Boxing Has-beens

Mar 30, 2010 7:08 AM

Don’t waste your cash on these relics

Chickens and pit bulls: Roy Jones Jr. loves blood sports. He argues that his fighting poultry and pups were bred to fight. In a way, so was he – his father, and first trainer, was a journeyman boxer.

But what do you do with an old rooster who can’t crow any longer?

You match him with an older, but tougher, bird like Bernard Hopkins, for only the second time in 17 years.

Like his roosters and pit bulls, Jones apparently can’t stop on his own.

One of Dandy Dan Rafael’s "freaks" pointed out that a fight fan who went off to snooze in a time capsule and just woke up would wonder about Hopkins and Jones finally having a rematch next Saturday at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Or Sin City having scheduled for the following week a heavyweight match between Evander Holyfield and Frans Botha.

Boxing 2010 or Back to the Future?

There’s more. On the same night as Hopkins-Jones II, there is another reminder of how good Roy Jr. once was – in Germany, John Ruiz challenges David Haye for one of the meaningless heavyweight championships. Ruiz, now a lad of 38, was the heavyweight title-holder Jones defeated a ring lifetime ago – okay it was just seven years – to become the first former middleweight champion to win a heavyweight title since Bob Fitzsimmons a century earlier.

What’s more, Ruiz has a fighting chance to upset 5-1 odds and win another title. He might even be fun to watch – except his past dull performances ruled out any American television presence, though he is in with an aggressive Brit, yes, an oxymoron in heavyweight history, who might force Holyfield’s ancient rival to work.

If you MUST have action on this match, the buy-back rate of 3-1 or so would be the way to go. Laying 5-1 on a former cruiserweight champion whose heavyweight achievements are a majority decision over the big lump Nikolai Valuev last November to win the belt, and a fifth-round stoppage of ancient Monte Barrett. It should also be noted that Haye, while obviously a slugger with 21 knockouts among his 23 victories, was stopped himself in his only loss, in a 2004 cruiserweight challenge of Carl Thompson.

At 38, Ruiz is a comparative toddler compared to Hopkins and Jones, who 17 years after meeting for the vacant IBF middleweight title, are now old light-heavyweights. On Jan. 15, Hopkins turned 45. The next day, Jones became 41.

Back when, in Washington’s RFK Stadium, underneath Riddick Bowe’s second, and last successful heavyweight title defense, a one-armed Jones clearly, if dully, out-pointed Hopkins. All three judges, and this ringsider, scored the bout eight rounds to four. It was quickly forgotten as Bowe pounded out the overmatched Jesse Ferguson in two before a lot of empty seats.

Hopkins would not lose again, at least officially, until dropping a couple of questionable decisions to Jermain Taylor, by which time he had become a middleweight legend.

Jones was soon hailed as the best boxer in the world, at any weight, especially after dominating James Toney in a 1994 challenge for the 168-pound title. Championships at 175 and heavyweight, courtesy of the plodding Ruiz, ensued and there was supposed to be a big-money bout with Holyfield. When that fell through, Jones returned to light-heavy and was never the same. Knockouts by Antonio Tarver signaled the end to his era.

Yet he continues. He can never blot out all the memories of when he could fight, but like listening to an arthritic old virtuoso screw up "Chopsticks," watching Jones’s attempts at boxing these days is painful. In his last try, he was stopped on the opening round – okay, maybe it was prematurely by the referee – in Australia against Danny Green.

On the same Dec. night, Hopkins was toiling in lackluster to outpoint a journeyman named Enrique Ornelas. But prior to his only 2009 match, Hopkins had given a boxing lesson to Kelly Pavlik, his linear successor at middleweight; had narrowly missed upsetting the unbeaten Joe Calzaghe and dominated the stretch in decisioning Winky Wright.

He may be four years older, but if you had to pick a winner for this ridiculously over-priced pay-per-view exercise, it would have to be the Executioner. But laying 5-1 on him is not to be advised, either. On any given day, there will be better 1-5 shots on the race track. And a word of warning: some guys, no matter their recent history, have a way of pestering old rivals – see Joe Frazier, thought to be finished, against Muhammad Ali in Manila, and Thomas Hearns in the long-delayed rematch with Sugar Ray Leonard.

I wouldn’t bet this fight and I wouldn’t pay for it. I’d rather watch John Ruiz.