LAS VEGAS – If someone told you on April Fools’ Day that Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. were fighting this weekend on pay-per-view, you would assume they were pulling your leg, right?
Sadly, it’s not a joke and the only fool is Jones, who not only faces the possibility of tarnishing his legacy even more but suffering a serious injury in the ring.
At age 41, it’s time for the eight-time world champion in four different weight classes to hang up the gloves for good.
Hopkins and Jones will square off Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in a rematch that’s been 17 years in the making.
After years of back-and-forth negotiations over money from both sides, Hopkins and Jones finally agreed to a 60/40 purse split if there is a knockout or TKO.
The two men first fought for the vacant IBF middleweight title on May 22, 1993 at RKF Stadium in Washington, D.C. All three judges scored the fight in favor of Jones, jumpstarting the professional careers of both boxers.
There was no better fighter in the 1990s than Jones. Prior to 2004, Jones’ only professional loss came against Montell Griffin via disqualification after hitting Griffin twice while on the canvas. Say what you want about the heavyweight division but Jones was only the second man in boxing history to move from middleweight to winning the heavyweight championship when he defeated John Ruiz on March 1, 2003.
But in his last 10 fights, Jones has a record of 5-5 and has been stopped three times, the only times in his 21-year professional career. In his most recent fight last December against Australian boxer Danny Green, Jones was knocked down in the first round before the referee stopped the fight after just two minutes.
“For the time that Roy’s been fighting, he’s almost 42 now, and he’s been fighting 32 years, Roy has gotten hit more in the last four years of his boxing career than he ever did in his entire boxing career,” said trainer Alton Merkerson, who was in Jones corner for his first battle against Hopkins. “And the reason being, things happen when you get older.”
It’s a miracle that Jones was granted a boxing license in the state of Nevada based on his recent performances in the ring.
Nevada State Athletic Commission director, Keith Kizer and a five-member review board approved Jones for the fight, adding that his medical records were sufficient. For a fighter that’s born in 1974 or earlier, they’re required to get a more detailed physical including a chest X-Ray, EKG and additional urinalysis.
“We have had brain scans,” said Merkerson.” “We have done everything that we’re supposed to do. He doesn’t have any brain damage. He hasn’t had any major injuries to him from the knockouts. Yes, it’s getting close to the time where Bernard and Roy is going to give this thing up because you can’t do it forever. But right now, from a medical standpoint, he’s fine, but the reason I stick with Roy, and I’ve been with him for 20 years, and I’m going to continue to be with him. ”
With Jones showing no signs of retiring, so the responsibility falls on Merkerson, who views Roy like his own son.
I’m not suggesting boxers over a certain age should be forced to retire. In the case of Hopkins, he’s still considered as one of the top pound-for-pound boxers despite turning 45 in January.
The fact that Hopkins is a 5-to-1 favorite with Las Vegas oddsmakers going into Saturday night says everything you need to know about the skill level of The Executioner.
Hopkins, who has a chip on his shoulder stemming from his blemish against Jones, has the chance to not only end Jones career but also seriously hurt him in the process.
“I’m not afraid to stop a fight,” said Merkerson. “If in fact that he was getting punished and didn’t get caught with one shot clean, I would stop the fight, and that’s what another young, inexperienced trainer probably wouldn’t do just to worry about their credibility and what people say about them.”
Let’s hope so, Merk.