10: Top Boxers with combined Olympic and pro success
2. Roy Jones Jr.: Only the record books – and the eyes of three tainted judges – saw Jones as the 1988 light middleweight silver medalist. Anyone who saw the fight live, on worldwide television or years after the fact on video, know that Jones had thoroughly beaten South Korea’s Park Si Hun for the gold medal.
Even those who were directly linked to the episode admitted Park’s 3-2 victory was a grave error. Moroccan judge Hiouad Larbi, assuming his four fellow judges had voted for Jones, admitted he changed his verdict so the host country’s fighter wouldn’t suffer the embarrassment of a 5-0 defeat. Those who voted for the Val Barker trophy (given to the games’ most outstanding boxer) tried to salve the wound by awarding it to Jones. Even Park himself told Jones he thought he had lost. But in defeat, Jones was a winner and his career in both the Olympics and the pro ranks is all the proof he needs to make his case.
Olympic career – Jones’ only appearance in the Olympics began with a one-round stomping of Malawi’s M’tendere Makalamba, which was followed by decisive 5-0 verdicts over Czechoslovakia’s Michal Franek, the Soviet Union’s Evgeniy Zaytsev and Great Britain’s Richard Woodhall, a future WBC super middleweight titleholder. Jones dominated to such a degree that he engaged in occasional showboating, antics that proved unpopular in some quarters. In the final Jones out-landed Park 86-32 according to NBC’s Count-a-Punch (which utilized the CompuBox program) and the American’s margin grew with every successive round. His Val Barker honor was only the third given to a non-gold medalist (American flyweight Louis Laurie in 1936 and Kenyan featherweight Philip Waruinge in 1968, both bronze medalists, were the others).
Professional career – Jones is a lock for the Hall of Fame but at 43 he remains active and sports a 56-8 (40) record. Though he has lost three of his last five (but has won his last two), Jones locked in his lofty status by what he achieved in the first 14 years of his career. He captured titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight, won 49 of his first 50 fights (a DQ loss to Montell Griffin being the only blemish in that span) and owns a 22-3 (14) record in major title fights.
His victims include Jorge Vaca, Jorge Castro, Bernard Hopkins, Thulani Malinga, James Toney, Vinny Pazienza, Eric Lucas, Mike McCallum, Virgil Hill, Lou Del Valle, Reggie Johnson, Julio Cesar Gonzalez, Clinton Woods, John Ruiz, Antonio Tarver, Felix Trinidad, Jeff Lacy and Griffin – all of whom either had or would hold titles. As packed as that resume is, there are some big names missing – Dariusz Michalczewski, Nigel Benn, Steve Collins, Chris Eubank and Gerald McClellan among them. Still, the clamor for Jones to face them was based on a desire to see Jones showcase his cosmic talents against the very best opposition – and most of his critics would agree that Jones would have been heavily favored to beat each and every one of them. That’s because at his peak Jones was unlike any fighter who had yet lived. His extreme speed rendered his jab virtually obsolete and when the mood struck him he could be tremendously destructive. All the proof one needs of that is to view the Griffin rematch, when a fired-up “R.J.” annihilated his opponent in 151 breathtaking seconds. If that isn’t enough, the one-punch body shot KO of Virgil Hill and the obliterations of Thomas Tate, Bryant Brannon, Pazienza and Woods should suffice.