Belfast Telegraph

Jones has a dream to beat Calzaghe

One author has described America as "the land of infinite possibility" and this of all weeks seemed to prove it.

President-elect Barack Obama has gripped the country with the way he has defied and broken through old prejudices, heralding a new hope a country enduring its worst crisis since the Great Depression of the 1920s.

On Saturday night in Democrat-loving New York Roy Jones will hope to catch the wave of optimism blowing through the Big Apple, bidding to push back the boundaries that have been cemented in the annals of boxing. The former champion past his best does not gain with age and must fall to the younger, fresher man.

Some night say that Bernard Hopkins is the exception to the rule but then his skills have not slipped in the same way and Kelly Pavlik is no Joe Calzaghe.

Jones will come to Madison Square Garden full of hope, believing in the American dream but at 39 it does seem to be built on the shifting sands of time.

Without doubt he was the number one fighter of the 1990s and early part of this century having won titles at middle, super-middle, light-heavy and heavyweight in 2003 when he overcame a three stone weight disadvantage to defeat John Ruiz.

Then came the decline when having gone from 220lbs to 175lbs he was fortunate to defeat Antonio Tarver in a light-heavyweight title fight before losing twice to him and sandwiched in between a loss to Glen Johnson.

On the back of three victories he is now in with unbeaten Calzaghe with many believing that his skills have declined even further.

Yet, he says, "I'm feeling better than ever, the training camp was wonderful, I'm have time the time of my life. When you get a fighter as good as Joe come out and say 'I want to fight you', that means a lot. This is what I do for a living, this is what I love. They thought I was gone - wrong."

Five or six years ago and he would have been the clear favourite but now is the underdog by some way. He would have the greater handspeed and more polished footwork but now those advantages lie with the 32-year-old Welshman.

But Alton Merkerson, Jones' coach, was doing his best to talk up the former champion's hopes, arguing that he has "the greater ring generalship".

Merkerson added: "I see now in Roy what I saw 12 to 13 years ago, he's back where he's supposed to be. In the Tarver fights he was mentally messed up and coming down from heavyweight to 175lb wasn't good.

"I don't see Joe's speed being a problem. Some people can drive with the windshield wipers going and some can't. But when you've been under pressure before with a lot happening right in front of you, you know what to do.

"The pressure is all on Joe. Roy has nothing to prove. I respect Joe - they he's a slapper, well he's slapped out a lot of good fighters and we respect him.

"We know that Roy's the underdog but he always boxes better when he's the underdog - he did it when he beat Bernard Hopkins, when he beat James Toney and John Ruiz and history is going to repeat itself."

Merkerson compared the fight to the battle of two Roman gladistorrs "with the smartest coming out on top" and but his counterpart Enzo Calzaghe had his own Roman parallel.

"Back in 55BC, a 'JC', Julius Caesar came and conquered Britain and now a 'JC' is going to conquer America, Joe Calzaghe - Caesar Calzaghe!

"Joe is going to search the soul and heart of Roy Jones and will he come up short, I believe so. He has put to sleep before but Joe has been put down and gets back up. He has that extra passion and zest that says if you put me down ten times, I'm getting back up to win."

The flow of hope down seventh Avenue offers the Jones camp the belief that anything is possible. But just as Obama will face the reality of America's crisis, so Jones will meet his own tomorrow night and then we will see whether his dream will turns to dust or he pulls off one of the great comebacks.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph