|Monday, September 9
Max: Roy's criticism remains unwarranted
By Max Kellerman
Special to ESPN.com
The funny thing is, Clinton Woods, who The Ring Magazine ranked 10th at 175 pounds going into his title try against Roy Jones Jr. on Saturday night, is going to beat some good, ranked guys before his career is over. He is obviously not a bad fighter.
Roy stopped Woods in the sixth round, and was spectacular, like always. Of course, this victory will do nothing to mitigate the criticism Roy receives for his lack of quality opponents over the last half decade. However, with one or two exceptions, that criticism has been unjustified.
Richard Frazier and Glenn Kelly were not good opponents (although Kelly was a big opponent). Yet everyone else Roy Jones has fought over the last five years has been a top-10 type.
Otis Grant was a middleweight, true, but he was a good middleweight. He was a crisp southpaw, who had been given a draw against undefeated middleweight contender Lonnie Bradley in a fight Grant had really won. True also, Grant was a middleweight and Roy a light heavy, and even though Roy fought his first 25 fights and won his first belt as a 160-pounder, he enjoyed a size advantage over Grant. The point is, as a title defense opponent, Grant was not a bad one, even though he was a small one.
Derrick Harmon was considered by most a lower- echelon top-10 light heavyweight. He had one career loss going into his title shot, and that was a nationally televised, close points loss to a top 20 contender. Before the Jones fight he had beaten solid guys like Ray Berry, and since, dangerous guys like Demetrius Jenkins. Is he one of the two or three best in the division? No, but like Grant, he is a solid boxer, a southpaw, and a legitimate top-10 guy.
Richard Hall. Remember him? Roy was battered in the press for having the temerity not only to fight Hall, but to whip him as he pleased. Hall would go on to give Roy's No. 1 contender, undefeated Darius Michalczewski, a very good fight before losing under circumstances which the Hall camp protested. Hall's showing against Michalczewski demonstrated that he is not the inept pretender Roy Jones made him look.
David Telesco was a top 10 guy, as was Lou Del Valle, who was also a belt holder. Virgil Hill was accused of being over the hill when he was knocked out by a bodyshot from Roy, but Hill went on to move up in weight and knock out Fabrice Tiozzo for a cruiserweight belt. Julio Gonzales was coming off a win in the fight of the year when he was thrice dropped and otherwise dominated by Roy Jones.
But these are all optional-type defenses, not mandatory-type. These are not fights coming against the division's elite. Well, as for the top guys:
Montell Griffin was knocked out in breathtaking fashion and Reggie Johnson was similarly dominated. Eric Harding put up a good fight before losing. Who does that leave? Only Antonio Tarver, who just became a top contender with his knockout of Harding, and Michalczewski. Should Jones remain at light heavyweight he will take Tarver next. As for Michalczewski, his promotional outfit would never dream of taking on Jones anywhere other than Germany. After complaints one after another from American fighters who have sworn they were cheated fighting in Germany, and after being robbed in probably the worst well known decision in boxing history when he fought in the Olympics in Seoul, Roy Jones understandably does not want to go overseas to defend his title.
The Ring Editor-in-Chief Nigel Collins asked me on a recent edition of Friday Night Fights who Roy Jones has fought. The answer is: more fighters currently ranked by The Ring than any other boxer at any weight in the world, and that includes all of the boxing media darlings, from Lennox Lewis to Ricardo Lopez, with all of the Shane Mosleys, Erik Moraleses and Felix Trinidads in between.
One or two more thoughts on the 175 pound champ before moving on:
Eric Lucas just chopped up Omar Sheika over 12 rounds on this last Friday Night Fights. He has a draw against Antwun Echols. Roy was severely criticized for even fighting Lucas. Jones played semi-pro basketball the morning of the Lucas fight, ostensibly to tire himself out, so that the fight might be competitive. It was not. But Roy was criticized anyway for having the audacity to wait until the final round to stop Lucas. Echols could not beat Lucas, and Sheika could not even come close.
A fight against undefeated cruiserweight belt holder and former Olympic gold medal winner Vasily Jirov would silence critics. Having already moved up from middleweight to super middleweight to light heavyweight, another 15-pound jump for Jones is asking more than we ask from any other fighter. How many weight divisions do we ask Bernard Hopkins, Marco Antonio Barrera or Vernon Forrest to jump?
ESPN matchmaker Russell Peltz once told me that Roy Jones is overrated. In the next breath he told me that Thomas Tate, who narrowly lost to long-reigning, undefeated 168-pound belt holder Sven Ottke, is underrated. I reminded Russell that Jones defended his belt against Tate at middleweight years ago. The fight was over inside of two rounds. It was a mismatch. I am sure Russell would agree that just because Roy Jones fights mismatches does not mean he fights bad fighters.
Finally, yes, James Toney struggled to make weight, and Bernard Hopkins was still developing at the time, but Jones fought them too, and Hopkins is a great fighter and I would argue that Toney is (or at least was) a great fighter also, and Roy beat them both. And neither fight was close. Here is a list of the opponents who the boxing world wants to see Jones fight: Hopkins, Michalczewski, Jirov, Tarver, Evander Holyfield, John Ruiz and Chris Byrd. When Jones takes on two of those fighters in his next four fights, the criticism should finally come to an end.
Max Kellerman is a studio analyst for ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.