Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Should KO Loss To Maccarinelli Be The End For Roy Jones?

During the course of this year readers have seen this observer state that one of the more interesting storylines in Boxing’s Cruiserweight division in recent times has been the momentum that former multi-time world champion and future Hall of Famer Roy Jones has been able to build as he attempted to work his way back into world championship contention, despite being at a stage in his career where most consider him to be past his prime. Since suffering a knockout loss at the hands of Denis Lebedev in May 2011, Jones was able to rebound and win eight straight bouts including winning the World Boxing Union (WBU) Cruiserweight world championship along the way.

Although Jones’ distinction as a world champion in the eyes of the WBU may not have held high regard in the eyes of some, Jones does deserve credit for not only winning eight straight fights after losing to Lebedev, but more importantly remaining active and not relying on name recognition clout to attempt to gain another opportunity at a world championship. Even though a valid argument perhaps could be made that Jones’ opposition over the course of those eight victories were not against fighters that most would consider top contenders, it should not diminish how active Jones has been, which is somewhat rare for a fighter who is in his mid-40s and has the resume that Jones does.

Jones’ unbeaten streak of nearly four years led to his bout against former WBO Cruiserweight world champion Enzo Maccarinelli on December 12th at the VTB Arena in Moscow, Russia. Much like the forty-six-year old Jones, the forty-five-year old Maccarinelli entered the fight at a point in his career where some consider him to be past his prime. Maccarinelli however, did enter the bout having won his previous two bouts and it was interesting in my eyes to see how Jones would do against a fighter who one might argue was at a similar stage as himself.

Readers may recall when this fight was announced in October that Jones stated that this fight would be his last. Whether or not Jones’ statement was an attempt to hype and garner more interest in this fight is a question only he can answer, but it nevertheless added some intrigue to the bout.

In what was a tactical battle where both fighters had periods of effectiveness, Maccarinelli would bring the fight to a sudden and dramatic conclusion in the fourth round. Maccarinelli dropped Jones with an uppercut to the head and then ended the fight with a brutal barrage of punches that sent Jones down for a second time face first on the canvas causing Referee Ingo Barrabas to immediately stop the fight without a count.

There is no doubt that the knockout Jones suffered at the hands of Maccarinelli was both sudden and brutal. Although there are some who will call this the biggest victory of Enzo Maccarinelli’s career and will likely discuss the potential options for him going forward, the story coming out of this fight in my eyes is whether or not this should be the end of Roy Jones’ legendary career?

Although Jones has had success in recent years and to his credit was able to have somewhat of a resurgence, it is important to remember that this is not the first time Jones has suffered a devastating knockout loss. In addition to his knockout loss at the hands of Denis Lebedev in 2011, Jones had suffered three previous knockout losses prior to that fight at the hands of Antonio Tarver, in their second fight in May 2004, Glen Johnson in his first fight following the knockout loss to Tarver in September of that year, and to Danny Green in December 2009. All those knockout losses were devastating and were the type of knockouts that few fighters can truly come back from. This latest knockout loss to Enzo Maccarinelli, much like the four previous knockout losses Jones had suffered prior to the fight was equally as devastating and one should wonder not only whether or not the damage Maccarinelli inflicted on Jones will have an effect on him, but what the accumulative effect of all five of Jones’ knockout losses will have on him.

It is important to remember that Jones is forty-six years old and has had a career that has stretched to seventy-one professional fights over the course of twenty-six years. Although Jones dominated the landscape of the sport for the majority of his career, an argument can and perhaps should be made that he was never the same fighter he was prior to his first knockout loss in his second of three fights against Antonio Tarver in 2004.

Prior to that fight Jones was not only a dominant fighter, but had dominated multiple weight classes from the Middleweight to Heavyweight divisions with relative ease. If Jones did not stop his opponents within the distance, often he would win fights by winning every round on scorecards with no question. Jones was truly a fighter that was in a class by himself in terms of his dominance and was rightfully regarded for years as the best pound for pound fighter in the sport.

After his victory over John Ruiz to win a Heavyweight world championship in March 2003, Jones made what many including this observer felt was a mistake by going back down in weight to the Light-Heavyweight division later that year to defeat Antonio Tarver to regain the Light-Heavyweight world championship. Although Jones won the first of what eventually became three fights against Tarver, there was no doubt that it was the first time where there was a sense of doubt at the end of the fight as to who won. There was also little doubt that the drop down in weight had a severe effect on Jones.

This along with Tarver’s knockout of Jones in their second encounter began to signal an obvious decline of a great fighter. Each subsequent knockout loss has had Boxing experts and fans alike questioning how much more Roy Jones can take. There is no doubt that regardless of Jones’ five knockout losses and nine total losses in seventy-one professional fights that he is a first ballot Hall of Famer and that status was earned long before his gradual decline began in 2004.

Although he deserves much credit for attempting to continue his career and being able to have a bit of a resurgence at an age where most fighters are either retired or nearing retirement, this observer believes it is time for not only Jones’ handlers and advisers, but more importantly for Jones himself to consider his long-term well-being. Jones does after all have a successful career outside of the ring as both a promoter and a broadcaster regularly serving as an expert commentator for HBO Sports’ Boxing broadcasts. Although for now the decision of whether he will continue to fight will be up to Jones himself, one may also wonder whether or not he may face a licensing issue in various states and countries outside of the United States due to not only the severity of his knockout losses, but also the ongoing information that has been brought to light regarding the long-term effects of concussions not only in regard to the sport of Football, but other sports as well.

It is certainly possible that an athletic commission whether here in the United States or abroad may look to medically suspended Jones out of concern for his well-being, much in a similar way as the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) attempted to do with Evander Holyfield following Holyfield’s decision loss to Larry Donald in November 2004 citing Holyfield’s poor performance in that fight as stated by then New York State Athletic Commission chairman Ron Scott Stevens. As someone who not only covered that fight, but was on record both in various writings as well as when asked about the subject in radio appearances as applauding the decision of the New York State Athletic Commission, I believed the action they took in the case of Evander Holyfield was a proactive approach that should be implemented by all state athletic commissions and regulatory boards that oversee the sport around the world to look out for the safety of fighters.

As much as the New York State Athletic Commission and Ron Scott Stevens himself should be applauded for taking the approach they did eleven years ago in looking out for the well-being of Evander Holyfield, it should not be overlooked that Holyfield eventually returned to the ring in 2006 in Texas, although his suspension was lifted thus allowing him to continue his career, he was still prohibited from fighting in New York. Even though Holyfield would go on to continued success and fight for a Heavyweight world championship twice following his return to the ring and was medically cleared to do so, this observer believes that had there been a national or even international board of control to regulate and oversee the sport, the New York State Athletic Commission’s medical suspension of Holyfield would have ended his career.

Although Holyfield was able to have further success upon returning, his case should be considered rare as most fighters who are on a gradual decline, as Holyfield was prior to his fight with Donald in 2004 rarely recover and enjoy success at the top of the sport. Even though Holyfield did have some success following his return, he was never able to regain his standing atop the Heavyweight division, despite being the victim of what most including this observer feel was an injustice in losing a decision in his fight against then WBA Heavyweight world champion Nikolay Valuev in December 2008.

 In the case of Roy Jones, this observer believes that the severity of the knockout losses he has suffered over the course of the last eleven years should not be ignored by state athletic commissions, international regulatory boards that oversee the sport of Boxing, and most importantly Jones himself. Jones does have a lot going for him and still could be an important voice and influence in the sport outside of the ring as a broadcaster, a promoter, and a trainer. Jones has had a great career as a fighter and his name belongs in any Hall of Fame associated with the sport of Boxing. With his legacy more than secure, with nothing left to prove, and the potential risk of long-term damage due to the knockouts he has suffered over his career, this observer has only one thing to say to a great fighter. Roy, it’s time.

 “And That’s the Boxing Truth.”

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