Basketball is more than a hobby Jr. middleweight Jones mulls a second career

January 12, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF


It is a word unbeaten junior middleweight champion Roy Jones uses repeatedly to explain why he is contemplating a second career as a professional basketball player.

Jones (30-0), who battles durable light heavyweight Merqui Sosa (26-4-2) tonight at Madison Square Garden in New York has simply run out of "meaningful challenges."

Considered by ring experts the best pound-for-pound fighter today, the Florida native no longer wants to risk life and limb unless boxing promoters tempt him with multimillion-dollar offers to fight the likes of current World Boxing Council 168-pound champion Nigel Benn.

But negotiations with Benn and promoter Don King are at a standstill. With no other serious challenges on the horizon, Jones, who turns 27 Tuesday, is looking for a new way to channel his energy. He has been negotiating for a tryout with the London Towers of the English Basketball League.

"You never know until you try," said Jones, who played briefly in high school in Pensacola, Fla., and considers himself a slick passing point guard.

"I'm going to try the minor leagues first and see how high I can go. Naturally, I'd love to play in the NBA, but I don't want to waste nobody's time or my time."

Jones says he still enjoys boxing. But after observing Benn's fight last February with Gerald McClellan that left McClellan blind and partially paralyzed, and then seeing a TV documentary on former heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry's near-helpless state, he views his dangerous profession more realistically.

"Quarry is in a real bad way, and he's not the only one," Jones said. "It makes you realize how bad things can happen to even the best of fighters. Guys are left with nothing or don't have the wits to enjoy what they have.

"The same thing isn't going to happen to me. I'm not going to take any big chances without getting paid for it. Right now, the opportunity is not equal to my position in boxing. So why take the risk?"

Jones, who lost a controversial gold-medal bout in the 1988 Olympic Games in South Korea, has experienced few risky moments in the ring.

He has toyed with most of his opposition save for a 10-round decision over Jorge Castro in 1992 and a 12-round verdict over Bernard Hopkins a year later when he claimed the then-vacant International Boxing Federation middleweight crown.

His most serious test was to have come against then-IBF super-middleweight champion James Toney in November 1994. But Jones used his boxing mastery to embarrass the stalking Toney.

He has since knocked out Vinny Pazienza and Tony Thornton in lopsided title defenses. But Sosa, a heavy-fisted Dominican who has never been stopped, should prove more stubborn.

"Sosa is real awkward and durable," said Jones. "He's like the Energizer rabbit. He just keeps coming and coming. I've got to make sure I don't get hit with any bombs, but I'm not going to run from him."

Unlike Michael Jordan, who quit the NBA at the top of his game two years ago to pursue a career in minor-league baseball, Jones intends to work fights in around his basketball schedule.

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