Action Images/Reuters/Steve Marcus
FORMER middleweight, super-middleweight, light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr has urged Andre Ward, a man who has held titles at super-middleweight and light-heavyweight, to continue going through the weight classes if he’s to renege on his retirement and return to the ring this year.
Thirty-three-year-old Ward, last seen dismantling Sergey Kovalev in June, announced his retirement from the sport in November, yet has recently posted more than one cryptic message teasing the prospect of an imminent u-turn. Moreover, Ward, 32-0, has made a point of specifying his current weight, 199 pounds, suggesting if he does return it might be a division or two up from light-heavyweight. This small detail has got Jones, someone who knows all about soaring through the weights and shocking the world, extremely excited.
“Of course he should do it,” Jones told Boxing News. “I set the tone. If I did it, it shows he can do it. He can come on in and clean it all up. He can get a cruiserweight title, add that to his collection, and then add the heavyweight title on top of it.
“It can be done. I showed that. I think he can do whatever he wants to do. He’s good enough to make it happen.”
Back in March 2003, Roy Jones was good enough to outbox then-WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz, a man cherry-picked as the path of least resistance, and dazzled in the process. Weighing just 193lbs, he was too quick, too skilful, and even hurt and staggered the bigger man on occasion.
Yet, in retrospect, that was just the start of the story; just the beginning of Jones’ heavyweight chapter. He’d never fight again at the weight, no, but a questionable trip back to light-heavyweight in order to sort out a dispute with Antonio Tarver occurred just eight months later and would, we’d discover, serve to undo a lot of the Floridian’s great work.
Stripped of muscle, his body depleted, Jones eked past Tarver in their first encounter, looking a shadow of his former self, and was then famously knocked out in just two rounds when they rematched six months later.
“If I could do it all again, I would have probably stopped and taken two years off after I won the heavyweight title,” Jones admits. “That would have given me enough time for my body to lose the weight the right way. My body needed that time to recover and I didn’t give it time to recover. It needed that break.”
Soon to turn 50, Jones, a four-weight world champion, remains an active fighter. His next fight, and apparently last, takes place on February 8 at Pensacola’s Civic Center, the same venue in which Jones, then a wide-eyed 20-year old whose Olympic dream had been stolen from him, made his professional boxing debut in 1989. It will be televised live on UFC Fight Pass.
*** An in-depth conversation with Roy Jones Jr is one of the features of next week’s Boxing News (digital February 6, print February 8) ***