Tuesday, December 06, 2022  |



Jones had familiar swagger and just the right opponent


Roy Jones Jr. (right) had no trouble finding the face of Jeff Lacy on Saturday night in Biloxi, Miss. Photo / Scott Foster-FightWireImages.com

The virtuoso of his generation, Roy Jones, Jr. Saturday night struggled to fill a 9,200-person arena to face Jeff Lacy for the fight dubbed “Hook City.” Neighboring the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, the Mississippi Coast Coliseum holds an annual rock festival known as CPR Fest. Given the age of Jones, local writers had no trouble connecting the dots for the bad joke that this night might turn into a festival of similar proportions.

“Hook City” was neither competitive nor populous, but Jones remains a legend and the crowd was grateful to have him. In a sense, these were retirement tryouts, and Lacy qualified with bravura. Jones’s 10th-round technical knockout of Lacy came at the end of a flashy performance that earned him one shutout scorecard (the others were 99-91 and 98-92 at the time of the TKO). After the fight, Jones confirmed that he plans to fight Danny Green (who fought on the undercard) Nov. 21 in Australia.

From the opening round, Jones came out with swagger. He danced. He taunted. He dominated. With his left arm dangling at his side, Jones would flick it up between Lacy’s gloves, following it with angled punched that Lacy never saw, but certainly felt, as he’d reveal by shaking his head, pretending to be unaffected.

Lacy attempted to apply pressure early, but Jones’s accuracy proved too discombobulating — and probably humiliating — as Jones would land triple hooks and combinations each time Lacy stopped to breathe. Lacy, a former Olympian from St. Petersburg, took to clinching and holding early. By the 10th, Jones was jumping and kicking in the air to shake his hands free from Lacy's grip in an eagerness to score more blows. At one point in the same round, a man behind the press row yelled to Jones, “Knock him out on the square!” Jones held onto Lacy’s head with one hand as he pointed down to a square painted on the ring and yelled back, “This one?” He had plenty of legroom for showboating, as Lacy could barely see through a cut on his right eye, and his left was nearly swollen shut.

After Lacy’s 2006 bout against Vitali Tsypko, he needed reconstructive surgery on his left shoulder. While he claimed to be healthy again, his lack of knockouts since that time indicates a failed rehabilitation. Gracious in defeat tonight, Lacy elicited a drizzled applause from the audience as he left the ring. He showed heart. His career, I imagine, will limp onward.

Jones looked much his old self, just slower. In waves of nostalgia, his former prodigious talent inflated to new levels of hyperbole in my memory as I witnessed a parodic imitation of his younger self in the ring before me. His knockout of Glenn Kelly with his hands behind his back came to mind, as well as his bout against Vinny Pazienza, who failed to land a single punch on Jones during the sixth round. There was a time Jones was a four-division champion with 49 wins and one loss from a disqualification which he quickly avenged. His ascent was epic. The crowd tonight remembered. Everyone cheered as if it were 2002 and we all were younger.

One pre-fight ordeal arose in which Lacy insisted on wearing Everlast instead of Grant gloves, to which Jones’s camp replied that they had a signed contract confirming Grants would be used. Jones, sangfroid, agreed to don Everlast, leaving the matter to the state commission for review with Lacy being subject to a possible fine. Jones stated after the fight, “I told him I’d fight at any weight he wanted in any gloves he wanted.”

Jones has a steep climb back up the pound-for-pound list. A 40-year-old frame, prone to adding weight, is forgivingly best-matched to the heavyweight division, where a lumbering body can compensate for its fossilization with power. Despite several flurries from Jones, speed was largely absent from this fight, and so it appeared a light heavyweight fight in slow-motion or a heavyweight one performed by dwarves.

The press is mounting an offensive against Jones. More often sarcastic than well-intentioned, the criticisms of his diminished abilities aspire to induce his retirement out of respect for his legacy. Instead, however, they spur Jones to attempt a resurgence.

The curse of the virtuoso is that there is often no exit. The same perfectionism that allows the athlete to surpass his competition at his apex later in life infects him with the memory of a time when the perfect punch was still within his grasp. Talent nearly always abandons a man before the reverse. Jones will be no exception. It is normal to push yourself past your prime. To do otherwise reveals an eccentricity of ego that usually forecasts troubles of its own.

For now, the press rows are filled with those mostly seeking a last glimpse at a champion, and an optimistic few who wish to be present the moment that his dominance is fully exhumed. Whether he achieves this aim or not, it seems that Jones will likely continue to fight long past it. A day in the future is not unimaginable: Everyone will be gone, and Roy Jones, Jr., will swing his fists as hard as he can into an emptying wind.

Undercard: To begin the pay-per-view portion of the card, Jason Litzau (25-2) defeated Verquan Kimbrough (21-2-2) when the doctor stopped the fight after the third round in a 12-round lightweight bout.

Next, the undefeated cruiserweight B.J. Flores (24-0-1) easily defeated a steadily ballooning Epifanio Mendoza (29-8-1), a shell of the fighter who once upset Rubin Williams. Without any protest from his opponent, Flores marched Mendoza around the ring, landing left-right-left combinations with strong finishes. In response, the Colombian lobbed soft punches which Flores swatted away or ignored altogether. In the fourth, Mendoza injured his left arm, and his corner threw in the towel at 1:19.

After the Flores victory, the Australian Danny Green (27-3) — whom Jones has confirmed he'll fight next in Australia — knocked out a flatfooted Julio Cesar Dominguez (20-5-1) in a 12-round cruiserweight fight. In the first, Green landed a left that sent Dominguez clutching to the ropes to save himself. Green stalked him in the two successive rounds. A glimmer of hope emerged when Dominguez connected with a big right hand in the third, briefly loaning him a confidence that Green quickly crushed with a few uppercut combinations, including a pointed shot after the bell. After knocking Dominguez down with a left in the fifth, Green finished him with a right-left-right combination at 2:35 for the knockout. Dominguez, perhaps believing he was still standing, clung to Green’s feet as if in a clinch.

Peter Owen Nelson is a freelance writer in Los Angeles