ROY JONES JR VS ANTONIO TARVER
This Saturday night, October 1st, Roy Jones Jr, 49-3 with 38 ko's will step into the ring against Antonio Tarver, 23-3 with 18 ko's, for the IBO Light Heavyweight Championship in Tampa Florida.
As a long time student of the fight game, let me first state all of the negatives facing Roy Jones Jr this Saturday night in Tampa. There are many. The underdog price on the former pound for pound champ would seem warranted.
The first and most glaring problem for Jones is that he was knocked out in each of his last two fights. Once to Tarver and once to Glen Johnson. Many fighters are simply never the same, in the ring, after suffering a knock out. Roy Jones would seem to have proved that by following up his first knock out loss with a second knock out loss. That 2nd KO saw Jones lie on the canvas, motionless for at least 10 minutes. Scary stuff.
Inactivity. Ring rust. Call it what you want. It's a huge negative for any fighter. Doesn't matter if you spar every day during the layoff, there is no substitution for actual rounds in an actual fight. I can go back in history and name tons and tons of examples where this turned out to be the case.
I thought I recently witnessed a case where a fighter was able to come back after a long layoff when Felix Trinidad beat Ricardo Mayorga after a two year layoff. But then Trinidad was soundly beaten by Winky Wright the next time out. Mayorga was simply over matched.
It's also troubling that Roy Jones isn't taking a tune up fight before this one. That might tell us that even he doubts his skills at this point and simply doesn't want to risk another loss and this big pay day.
So, so far we have a guy who was knocked out cold in his last two fights, and has been inactive for 16 months. Not good.
But why stop there. There's more. Another huge disadvantage is that this fight is in Antonio Tarvers back yard. His home town. Every time Tarver throws a punch, whether is lands or not, the crowd will go crazy. No judge will ever admit this, but that crowd will influence the way the judge scores the fight. It's human nature. This disadvantage is a big one, because if Roy Jones Jr is able to get by the first two negatives, the suspect chin and the ring rust, he then has to overcome an obstacle that would seem to take away his only chance at a win. That being a decision. Because a close fight that goes to the score cards, goes to Antonio Tarver.
So, with the above negatives in mind, my selection for this fight is.......................Roy Jones Jr.
I know what you're thinking. You've read my boxing stuff for years. You've enjoyed the many winners up to and including the dead on prediction on Klitschko last weekend. But you think quite possibly that I have taken too many punches and I may have finally lost it . Perhaps. We'll see.
Let's start with the most troubling of the negatives. The last two KO's.
Hall of fame trainer Emanuel Steward has said he believes Roy Jones Jr suffers from a form of brain damage that he has seen once or twice in his hall of fame career. Damage that doesn't affect the fighters cognitive abilities but makes him unable to ever take a hard punch again, without going down.
I don't buy that. Emanuel Steward should stick to training fighters. He's no Doctor and surely if Doctors suspected this they wouldn't allow Roy Jones Jr back in the ring.
In my opinion, there's nothing different about Roy Jones Jr's ability to take a punch. Simply, he never could take a punch. Let's face it, he never had to. He was one of the best ever at NOT getting hit. Boxing is all about speed. Roy Jones used his speed not only to pile up points but also to avoid getting hit. You can't hit what you can't catch, and you can't keep from getting hit by what you can't see. Speed. Roy Jones never had an instance in his entire career where he had to fight thru being hurt. He was simply the best in his era and all because of his lightening fast speed, both offensively and defensively.
Age gets us all. Roy Jones Jr lost a half a step. But that half a step is what enabled Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson to connect and put him on the canvas. Again, Roy Jones Jr never had a chin. We simply never knew it because no one could ever connect to test it.
So I have written a book filled with reasons why Jones is a justifiable underdog here. Now I need to explain why I like Jones.
I like Roy Jones here for many of the same reasons I liked Klitshcko last weekend. Strictly from a boxing skills standpoint, Roy Jones Jr even having lost a half a step, still, in my opinion, has the better skills than Antonio Tarver and can do enough to win this fight. Of course unlike Samuel Peter last weekend, Tarver does have skills of his own.
But I'd hardly consider Antonio Tarver "great". He's a good fighter, with good skills. Not great skills. His resume is hardly impressive with the exception of his two fights with Jones. There are guys Tarver struggled with that Jones gave boxing lessons to. Albeit, several years ago.
Tarver has just 26 professional fights to Roy Jones 52. More importantly, his "big fight" experience is limited to his last 3 fights. Jones has "big fight" experience going back over a decade. Big fight experience doesn't win fights, of course, but it helps.
This fight all comes down to Roy Jones Jr being able to avoid getting hit. All he needs to do, is do what he has done his entire career, starting with the Olympics. Go in there, and out box Antonio Tarver while avoiding getting caught with a big punch. It's really that simple. Roy Jones knows it. Tarver knows it. Tarver can't out box Jones. Tarver will go into this fight feeling all he has to do is connect. He's already stated that he doesn't want to leave this up to the judges. The problem though is, when a fighter goes into a fight looking for a KO, more times than not, the 8th or 9th round rolls around and having been to busy looking to land the big shot, the fighter has lost most of the rounds and then NEEDS a knockout to win. That's what I see playing out Saturday Night.
Roy Jones is too smart of a fighter to allow himself to be taken out again. He'll be extremely cautious. It won't be pretty. He'll fight in spurts. He'll tie Tarver up. He'll steal rounds in the last 30 seconds like only the great ones know how to do. He'll win this fight because Roy Jones Jr, even having lost a half a step, is still quicker, and a better all around boxer than Antonio Tarver. His one glaring weakness is his chin. Which will keep us all on the edge of our seats for 12 rounds. But like I pointed out above, his chin was always his weakness. We just didn't know it.
Let me allow the guy who most recently faced both Roy Jones Jr and Antonio Tarver sum it up. This is from a recent interview that Glen Johnson had with Boxingscene.com :
Glen Johnson: I have Jones to win that fight, I give him a small edge. Jones has a lot to prove right now and he is going to take this fight extremely serious. If you take a look at the two fights between Jones and Antonio Tarver, Roy Jones won most of the rounds in those fights. You know that unless there is a knockout, you have to go with Roy Jones as the favorite to win a decision. Antonio Tarver don't win rounds against Roy Jones.
BoxingScene.com: Because of the back to back knockout losses which Roy Jones suffered against you and Antonio Tarver, some experts suggest that Roy may have a suspect chin. Do you think there is any truth to that theory?
Glen Johnson: I would like to think that Jones is no different than everybody else. There are a lot of people that get knocked out and come back from it. Lennox Lewis got knocked out a few times and came back to dominate the division. So I don't think he does.
There you have it.
Here are the current odds on the fight from Pinnacle Sports:
Antonio Tarver -184
Roy Jones Jr +174
over 9.5 rounds -126
under 9.5 rounds +116
Will Roy Jones win by Decision?
My main bet will be on Roy Jones to win at +174 (actually already took +184)
With a smaller play on Roy Jones by DEC at +360
Oh, and by the way, James Toney and Chris Byrd are also fighting Saturday Night. Jones/Tarver is pay per view and The Byrd and Toney fights are on Showtime. Busy weekend for boxing fans!