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Andre Ward: ‘Roy Jones had $40M offer to fight Mike Tyson and turned it down’

Andre Ward Mike Tyson Roy Jones Jr.

By Jeff Aronow: Andre Ward reveals that Roy Jones Jr. turned down a huge offer of $40 million to fight Mike Tyson shortly after he’d beaten WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz in 2003. Ward says Jones turned it down the offer to fight Tyson, and went back down to the light heavyweight division to fight Antonio Tarver in November 2003.

Roy Jones fighting Antonio Tarver made no sense at all

The fight with Tarver likely was nowhere near the amount of money that Jones could have made fighting Tyson. Jones beat Tarver by a close 12 round majority decision. But instead of going back up to heavyweight to take the Tyson fight, Jones fought Tarver in a needless rematch, and was knocked out in the 2nd round in May 2004. Once Jones beat Ruiz to become the WBA heavyweight champion of the world, he was in a position to get big money fights against Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and the Klitschko brothers. Instead of going after those fights, Jones decided to fight Tarver.

Ward says he wanted Jones to just take the offer to fight Tyson for $40 million, and then move off into the sunset to retire. Jones chose to take the lesser fight with Tarver, and basically undermined his own career.

Ward: Roy Jones Jr. turned down $40 million to fight Mike Tyson

“The thing after the Ruiz fight is we had the same manager James Prince,” said Ward to JRE Clips. “There was a [Mike] Tyson fight on the table, and I believe I’m accurate when I say this it was somewhere around $40 million guaranteed. There was an upside too. You stay at heavyweight, keep the weight on, and Tyson wasn’t quite Tyson at that time. He was still dangerous, but he wasn’t quite Tyson. I think they were working towards it. What I heard was Roy wanted more money.

James Prince was like, ‘Take this $40 million. There’s going to be an upside, it’s you and Mike Tyson.’ Roy somehow said, ‘No, the fight will be there down the road,’ and put his attention to Antonio Tarver, and the rest is history. I wanted to see him fight Tyson and ride off into the sunset. One more and your out. Roy could have had a full career, and rode off into the sunset, hunting and fishing, doing whatever he does, and still not been fundamentally sound. After he beat John Ruiz for the heavyweight championship of the world,” said Ward.

It’s an understatement for Ward to say that Mike Tyson wasn’t the same fighter by 2003. He was 37-years-old, and had recently been knocked out by Lennox Lewis in an 8th round stoppage in 2002. For all intents and purposes, Tyson was over-the-hill. Tyson only won one more fight for the remainder of his career in beating Clifford Etienne in 2003. He then lost his last two fights against Danny Williams andKevin McBride before retiring in 2005. As such, Jones Jr. missed out on a huge fight against Tyson that was winnable for him in 2003.

Jones Jr. turning down $40 million doesn’t make sense

For the average person, it obviously doesn’t make sense to understand why Jones would turn down $40 million for a fight against Mike Tyson. Taking a smaller match against Antonio Tarver, it doesn’t make sense. But, Jones had been so successful during his career, and he likely thought that he was just going to continue to win fights. So there might not have been the sense of urgency to take the fight with Tyson like there would be for someone else.

Looking at it logically it didn’t make sense for Jones Jr. turn down $40 million, and then face Tarver. This guy wasn’t a massive superstar, and wasn’t even close to that level. We see guys like Floyd Mayweather Jr. turning down huge money fights against Manny Pacquiao, and staying inactive for years without returning to the ring. It’s not all that uncommon for superstar fighters to fail to take advantage of huge opportunities they have in front of them. Mayweather could have made a lot more money with his career than he has.

Roy Jones Jr. stripped off 25-lbs. of muscle to fight Antonio Tarver at 175

“I’d been going to multiple Roy Jones fights leading up to that heavyweight fight. Antonio Tarver, who I have a lot of respect for,” said Ward. “Antonio was following Roy around, trying to get him to notice him. He was trying to get him to take a fight. I remember as clear as day. At a post-fight press conference after Roy became the heavyweight champion of the world, and after being the middleweight champion starting at 160. Antonio Tarver interrupted the press conference. He said, ‘Roy Jones, you been ducking me, you been running.’ He’s going on and on and on. Roy looks at Tarver, and gives him the attention he’s been after.

And he said, ‘I’m going to whoop you. We’re going to make that fight happen.’ At that moment, I’m thinking, ‘No, Roy. No, don’t do it. You’re the heavyweight champion of the world. Tarver was still light heavyweight. And sure enough, Roy went down, stripped off 25 pounds of muscle that he’d build up with Mackie Shieldstone to get ready for the heavyweight fight,” said Ward.

It sounds crazy that Roy Jones Jr. would lose all that muscle weight after beating John Ruiz to become the WBA heavyweight champion. Jones must have felt like he was invincible at that point in his career for him to lose 25 pounds of muscle, and go back down to 175 for a lesser fight against Tarver rather than remain at heavyweight to fight Tyson.

Even after beating Tarver, Jones Jr. gave him a rematch instead of going back up to heavyweight

“He went down there, fought a close fight, but didn’t look like himself,” said Ward. “He took the rematch. Even after the first fight with Tarver, you run for the hills. ‘You know, I beat him. I wasn’t myself. I’m going back up.’ He took the rematch, and got knocked out. He beat Ruiz, went back down, fought Tarver the first time, and then fought the rematch, and then got knocked out. They fought two times in a row, and then ended up fighting a third time way down the road,” said Ward.

Jones had a chance to move on after he beat Tarver in there first fight, and go back up to heavyweight for the Tyson Fight. He chose not to make that move, and it ended up with disastrous consequences for him. Tarver knocked Jones out in the 2nd round in their rematch in May 2004, and his career was never the same. Jones would then suffer another two loses to Glen Johnson and Tarver in a third fight. It was all downhill from there for Jones. He would later lose to Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins, Denis Lebedev, Danny Green and Enzo Maccarinelli. Most of those defeats were knockout losses for Jones.

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