Tuesday, May 29, 2007


Chicken rancher and former boxing champ Roy Jones, Jr., cropped up from behind the fences of his Pensacola, Florida farm last week. He appeared at a press conference at Madison Square Garden in New York City to announce that he’s returning to the ring to face the unperceived Anthony Hanshaw on July 14th in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Jones, who is a longtime breeder of chickens for cockfights, claims he wants to strut his stuff again and he’s cocksure that a barnyard throw down against Hanshaw will help him do just that.

Hanshaw, an unascertained 29 year-old from Ohio with a pro record of 21-0-1 (14) KO’s could have a good chance to upset Jones if he fights using youth and confidence. Hanshaw is a former U.S. amateur standout who logged more than 300 wins and turned pro in 2000 after failing to make the Olympic team when he lost to eventual bronze medal winner Jermain Taylor in the trials.

As a pro Hanshaw has had a hot and cold career. After winning his first 18 fights he suffered through a two-year stretch of inactivity beginning in 2004 due to an injury to his left shoulder that required surgery and rehabilitation. Hanshaw was also still dealing with a family tragedy that resulted in the unfortunate death of his father, Henry Hanshaw, in an electrical accident. He is perhaps best known for earlier this year making it to the finals of Showtime’s SHOBOX super middleweight tournament in which he eventually ended up fighting to a draw against Frenchman Jean Paul Mendy.

For Hanshaw, the timing could be right to upset a legend as Jones has fallen far from the form he showed while reigning as the pound-for-pound king in the mid-to-late 1990’s.

Jones now resides at the other end of the spectrum from the up-and-coming Hanshaw. At 38 years old with a record of 50-4 (38) KO’s, Roy has lost three of his last four fights – two by knockout. Many feel the expiration date on Jones’ 18 year-long professional career passed after he beat Johnny Ruiz in 2004 for the WBA heavyweight title. But, as he often does, Jones feels differently about things.

After arriving 45 minutes late for last week’s press conference (which is early for him) Jones told the assembled media that, “There’s plenty of boxing life left in me yet. I’m taking this fight to measure myself. No one can hold me to a greater standard than I hold myself and I will use Hanshaw as my measuring stick. I’m coming not only to win but to win big and to shine from start to finish.”

Jones hasn’t fought since an ill-conceived match last July in Boise, Idaho against Camden New Jersey’s version of royalty – “Prince” Badi Ajamu. Jones showed flashes of his old self against Ajamu and after a rocky first round he pecked his way to a near shutout on the judges’ scorecards. Although he won a fairly easy unanimous twelve-round decision the fight was not entertaining largely because Ajamu simply stopped fighting after the first round and the few fans that turned out to see Jones perform were disappointed in his effort. The affair also performed poorly on television pay-per-view.

After the Ajamu fight, when asked if he was going to retire, Jones said, “I don't have a clue ... I'm not leaning either way.” And in reference to those that control boxing behind the scenes, Jones said, “It all depends if they make it worth my while.”

Since then, there have been rumors of Jones fighting Bernard Hopkins in a rematch and against Puerto Rico’s Manny Siaca. However, both of those fights fell through when Jones objected to the terms of the contracts and the amount of money that he was going to be paid.

Jones is a meticulous, bottom-line negotiator and despite having a reversal of fortune in the boxing ring he still believes he is the star performer that the fans are coming to see. As a result, he also believes that he deserves the lion’s share of the purse money and that issue makes for stickling impasses when deals are being hammered out. “No one can dictate to me,” says Jones, “because when I go into that ring, it’s my life that’s on the line.”

Although he has lost much of his God-given gifts of speed and quickness over the past four years (as well as his ability to take a punch) Jones has lost none of his brandish manner and the way in which he views himself is through rose colored glasses.

While he didn’t refer to himself in the third person while speaking with reporters last week, he did seem to want to set the record straight and let the people know why he is still fighting. “I’m ready, willing and able to prove that I still have what it takes to be a world champion once more. That’s why I’m fighting a young, tough, strong, undefeated guy like Anthony Hanshaw.”

Jones claimed that he tried to make a fight with universally recognized super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe, but he said, “Joe Calzaghe…does not want any part of me.”

To hear Jones tell it, Hanshaw was not first on his list of opponents. He said that former conqueror Glen Johnson had a title fight eliminator that he just fought against Montell Griffin, and middleweight champion Jermain Taylor just fought Cory Spinks leaving them both unavailable for a July fight. Then, throwing on his promoter’s hat, Jones said, “The only guy that stepped up to the plate, that has the ability, was Anthony Hanshaw.”

While he has held titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight and is a certain first ballot hall of famer, Jones felt obligated to defend his return to the ring and wanted to let everyone know that even though Hanshaw was hand-picked by him to be the opponent that it’s still a fight worth coming to see. ”I love to do what I do,” said an unapologetic Jones “And I’m back to doing what I do.”

When the choice of Hanshaw as the foil was called into question, Jones went on the defensive again, “I don’t go around looking for a guy I can beat, I go around looking for a challenge,” he cawed.

As for Anthony Hanshaw, he seemed to be in awe of the entire situation and he gazed at Jones like a schoolboy staring at a boyhood hero. Hanshaw was clearly playing the second fiddle to Jones’ one-man show and when they put the microphone in front of him he seemed perplexed. “July 14th?” asked a rhetorical Hanshaw, “That’s my time. Roy Jones had his time. But on July 14th, that’s my time to shine.”

Murad Muhammad is the co-promoter of this show. And even though he reportedly still owes fellow promoter Lou DiBella $85,000 and a San Antonio, Texas area hotel $25,000 for expenses in relation to Evander Holyfield’s fight last November against Fres Oquendo, he still has a license to sell fights.

Hanshaw seemed uncomfortable speaking in front of people and hyping a major event so Muhammad, who is as creative with the English language as any linguist has ever been, stepped in to fill the void. “Anthony wants to prove that it’s the end for Roy Jones. He wants to prove that he should be a seven-figure fighter so he’s got beat a legend to do that. This is a platform for this young man. He feels like he is the un-crowned champ.”

If Hanshaw takes the fight to Jones, sets a fast pace and actually doesn’t fall for the trick of letting Jones jive him, he stands a great chance to beat the aging Jones and perhaps retire him for good. However, Jones is a psychological master in the ring and in over 50 pro fights only Antonio Tarver has been able to win the mind game that Jones plays.

On first and second look, Hanshaw doesn’t figure to be up to the task as this will be his first crack at the big time and the first occasion he will be on a big stage. Hanshaw is likely to get snared by the traps that Roy Jones will set for him both inside and outside the ring and after a few rounds Jones will do what he wants with the novice. Jones is as calculating outside the ring ropes as he is inside them and he wouldn’t have chosen to fight Hanshaw had he felt a threat or that Hanshaw could have a chance to win.

As for Jones, he says he’s a performer and a showstopper and when asked about his certain induction to the hall of fame and his advancing age he didn’t want to hear about either one. “The Hall of Fame?” asked Jones, “Well, that’ll be nice, but I’m not ready for that and I’m not ready for any rocking chair, either. Age is just a number, I promise you that, because you’ll see more than flashes of the Roy Jones, Jr. that made all that boxing history.”

And then, like the ruler of the roost that he still thinks he is, Roy Jones, Jr. strutted out the door and flew the coop.

May 2007

No comments: