Jones jumps off usual bandwagon

November 01, 1994|By PHIL JACKMAN

Forget all that noise about who the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet is. Yes, the last Don King multi-championship extravaganza was a stunner, but the guy controls what, a couple hundred fighters? The heavyweights? Be serious.

It's just such a situation that prompted Roy Jones, former Olympian and unbeaten IBF middleweight champion, to forgo the usual guaranteed purse for his shot at James Toney's IBF super middleweight belt Nov. 18 in Las Vegas.

It has been years since a fighter had the gumption to go this route (Larry Holmes more than 11 years ago), but Jones, particularly, is comfortable with it. "Makes sense to me," said Roy, who numbers 23 knockouts among his 26 wins, "because guarantees short the fighter.

"Promoters and everyone else, it seems, make the extra when a fight makes it big. That's just plain wrong."

Of course, there are examples when the public's acceptance of a fight was lacking and the promotion lost its shirt making good on the fighter guarantees. Naturally, there have been many times when the boxers got stiffed, but that's a different story.

"But this is a fight that has to go over," Jones said. "It's a couple of experienced and unbeaten champions meeting. . . well, what more could you ask? If this one doesn't go over, it would probably be time for me to start thinking about getting out of the game anyway."

While the fighter says he wasn't forced into anything, Holmes years ago said he had no choice. As the WBC champ as of mid-1978, he fought 14 times over the next four years, never being close to satisfied with the money he was receiving.

He cut out the middle man (the promoter) and fought Lucien Rodriguez in a National Guard Armory in Scranton, Pa., in March of 1983. The 12-round decision wasn't memorable for those on hand that rainy afternoon, but NBC carried the fight and did a dynamite rating (13.2).

Holmes defended his WBC belt three more times before deciding to strike out as a "people's champion," which got the fledgling IBF off to a flying start. That was 10 years ago next Wednesday when Holmes was 35, and here he is getting a shot at Oliver McCall's WBC title Jan. 21.

Prior to that -- Saturday night, in fact -- another 45-year-old, George Foreman, is going after Michael Moorer's WBA-IBF crown on HBO. Farcical, yes, but everyone knows the heavyweights sell no matter what the situation.

This doesn't please Jones, but he has learned to live with it. And he carries the conviction that boxing fans know a good thing when it's dropped in their laps and they will be aboard for his bout against Toney in a couple of weeks.

Roy isn't totally happy with his situation, still wondering why the IBF said he would have to give up his 160-pound title to challenge for Toney's 168-pound crown. "I didn't want to give it up, but they [IBF officials] said I had to. It's ridiculous. Guys have been challenging up for years while holding onto the title they had. Toney did it."

While Toney, who has KO'd 29 of his 44 beaten foes, thus earning his nickname "Lights Out," is going around saying Jones "is not fit to carry my gym bag," Jones says, "Toney's a good fighter. I won't deny that he's a great puncher, but from what I can see he can't beat me. Nobody can beat me."

Watch Roy's hand speed (a blur), his combinations, his flashy flurries and a thunderous left hook and you tend to agree with him. But then Toney has been starching guys for years and he's a great defensive fighter.

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