Friday, August 21, 2009

Notes from the Edge

Wrote a prediction piece on Diaz/Malignaggi over at nomas, please check it out.

I want to say a quick word on Jones/Lacy, which I haven’t been able to see yet other than the highlights. I’m a bit surprised that Jones has been getting even this limited amount of heat for the win, but not altogether dismissive of the matter. First, let me say that from the looks of it Jones performed quite admirably. He seems to have his speed back and some of the confidence that Tarver jarred loose with that fairytale left he landed.

That being said I find it hard to be too impressed given the opposition. I actually kind of like Jeff Lacy, who seems to me the sort of decent guy who was simply set up with expectations that were beyond his capacity, but the truth is he’s so long gone any proper judgments related to his performance are impossible to make. I was ringside for Taylor/Lacy last year, one of the few who cheered for him, but it was immediately clear he was a lost cause. One of my favorite things about going to a live fight is the slow build in class and speed as the card progresses, like watching a series of basketball games beginning with grade-schoolers and culminating in a playoff game. When Lacy fought it was shocking in the other way, a chiseled man who labored about the ring like a spent thoroughbred. He looked as though he was sparring underwater, using resistance training to increase his speed.

So it was unsurprising to me when even this faded Jones gave him a lesson. It was not Jones’ speed that faltered, rather his stamina and his legs. The hands are still there, it’s just the peripherals that have gone. Still, it did leave me with a bit of intrigue. Roy is a strange character, his caution first style robbed us of potentially seeing one of the most accomplished fighters in history, rather than merely one of the most impressive. While he often displayed such mastery that his fights ceased to be competition and became performance, he seemed to hold back in the ring, letting inferior opponents linger. It left you with the question of what he was really capable of.

So it’s interesting that in his late career Roy Jones seems desperate to give us his finest. I don’t think it’s lack of money, rather some personal axe he has left to grind. I suspect the Calzaghe fight might have been particularly important. Roy never liked taking punches as a young fighter. He was so averse to it that he would stink out the joint rather than close the show; and then when Tarver and Johnson abused him it seemed as though his hesitation had been proved correct; one doesn’t want to take a shot, particularly when there seems to be an inherent vulnerability.

But with the Calzaghe fight there seemed to have been some sort of paradigm shift within him. He got as good a hiding as one is likely to see and survived. It’s almost as if he realized that, contrary to his guiding philosophy, getting whipped isn’t so bad.

It’s a matter of boxing lore that Muhammed Ali, a defensive mastermind, discovered that he could take a shot in his first fight with Frazier, and that liberated him to go beyond pain and into history. I wonder if something similar happened to Roy. he doesn’t have the tools anymore to make an extended run, but he seems to have the outsized sense of self-belief to try to push himself. He might have been better served losing somewhere along the way, (the Montell Griffin fight doesn’t count.) If it would have taken the edge off and allowed him to really let loose. Sometimes that 0 on the record can be more crippling than invigorating. Maybe if Floyd had slipped up things would be different where he is concerned as well.

All that being said, I hope Roy continues on his current path, fighting fringe guys and exhibiting the athletic gifts he alone possesses. While his heart might be in the right place, I don’t want to see him take another beating. It's the same way I feel about Holyfield. Let them keep going, there’s nothing wrong with acting like a still relevant fighter; as long as you don’t use it as your address.

So that’s why, despite the greatness of this interview between Hopkins and Jones Jr., I hope the long awaited rematch remains a fantasy. A win by Hopkins wouldn’t mean anything, and one by Jones would confuse matters too much. I'll be rooting for Jones to get his mini-redemption, not that he even really needs it, but the relevant pages have already been written for Jones, and that's the way it should stay.

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