Some people balk at the suggestion of elite sport as an art-form. They balk even more at the suggestion that boxing could be one.
“That thing where you beat each other about the head and body?”
To a certain extent, I get it. I guess at times, when an opponent is fed to a young prospect or two washed up heavyweights stumble around, it’s not the most edifying of experiences as a viewer. But then sometimes a fighter comes along who’s so athletic, so ruthless, so proficient, so professional and just so good that suddenly boxing is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen in your life.
Roy Jones was that fighter. Maybe he was the ultimate fighter for that. The Pensacola born Jones turns 53 today and his career was the ultimate example of burning bright, fast and hard. Robbed of an Olympic gold in ’88, he made becoming a middleweight world champion look fairly easy inside 22 fights, beating no less than a (younger, but not young) Bernard Hopkins in the process. Unorthodox, explosive, and exciting, his career arguably peaked performance wise when he took James Toney’s IBF super-middleweight title in 1994.
Because the fall from grace at the tail end of his career was so pronounced it’s easy to forget just how awesome Jones was for the majority of the 90s. It wasn’t just the performances either. It was the aura and the showmanship. In an era where boxers were pushing the envelope in terms of entrances and attire, Jones seemed to always be that bit extra. Extra quick, extra powerful, and extra entertaining. Seeing him dance and rap his way to the ring against Clinton Woods was as surreal and memorable as boxing can get.
His performance against John Ruiz, a limited if capable heavyweight, should have seen his career close out on a high. Winning the WBA title at the weight was a legitimately historic achievement even in the alphabet title era, and he also unified and ruled over the light-heavyweight scene for the best part of five years.
We could dwell on the rapid and alarming decline. But do yourself a favour today and go back and savour the best of Roy Jones. Watch that punch perfect-performance against Toney, the fight against Mike McCallum, the demolition of Montel Griffin. That historic night against Ruiz. Do yourself a favour and remind yourself of just how beautiful boxing can be. It’ll be a nice present to yourself, and a nice birthday present for Roy.