Could the Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones Jr fight be more significant than first thought?
By Liam Fitzgerald: Providing that they come through their respective fights next Wednesday unscathed, we will be witnessing a rematch between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr early in 2010. Their first bout took place amazingly 16 years ago but both men are completely different fighters now and have been through a lot since then. Jones Jr comfortably won that first encounter by a unanimous decision as his lightning quick combinations proved far too classy for Hopkins to deal with. However, as I said, that was a very long time ago and both men are approaching the end of their careers now.
Many people correctly are bemoaning the fact that this rematch didn’t take 10 years ago when they were both in their prime and I would definitely agree with this. However, I think this fight could still prove to be significant, not in terms of the division no, but for the legacies of the two fighters.
I have to start by saying I’m a huge Bernard Hopkins fan so apologies if anyone thinks I’m being biased towards him. However, I’ve always felt that Roy Jones Jr is one of the most gifted boxers there has ever been and his greatness can’t be denied. Yet which one of these two “Hall of Famers” will receive greater recognition after they retire?
For me this question is still up for debate and it is more than possible that it can only be answered after these two legends fight again. I will discuss this further later on but for the moment I want to compare their respective records and achievements.
Firstly, after losing to Jones in 93 it took Bernard Hopkins six fights before he finally became IBF World Middleweight champion. He successfully defended this title for 6 years, including a win over the then unbeaten Jamaican star Glen Johnson, before entering the Middleweight unification tournament with Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad and William Joppy. Having beaten Holmes to capture the WBC belt, Hopkins took on Trinidad in the final. “Tito” had a big reputation with a damaging left hook but Hopkins fought brilliantly. He out-smarted Trinidad and neutralized his threat before sensationally knocking him out in the 12th round. This was a career defining victory which got him the worldwide recognition and acclaim he deserved. He went on to unify all the middleweight belts with victory over Oscar De la Hoya and after two narrow defeats to Jermain Taylor moved up in weight to comprehensively beat the recognised Light-heavyweight number 1, Antonio Tarver, on points. He also beat top 10 p4p rated Winky Wright before another close loss to unbeaten Joe Calzaghe. His last appearance was another awe inspiring demolition of an unbeaten prospect, Kelly Pavlik, who had no answer to the ring wizardry of his much older opponent.
In the eyes of many, including myself, Roy Jones Jr was the p4p number 1 from the late 90’s to the first few years of this decade. He simply overwhelmed his opponents as his incredible boxing skills saw him dominate every fight in which he was in. He had almost won the fight before even entering the ring with his opponents intimidated by his style and his aura of invincibility. One fight that sticks out for me is his demolition of future Light Heavyweight world champion Clinton Woods, where the accuracy of Jones Jr overwhelmed his opponent and saw hi soon dispatched. Jones Jr proved his dominance by picking up world titles at Middleweight, Super Middleweight and Light Heavyweight. He then went on to the unthinkable and beat John Ruiz to pick up the WBA Heavyweight title. His fabulous boxing ability was too much for the bigger, stronger man and he wrote himself into the history books with this achievement.
Therefore, both men’s greatness is reflected in their domination of respective divisions. However, both men have picked up 5 defeats in their prestigious careers and this is worth analyzing. If you look at the manner of defeats, this is where the differences in the two can be found. If we discount Jones Jr’s disqualification vs. Montell Griffin and Hopkins’ loss to Clinton Mitchell in his first fight, it’s clear that Hopkins has been more than impressive in defeat. Only Jones Jr has beaten him decisively. I felt he definitely should have been given the decision in his second fight against Jermain Taylor whilst the first was at worst a narrow defeat. Both men were beaten by Joe Calzaghe and though they both also knocked him down in the 1st round, Jones Jr in reality never looked like getting a decision whereas Hopkins was much more accurate than the Welshman and only lost through a poor work rate. In contrast, Jones was brutally knocked out by Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, two fighters that Hopkins has beat. He also lost comfortably on points to Tarver for a third consecutive defeat. My point here is that if you consider their respective defeats, without doubt Roy’s have tainted his legacy more than Bernard’s.
Neither man’s victories nor achievements can be discredited but I feel that on the whole Bernard’s wins have come against slightly superior opposition. When Jones Jr was at the peak of his powers and was considered p4p number 1, his victories were not against p4p top 10 fighters. Richard Hall, Derrick Harmon, Glen Kelly and Clinton Woods were never in his class and though he ruthlessly disposed of them, this was never a great shock. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to discredit Roy because in beating men like Hopkins, James Toney and Montell Griffin he showed his true class but I do believe Hopkins slightly edges him on this count. The Pavlik and Trinidad victories were exceptional against very highly rated men, especially so in Trinidad’s case. Add in wins over fighters such as Oscar De la Hoya, William Joppy, Glen Johnson and Ronald Wright and Hopkins is without doubt the man for the big occasion.
However, the principal reason why Jones Jr is favoured by more fight fans is his style. He has always been flashier than Hopkins and is more of an entertainer. Personally, I enjoy Hopkins defensive boxing and how he outwits his opponents but if I paid money to watch a fight, I would have to say I would prefer to watch Jones Jr.
Therefore, it is clear how there is such a small margin in how these two legends will be remembered. This brings me on to the significance of their potential match up. If Hopkins was to crush Jones, which is not too unlikely considering the way their careers have gone recently, I think he may be remembered as the superior fighter by boxing fans in 10 years for example. However, if Jones was able to upset the odds and overcome the Hopkins or even succumbed to a close loss, I feel this would probably push him ahead in terms of status. Hopkins is heavy favourite so anything but a comprehensive win could be damaging to him. It has the potential to be a historic fight and I’ll personally be behind Bernard on the night.