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Yesterday is the New Today

Stop the presses! Yesterday's news is back in the headlines.

Roy Jones Jr. made himself relevant again Saturday night at Madison Square Garden where the former No. 1 pound-for-pound champion reigned supreme with a unanimous 12-round decision against Felix "Tito" Trinidad.

Billed as "Bring On the Titans," the light heavyweight clash of ring legends proved a worthy start to 2008 contrary to criticism that Jones, 39, and Trinidad, 35, have overstayed their era among boxing's elite.

Jones, the four-division, eight-time world champion from Pensacola, Fla., had fought just two bouts in the last 18 months, winning both against lesser opposition.

Beating Prince Badi Ajamu and Anthony Hanshaw did little to rehabilitate the stature Jones lost after devastating knockout losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson in May and September of 2004.

But at least Jones was riding a modicum of momentum compared to Trinidad. The five-time, three-division world champion from Puerto Rico hadn't fought in nearly three years and was supposedly retired after losing a one-sided decision against Winky Wright in May 2005.

With so much time away from the spotlight, both fighters walked the fine line of feeling rested and gutsy or looking old and rusty in their high-profile showdown.

But to their credit, each fighter used the motivation of the other's lofty reputations to get in great shape, with Trinidad muscling up to the exact catch weight of 170 pounds, the biggest he's ever been in his career. Jones tipped the scales at 169 1/2 pounds, the lightest he's fought since his last super middleweight title defense in October, 1996, more than decade ago.

With their legends on the line, the two future Hall of Famers gave their all in the the bid to recapture glory. Trinidad started fast with wicked combinations to the body, but eventually gave way to the superior speed and power of Jones, who scored knockdowns in the seventh and 10th rounds and showboated over referee Arthur Mercante Jr.'s objections to entertain a crowd of 12,162 and an HBO PPV audience.

" I just turned 39 but I looked like I just turned 29 and I feel like I turned 19,'' said Jones, who celebrated his birthday last Wednesday but said his age really doesn't matter in response to critics who doubted him.

"Like I tell people all the time, I didn't know when I was coming here, I don't know when I'm going to leave, so I don't know when exactly is my time,'' Jones said. "I'm on God's time, and it's my time when he says it is. Tonight was my time."

Or as Mark Taffet, HBO PPV senior vice president, saw it: "Roy was very entertaining and Tito kept fighting. With the victory, Roy has earned the right to ask for another big fight."

Jones grew more confident and aggressive after absorbing some body shots and using his defense to deflect most of Trinidad's best combinations in the early rounds. Naturally bigger and stronger, Jones began unloading his offense with impunity once it became apparent the only way he could get hurt is by being too careless.

That didn't stop Jones from flirting with danger. He stuck out his chin with his guards down and gyrated his hips, ostensibly to taunt Trinidad but also to amuse the crowd. The antics drew the ire of Mercante.

"I hope y'all got your money's worth. I hope I entertained,'' Jones said. "I had to argue with the referee a little bit. He got got mad because I was trying to give y'all a little razzle dazzle. He's telling me, 'You can't showboat," and I was telling him, 'Look, these people paid their money to see me get down and you're going to tell me I can't showboat.' This is what I do. My people don't come to watch me box. They come to see me put on a show. And that's what I did tonight."

Jones, who wants the winner of the Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Calzaghe bout that's planned for April, acknowledged that his sagging career needed the boost of a decisive victory against a quality opponent .

He thanked Trinidad's father-trainer for issuing the challenge that led to promoter Don King putting together the long-awaited fight. The two were first supposed to meet in 2001 when they were both in their primes, but Trinidad was knocked out by Hopkins before the Jones fight could materialize.

"Roy Jones is a very fast fighter," Trinidad said Saturday night. "He's very uncomfortable to fight. I feel in the first six rounds I was winning the fight, but in the round that he caught me with a great punch, I think it was the seventh round, I tried to do my best after that, but I lost."

King says he plans to keep Trinidad active. "He only lost this fight because it was the great Roy Jones,'' the promoter said. "I think all the rest of them out there, Tito can beat."

Trinidad hasn't decided his plans after following his father's lead in retiring three years ago. "I'm going to go home an talk it over with my father but this time I will make the decision whether to retire,'' he said.

seven years in the making, some argued that Saturday's bout was too late to matter. But in rejuvenating his standing, Jones counts the victory over Trinidad to be better late than never.

"When Trinidad's daddy called my name, I know why he was calling my name,'' Jones said. "He wanted somebody to inspire his son to get right. He fought a hard fight. He gave it his all. I thank them for challenging me because they made me get off my backside and do what I had to do. When somebody is coming for you, they're coming ready. So I had to get right."

The effort to "get right" again had been an ongoing battle for Jones since he bulked up from light heavyweight to beat WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz in March, 2003, becoming the first former middleweight champion in 106 years to win a heavyweight title.

Packing on the pounds paved the way for Jones to make history, but scaling back down in weight proved more problematic.

Just eight months after defeating Ruiz, Jones retained the light heavyweight title with a majority decision against Tarver in November, 2003 but wasn't impressive doing it.

Jones then lost his next three fights, getting knocked out cold by Tarver in the second round and again by Johnson in the ninth round, before losing the rubber match to Tarver in October, 2005 by unanimous decision.

The rapid downfall left Jones no longer the sport's top pound-for-pound champion, but also baffled by the feeling that his body was betraying him.

"If you temper steel and you don't temper it right, it breaks easy,'' said Alton Merkerson, Jones' long-time trainer. "The body is the same way. If you're not right, anything can happen. And, for those three fights, Roy's body was not where it was supposed to be.

"We had everybody trying to find out what was going on because it was obvious something wasn't right. In training, some time when he was jumping rope or trying to execute something that wouldn't flow like he wanted, I'd see him in a corner getting mad at himself and frustrated.

"I used to have to run him out of the gym, but after the fight against Ruiz he would come to me and say, 'That's enough for today.' He just didn't have the energy."

It wasn't until Saturday night that Merkerson again saw the flash, fury and confidence come together that once made the former U.S. Olympic star appear invincible.

"On a scale from 1 to 10, I would give Roy a 9,'' Merkerson said after Jones did everything he wanted against Trinidad except fulfill his vow of winning by knockout.

" I just turned 39 but I looked like I just turned 29 and I feel like I turned 19,'' said Jones, who celebrated his birthday last Wednesday but said his age really doesn't matter in response to critics who doubted him.

"Like I tell people all the time, I didn't know when I was coming here, I don't know when I'm going to leave, so I don't know when exactly is my time,'' Jones said. "I'm on God's time, and it's my time when he says it is. Tonight was my time."

Or as Mark Taffet, HBO PPV senior vice president, saw it: "Roy was very entertaining and Tito kept fighting. With the victory, Roy has earned the right to ask for another big fight."

Jones grew more confident and aggressive after absorbing some body shots and using his defense to deflect most of Trinidad's best combinations in the early rounds. Naturally bigger and stronger, Jones began unloading his offense with impunity once it became apparent the only way he could get hurt is by being too careless.

That didn't stop Jones from flirting with danger. He stuck out his chin with his guards down and gyrated his hips, ostensibly to taunt Trinidad but also to amuse the crowd. The antics drew the ire of Mercante.

"I hope y'all got your money's worth. I hope I entertained,'' Jones said. "I had to argue with the referee a little bit. He got got mad because I was trying to give y'all a little razzle dazzle. He's telling me, 'You can't showboat," and I was telling him, 'Look, these people paid their money to see me get down and you're going to tell me I can't showboat.' This is what I do. My people don't come to watch me box. They come to see me put on a show. And that's what I did tonight."

Jones, who wants the winner of the Bernard Hopkins vs. Joe Calzaghe bout that's planned for April, acknowledged that his sagging career needed the boost of a decisive victory against a quality opponent .

He thanked Trinidad's father-trainer for issuing the challenge that led to promoter Don King putting together the long-awaited fight. The two were first supposed to meet in 2001 when they were both in their primes, but Trinidad was knocked out by Hopkins before the Jones fight could materialize.

"Roy Jones is a very fast fighter," Trinidad said Saturday night. "He's very uncomfortable to fight. I feel in the first six rounds I was winning the fight, but in the round that he caught me with a great punch, I think it was the seventh round, I tried to do my best after that, but I lost."

King says he plans to keep Trinidad active. "He only lost this fight because it was the great Roy Jones,'' the promoter said. "I think all the rest of them out there, Tito can beat."

Trinidad hasn't decided his plans after following his father's lead in retiring three years ago. "I'm going to go home an talk it over with my father but this time I will make the decision whether to retire,'' he said.

seven years in the making, some argued that Saturday's bout was too late to matter. But in rejuvenating his standing, Jones counts the victory over Trinidad to be better late than never.

"When Trinidad's daddy called my name, I know why he was calling my name,'' Jones said. "He wanted somebody to inspire his son to get right. He fought a hard fight. He gave it his all. I thank them for challenging me because they made me get off my backside and do what I had to do. When somebody is coming for you, they're coming ready. So I had to get right."

The effort to "get right" again had been an ongoing battle for Jones since he bulked up from light heavyweight to beat WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz in March, 2003, becoming the first former middleweight champion in 106 years to win a heavyweight title.

Packing on the pounds paved the way for Jones to make history, but scaling back down in weight proved more problematic.

Just eight months after defeating Ruiz, Jones retained the light heavyweight title with a majority decision against Tarver in November, 2003 but wasn't impressive doing it.

Jones then lost his next three fights, getting knocked out cold by Tarver in the second round and again by Johnson in the ninth round, before losing the rubber match to Tarver in October, 2005 by unanimous decision.

The rapid downfall left Jones no longer the sport's top pound-for-pound champion, but also baffled by the feeling that his body was betraying him.

"If you temper steel and you don't temper it right, it breaks easy,'' said Alton Merkerson, Jones' long-time trainer. "The body is the same way. If you're not right, anything can happen. And, for those three fights, Roy's body was not where it was supposed to be.

"We had everybody trying to find out what was going on because it was obvious something wasn't right. In training, some time when he was jumping rope or trying to execute something that wouldn't flow like he wanted, I'd see him in a corner getting mad at himself and frustrated.

"I used to have to run him out of the gym, but after the fight against Ruiz he would come to me and say, 'That's enough for today.' He just didn't have the energy."

It wasn't until Saturday night that Merkerson again saw the flash, fury and confidence come together that once made the former U.S. Olympic star appear invincible.

"On a scale from 1 to 10, I would give Roy a 9,'' Merkerson said after Jones did everything he wanted against Trinidad except fulfill his vow of winning by knockout.

Posted 12:00 AM | Jan 22, 2008

Felix Trinidad vs Roy Jones Jr.

HBO PPV - Jan. 19, 2008

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