As I’ve stated many times on this website, I started watching boxing in January of 1977. In my 43 years of watching boxing, the single greatest fighter I’ve ever seen was Roy Jones. Between 1993 and 2003, Roy was the closest thing to a perfect fighter that ever lived. Incredible speed, reflexes and punching power, Jones was a marvel to watch. It was during the early part of this unprecedented 10-year run of dominance that saw Roy emerge as the greatest Super Middleweight of all-time.
Jones turned pro after being completely fleeced at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, criminally losing a decision in the Jr. Middleweight Gold Medal fight to South Korean Park Si-Hun. Jones completely dominated every round before getting his gold medal stolen. That loss was definitely a motivating factor in Jones’ hunger to be as dominating in his pro career as possible. After a year reign as IBF Middleweight Champion, Jones moved up to Super Middleweight to face the consensus best fighter in the world, James Toney.
Going into the November 18, 1994 fight with Toney, Jones decided to let Toney do all the talking at the pre-fight press conferences throughout the country. Jones was just as verbally loquacious as Toney and it seemed odd that Jones would allow Toney to continuously talk smack with no verbal comebacks. Jones let his talent do the talking en route to handing the IBF 168-pound titleholder a one-sided boxing lesson. Toney looked like a zombie that night as he had no answer for the speed and skill of Jones. My father and I thought the same thing while watching the fight that Jones gave Toney a ton of respect by not attempting to knock him out. After winning the IBF Super Middleweight crown, Jones would them embark on a two-year period in one of the most dominating title reigns in boxing history.
Jones first defense of his 168-pound crown occurred on March 18, 1995 against Antoine Byrd in Roy’s Pensacola, Florida hometown. Jones’ power was on all cylinders that night as he destroyed Byrd in about two minutes of the opening stanza. Jones followed this up on June 24, 1995 with an incredible display of both offense and defense against longtime favorite and two-time World Champion Vinny Pazienza. In the fourth round of a fight that Jones totally dominated, he pitched a shutout as Pazienza did not land a single punch! I watched this fight with both my best friend and girlfriend at the time. This performance of Jones, which was mercifully stopped in the sixth round, made both of them instant fans of Jones. Jones ended a sensational 1995 by decimating the sturdy chinned Tony Thornton in the third round on September 30, once again in front of his Pensacola faithful.
Jones’ next fight on January 12, 1996 would be the first time I would get to see him live and in person. The same young lady who was mesmerized by his performance against Pazienza accompanied me to Madison Square Garden that night to see him fight Merqui Sosa. Sosa was a granite chinned slugger who was tailor made for Jones’ speed and power. In the second round, Sosa, after being dropped by Jones, was defenseless and was saved by referee Kenneth Zimmer’s stoppage of the fight. At that point in time, Jones was as indestructible as any fighter that ever lived. Jones was so superior to anyone who could climb into the ring that he decided to stage a gimmick in his next fight.
On June 15, 1996, as a way to cultivate HBO viewers to see his fight and have fans come see him fight in Jacksonville, Florida, Jones played a professional basketball game the afternoon of the fight. Playing guard with the USBL Jacksonville Barracudas, Jones played 21 minutes in the game. Then, that same evening, he defended his title against Eric Lucas. Playing in the game did not affect his performance at all as he put on another virtuoso beating before Lucas retired in his corner after the 11th round. This night proved what both my father and I had been telling people for two years; Roy Jones was the greatest athlete ever to step into a boxing ring.
My lady at the time and I once again attended Jones’ next and final fight at Super Middleweight, October 4, 1996 against Bryant Brannon. Once again, Jones was stunning in another second round destruction. Jones relinquished his title the following month after winning the WBC Light Heavyweight Title. That’s a story for another day.
Roy Jones’ reign at 168 pounds was the epitome of a perfect fighter. At 5’11, 168 pounds, Jones was the perfect blend of speed, power and reflexes that had never been seen before or since. My father felt that there wasn’t a fighter between 160-175 who ever fought that stood a shot against the Roy Jones that fought between 1993 and 2000. My father died in 2000. Pop, there hasn’t been a fighter since that could’ve beaten that version of Jones, the single, greatest 168-pound fighter I’ve ever seen.