Would that the Roy Jones, Jr. who once ruled as boxing’s pound-for-pound king had ever put the kind of promotional muscle into his fights against quality opponents that he does now. Jones famously snubbed the media in those days, when he was a joy to behold even if he could have made himself even more of a joy to behold with a modicum more effort. Instead this Jones, a faded, middle of the pack light heavyweight, gets all kinds of attention in large measure because of the promotional gusto he’s shown fighting fellow faded boxers like Jeff Lacy, his opponent for this Saturday night’s second pay-per-view card, known as “Hook City.”
I’ve flirted with ignoring Jones all together, but if everyone else is giving his fights more attention than they deserve, I don’t suppose I can do that and call myself a boxing blogger. Suffice it to say that if you don’t follow boxing very much and you’re seeing pictures like the one above Jones dressed up as a pirate or watching the ESPN Classic rebroadcasts of old Jones and Lacy fights or surfing the web and finding all kinds of “Hook City” ads, it is more a tribute to Jones’ new promotional acumen than to Jones holding any real serious foothold in the sport anymore.
That said, it is not a completely uninteresting fight. If Jones and Lacy (pictured above right) insist on fighting on, it only makes sense for them to fight on against their own faded, big-name ilk. Jones’ biggest vulnerability, his ability to take a punch, is complemented by Lacy’s biggest asset, his ability to land a humdinger, and Jones’ speed and movement are the stuff that foiling the slow, immobile Lacy is made of. And both men are still drawing crowds in their native Florida, so why not do battle against one another in nearby Biloxi, Miss.?
Since I’m unable to be two places at once this weekend — I’m already covering the aforementioned other Saturday pay-per-view — I’ve asked a guest blogger to handle the “Hook City” pay-per-view, which is $34.95 whether you order it over your TV or via gofightlive.tv. Scott Kraus, who should be well-known to all friends of the site, will be posting something after the Saturday card concludes. You should check out his own boxing blog by now if you haven’t — it’s good stuff. He told me he’ll have some preview materials about the card there, but for the time being in this space, here’s my take on Jones-Lacy.
Jones, in his prime, was really special. Everyone knows that. He was the Fighter of the Decade in the 1990s, and there wasn’t anything he couldn’t do. Because he spent so much time late in his prime spinning his wheels against less-than-elite foes, and because he has had such a lackluster career since 2004, one has to search the memory banks to remember that he beat the other two best fighters of his generation, James Toney and Bernard Hopkins, without a whole lot of difficulty. His awe-inspiring speed and reflexes, not to mention a healthy helping of power, made it so he could fight a mandatory title challenger like Glen Kelly, hardly receive a punch in so doing, and then finish with a right-handed knockout that came a split second after he was dancing around with his hands behind his back.
Jones since 2004? For a while, it looked like there wouldn’t even be such a thing. He got brutally knocked out twice that year, once by Antonio Tarver and once by Glen Johnson, then came back to lose another bout with Tarver. He beat a decent prospect to arrange a 2008 showdown with Felix Trinidad that people had wanted years before, and somehow watching Jones beat a faded, semi-retired, overweight great made people inclined to think he maybe he still had a little of “it” still floating around in his body. (I thought it added up to a top-10 divisional ranking, but beyond that, nothing.) His fight against Joe Calzaghe proved that was a mirage. Aside from connecting with a crunching inadvertent forearm that floored Calzaghe in the 1st, Jones just got pwned, and that, it seemed, would be the end of taking Jones seriously. But he drew a solid crowd with his throttling of the very, very, very shot Omar Sheika, and now, here we are. Jones is still very fast with his hands, and he still hits fairly hard, but his legs are gone, he doesn’t pull the trigger enough anymore — he arguably was always too gun-shy even in his prime — and while he says his dad’s return as his trainer made the difference in how he looked against Sheika, the real difference was that Sheika was no Calzaghe.
Lacy’s better than Sheika, but his highs never were as high as Jones’. People had great expectations for the lad, who, at 32, may have less left than the 40-year-old Jones. He looked and fought like a mini-Tyson: heavily-muscled, stocky, super-aggressive and with big knockout power. People like to say, “Oh, he was never very good,” but you don’t get to be ranked #1 or #2 in your division, the way Lacy was, unless you earned it. No, he didn’t beat any big names on his way up, but he pretty well destroyed every one in front of him, including any number of top-10 super middleweights, often with significantly more ease than anyone else ever had handled those same opponents. He was the favorite against Calzaghe for a reason, but it’s very clear that Calzaghe was the far better fighter. Lacy was a very good super middleweight. Calzaghe is the best super middleweight that ever lived.
Maybe that fight took too much out of Lacy, 12-round drubbing that it was. Maybe it was his next fight, where he tore a shoulder muscle. But you can make the case that he lost that fight and every one of them since, five bouts in all, mostly against OK competition. The only one that was scored as an official loss was his bout against Jermain Taylor last year, when Lacy looked like a zombie, really, and reportedly didn’t look much better in a bounce back fight in his most recent outing. Lacy is hard to hurt, and his right hook is still dangerous, but he has no other real weapons of note anymore — none. That, plus the fact that he’s so slow it takes about an hour to wind up said hook, means that Lacy is just a one punch wish at this point against anyone who’s any good. Lacy’s nickname may be “Left Hook,” but when Jones explained that he’s temporarily changed his own nickname from “Superman” to “Captain Hook” because he has a better left hook, he’s right.
Jones is the bigger man, but with the weight limit set at 170, I’m not sure it’s enough of a weight advantage to neutralize whatever power Lacy has left. And that, really, is the crux of whether Lacy can score the upset. Jones is a heavy 5-1 favorite, and with cause. He’s faster, slicker, better. Lacy needs to land a big shot on Jones’ rickety chin to win, but he may not be able to come very close at all to the better man. Lacy has reasons for all of his lackluster showings in recent years — he was too young for Calzaghe, he wasn’t movitated against some of his lesser-known opponents, he was old friends with Taylor and found it hard to be aggressive against him because of that friendship. Now, he says, he’s motivated. OK. But even a motivated Lacy has the emptier gas tank, and probably doesn’t have the skill or quickness to catch Jones. Jones won’t knock out Lacy, given Lacy’s determination and ability to take a shot, but he won’t have much trouble with him at all.
(Photo credit: Tom Casino/Square Ring)