For a pair of 40-something boxers on the verge of consummating a rematch of a fight from 1993, Roy Jones, Jr. and Bernard Hopkins are soaking up a lot of ink this week for their respective tune-up fights. I kind of get it. Jones’ bout with Danny Green is a respectable enough fight, and as Alex McClintock explained in this space, it’s a big deal in Australia, where the fight is happening. Jones has a big name here still, too, and the angle that he’s going for a belt in another division — however meaningless the belt — intrigues the uninformed. Hopkins, unlike Jones, remains one of the five best or so boxers in the world, and even though his opponent Enrique Ornelas is a far less live underdog than Green, he’s been off for a while, and his return to the ring amid boxing being in the headlines in Philly is a bit of a natural. And, given that Jones-Hopkins II is the most overdue rematch in boxing, the likelihood of it happening if both men win Wednesday — they have an agreement to do it in the spring, unlike any other time they’ve talked about fighting — naturally gives a little juice to these “if they win, then they fight” bouts.
I’m still surprised at the juice. Most are convinced these fights won’t be very competitive, although there is a solid, educated strain that thinks Green is going to give Jones a run for his money.
[Coverage note: Alex will have a results blog entry here, but don’t fear — if you’re waiting for the tape-delayed Versus broadcast, the entry will be labeled in such a way as to contain no spoilers unless you click on the entry itself. Visit the site, just avoid that entry until after if you prefer. Please refrain from leaving comments on the Jones-Green results in any post except Alex’s, at least until later tonight. I’ll be live in Philadelphia for the Hopkins-Ornelas fight and undercard.]
ROY JONES, JR. – DANNY GREEN
The thinking on Jones-Green being competitive goes like this: Jones, as we all know, isn’t the fighter he once was. Ever since getting knocked out by Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson in 2003 and 2004, we haven’t seen the Jones who owned the 1990s with his ungodly reflexes, speed and power. Since, he’s lost to the only other really good fighters he’s fought, the last being Joe Calzaghe, to whom he lost badly. The rest of his opponents have included two pushovers, a prospect and two shot fighters with big names, most recently a shot Jeff Lacy. Against that caliber of opposition, Jones has appeared like his old sensational self. Even at 41, it’s hard to deny that his natural-born gift of speed persists if slightly diminished, and he’s got enough skill to lift him over the likes of Lacy.
The question is where Green fits into that lineup. Is he more like Lacy, or more like Calzaghe? I’m going to say he’s right in the middle. He’s got enough talent to crack the top-10 of his divisions — super middleweight and light heavyweight in the past, cruiserweight Wednesday and in his last fight — but he’s also, as Alex pointed out, not been able to beat the best opposition of his career, Anthony Mundine and Markus Beyer. That said, he did beat Stipe Drews to win a light heavyweight alphabet title, and he didn’t beat half-bad versions of Eric Lucas or Otis Griffin, and he hung with Beyer. Green is a solid all-around fighter, doing a little bit of everything pretty well with his power and ability to take shots (24 KOs in 27 wins, never been knocked out and rarely rattled) standing out as his major assets. His worst trait: He’s slow. He’s also a little basic, tending to work off a left jab, powerful right and the occasional left hook, but rarely anything else.
That’s where I see trouble for Green. Mundine is Roy Jones Lite. Roy Jones now is Roy Jones Lite, too, but arguably still better than Mundine’s version of Roy Jones Lite. The point is, Mundine had an easy go of it with Green. The ultra-savvy Graham Houston makes the case that Green is better now than against Mundine, and more comfortable at his weight, while Jones has a tendency to back against the ropes and take breathers that Mundine didn’t. I can see that. But I don’t really think it’s the most likely result. I think Jones is going to out-quick and out-reflex Green to walk away with his IBO cruiserweight belt in a decision where he largely coasts by with little trouble.
BERNARD HOPKINS – ENRIQUE ORNELAS
In all the ink, there’s been little talk of the actual Hopkins-Ornelas fight. There’s been talk of Hopkins at 45 remaining such a force. There’s been talk of Hopkins trying to convince Versus to air boxing events on the East Coast — I hope he convinces them — and on the tragic death in Philadelphia of boxer Francisco Rodriguez. The reason is fairly obvious. Nobody gives Ornelas much of a chance.
Hopkins trainer Naazim Richardson has talked up how he didn’t want Ornelas as an opponent, because he thought he was too tough. Nice try to sell this as a competitive offering, Naazim. Don’t get me wrong, Ornelas is nothing if not tough. The guy gets knocked down or wobbled in damn near every fight he’s in, but in his five losses, he’s only been knocked out once, and he’s won plenty of fights he got wobbled in. He’s not a big puncher, with 19 knockouts in 29 wins, but he’s a stern puncher, a good combination puncher who can daze his man. But he’s also slow, he’s not much of a technician and he’s moving up in weight from middleweight and the occasional super middleweight bout to take on a boxer who has established himself as a formidable light heavyweight. He’s been beaten by an aged Bronco McKart, a limited Marco Antonio Rubio (although I thought it was a draw or Ornelas win) and a fringe contender, Sam Soliman.
Old Bronco McKart is no Old Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins is truly one of the best, if not the best, top fighters over 40 who has ever lived, in the company of Archie Moore and George Foreman. Hopkins didn’t dominate one decade so thoroughly like Jones did, instead stretching his greatness out over the late nineties to today. Because he doesn’t fight in as glamorous a style as Jones, and because he lost to Jones, and because he’s surly (a little racist, capable of repeatedly throwing down the flag of his opponent and stomping on it) he has been somewhat less popular, but he grows on me all the time. In his last fight, against middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, he turned in what may have been his finest performance, fighting a skillful, intelligent and aggressive offensive fight that was one of the most immaculate boxing exhibitions of 2008. Take his good if not excellent speed, his toughness bordering on nastiness, a monk-like devotion to maintaining his body and mix it with a bag of tricks more diverse than arguably anyone else in boxing, and it’s easy to see how he’s kept it going for so long.
He’ll keep it going for one more fight, at minimum. Hopkins is going to knock out Ornelas, I predict, although probably not very quickly. Ornelas’ only real chance is that the old man in front of him has accumulated a ton of rust by not fighting in more than a year and subsequently ages overnight, and even then I’m not sure that gives Ornelas much of a chance. If all goes as planned, we’ll get Jones-Hopkins II, a fight I’m looking surprisingly forward to given the grudge hate between both men and how advanced speed seems to be the only thing giving Hopkins trouble these days.