantly to pull himself up and continue. He couldn’t, his legs were gone, his brain still in la la land.
Mr. Unstoppable, Mr. Undroppable, Mr. Invincible, Mr. Unbeatable Mr. Umknockoutable. Superman was laid to rest, his cape detached.
Jones offered no excuses after the loss. He was humbled, humiliated.
Jones would return 4 months later against Glen Johnson. He found himself in a scary situation, unconscious. Jones was thoroughly dominated by a fighter who was given no chance, a journeyman.
Since that devastating night in 2004, Jones has been on an up and down roller coaster of a ride. His record 9-6 since that bout. He was 49-1 entering the rematch with Tarver. His only loss was highly disputable and avenged.
Eric has been a dedicated fan of boxing for over 20 years. He was born and raised in Denver, Co, settling in the rough neighborhood of Westwood. He fell in love with the sweet science watching Roy Jones Jr. His love for the sport continues through fighters like Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward. He has dabbled in promotion, match-making, management and training over the last 10 years. Eric currently cover fights for Fightnews and Rocky Mountain Boxing. As well as being a contributor to InsideBoxing’s internet show.