The fluid, lightning-quick boxing prodigy from Pensacola, Fla. drew comparisons to Sugar Ray Leonard as he soundly peppered South Korea's Si-Hun Park in 1988 before a rabid and hostile, anti-American crowd of 12,000 on the last day of boxing competition at the Seoul Olympics. An outpouring of outrage and sympathy provided little solace for Jones, however, after being jobbed of the Gold Medal by corrupt judging. After displaying bravery and poise in the ring as the unbelievable decision was announced, emotions eventually overcame Roy as he descended the steps out of the ring and buried his face in a white towel. Later, in the humid back hallway of stuffy Chamshil Students Gymnasium, an ashamed Park congratulated Jones as the true victor.
As the 20-year anniversary of that haunting moment in Roy's career approaches, he prepares for yet another watershed moment in what has unfolded as a storied and shining professional career. Once the unchallenged bearer of the title, "best pound-for-pound" boxer in the world, Roy now takes on an unaccustomed role-reversal as a decided underdog against world light heavyweight champion Joe Calzaghe, who is unbeaten in 45 contests and bested the cagey and resilient Bernard Hopkins in April.
At age, 39, having fought epic battles against Hopkins, James "Lights Out" Toney, Michael McCallum, Lou Del Valle, Reggie Johnson, heavyweight champion John Ruiz, Antonio Tarver and most recently, Felix "Tito" Trinidad, and having scored sensational, highlight reel knockouts against Thomas Tate, Vinny Pazienza, Merqui Sosa, Virgil Hill and a revenge match against Montel Griffin, Jones takes on his biggest challenge since the legendary Toney fight - 14 years ago.
Jones can match a Venetian leather shopkeeper when it comes to showing off an impressive belt collection. As an eight-time world champion in four different weight classes his match against Calzaghe ironically will have no title belt on the line...un-chartered territory for Jones who during his prime would've never considered not fighting for a title belt, especially against an undefeated opponent with a longer winless streak than him.
If the hard-fought unanimous 12-round decision against Bernard Hopkins thrust Jones on the main stage in 1993, it was his thrilling and astonishing win against unbeaten James Toney a year later that established his long reign as boxing's best "pound-for-pound" titlist. He literally toyed with the rattled Toney, mocking him with the now famous "chicken move" before staggering him to the ropes with a blurring left en route to a shockingly easy win.
Jones was literally unstoppable after that, even playing in a summer professional basketball game with the Jacksonville Barracudas before subduing Canadian Eric Lucas hours later in a jammed-packed arena.
Just when it appeared Jones would elevate his greatness to unprecedented heights, the unthinkable happened. While on his way to yet another dominating victory over an unbeaten, but overmatched Montell Griffin in Atlantic City in 1997, he couldn't put the brakes on his own speed and quickness. Wilting under a barrage of blurring punches, Griffin tilted to one knee as Jones, anxious to finish him off, tried to hold back two half-hearted punches that glanced off his opponent's battered face. Referee Tony Perez immediately moved in, waved off Jones and to the stunned champion's disbelief, declared a dazed Griffin the winner on a disqualification...hitting an opponent when he's down.
It was the Seoul, Korea nightmare all over again.
Roy demanded an immediate rematch and capitulated to Montell, agreeing to anything he wanted. Griffin took full advantage, so while Roy impatiently waited for the fight at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut to arrive, he smoldered and seethed as he watched Griffin gloat and preen about his epic triumph over Jones. Carrying the stinging memory of his first professional setback, Jones was uncharacteristically focused on training for the rematch. He forewent his passion for basketball. He was disciplined and edgy. Five months later, Jones and Griffin faced off again, only this time there was no doubt left as to who was the better pugilist. Jones roared out of the corner and floored Griffin twice. The merciful end came at the 2:31 mark of the first round. It was over in an instant.
With the aberration loss now corrected, Jones needed bigger challenges and he literally got it when heavyweight champion John Ruiz agreed to fight him on March 1, 2003. Jones was hoping to become the first middleweight to win the heavyweight crown since Bob Fitzsimmons did it in 1897. Jones utilized secretive, specialized training in preparing for Ruiz. The big speculation was how heavy Roy would come into the fight. Would he crack 200 lbs. and how would that affect his speed and quickness? He surprised everyone by coming in well below 200, but simply had too much talent for the stronger, but slower Ruiz. Jones breezed to a 12-round nod and even though he was a true heavyweight champ, he had no desire to remain there.
His sights were now set on dropping back to light heavy and taking on longtime Florida rival Antonio Tarver. The bitterness and disdain between Jones and Tarver was the main storyline of the fight and crested the week prior to their Nov. 8, 2003 battle at Mandalay Bay. The sudden weight division drop physically effected Jones. In his toughest pro fight to date, he gutted out a majority decision and for the first time, showed signs of vulnerability.
In May 2004, Jones-Tarver II took place and this time Roy wasn't as fortunate. Tarver rolled Jones on his back in the second round -- a disturbing development considering the close confrontation in their first meeting. Roy slowly rose to his feet, but the referee reached the count of 10 and halted the contest.
Taking 16 months off, his longest layoff ever, Jones re-entered the ring on Sept. 25, 2004 against Glen Johnson for the IBF light heavyweight crown. The rust showed, as Johnson unleashed a sickening and horrific knockout of Jones in the ninth round.
It was back to the drawing board, however, for Jones, who refused to conclude his brilliant career in such inglorious fashion. He regrouped and dug deep in training for a third encounter with Tarver. The fight took place in St. Petersburg, FL on Oct. 1, 2005 and despite a gallant and stellar effort, Tarver emerged the victor in a grueling 12-round bout.
Surely, Jones would consider hanging it up after a second disappointing setback to Tarver, but that just isn't his style. He chalked up a couple confidence wins before taking on another boxing legend, Felix "Tito" Trinidad on Jan. 19, three days after his 39th birthday. Jones actually had his crosshairs set on Trinidad years earlier, when both were still in their prime, but Trinidad's protective father and trainer wanted nothing to do with the brash, stronger and quicker Pensacola fighter.
Two of the best fighters in the past 10 years made historic Madison Square Garden in New York the venue. Roy has always fought well in the Big Apple and he showed verve and a renewed energy in his fight against Trinidad. Throwing crisp, accurate punches, Jones thumped the weary Puerto Rican into submission, dropping Trinidad twice in cruising to a unanimous 117-109, 117-109, 116-110 decision.
Rejuvenated, reenergized, retooled and perhaps...even reborn, Jones could be on the precipice of a "George Foreman-type" comeback in his own inimitable, stylish way. Anyway you look at it, Jones' remarkable career just might only get better with age.
A proven motion picture and television talent, Jones has had parts in The Sentinel, Living Single, Watcher, In Living Color, Married With Children, Dateline, Arli$$, The Wayan Brothers Show, The Devil's Advocate, New Jersey Turnpikes and the final two films of The Matrix trilogy. Jones also appears in a video game based on The Matrix, and stars in his own video game produced by EA Sports called Knock Out Kings.
The proud father of three sons still finds the time to devote many hours speaking to America's youth on the value of education and the perils of drugs. He has also been an advocate of boxing reform, where he has testified at U.S. Senate hearings on behalf of his fellow boxers.
"When you have been blessed as I have been," said Jones, "you have to give something back. If some day I find that I have turned around the life of some troubled young man or woman, I will accept that as an award as great as any I have ever received."
He continues to sign the world's top amateurs to promotional contracts at his own Square Ring Productions so he may pass along the unparalleled knowledge he has gained through decades of participation in the Sweet Science of boxing.