Thursday, December 3, 2009

Fighters Don't Die; They Just Fade Away . . . Into "Bolivian"

Last evening in Australia, 36-year old unregarded, cruiserweight bruiser Danny Green summarily dismissed (that's being kind - how about "eviscerated") the dim, fading shadow of former pound-for-pound king, Roy Jones, Jr., inside of one round by technical knockout.

On May 21, 2004, the morning after his unblemished record (unofficially undefeated with one official loss) was marred by a viciously compact left from Antonio Tarver, I penned the following open forum missive, imploring to Roy to "hang'em up" immediately:

Dear Roy Jones, Jr.,

Some people gracefully descend the mountain using a safe, accessible route. You chose a two-round suicide plunge into the crevasse. Perhaps your greatest feat during your illustrious, now completed, 15 year career, was maintaining your insufferable ego during your post-fight interview with Larry Merchant. A deluge of third-person references truly marks the total demise of an athlete's excellence. "Roy Jones comes out to fight . . . Roy Jones doesn't complain . . . Roy Jones doesn't always feel well."

You came out of that locker room at Mandelay bone dry and cold. Where was the middleweight fighter who used to work himself into a ferocious lather before the procession into the ring? Where was the cockiness, the swagger of a man who would enter the ring with more pageantry than Liberace? Tarver's left-counter first altered your face, then altered your status as pound-for-pound champion. Did he alter your legacy?

I guess I miss the old RJ; the savage guy putting together 20 punch combinations, each hand possessing lighting and thunder. You beat Hopkins, Toney; you dispatched Griffin out of bitterness when they blemished your record. The old RJ couldn't stand unaffected in the ring and listen to Tarver mock him over the microphone - "Yeah, I have a question. Anymore excuses Roy?" You just stood there with a diffident look on your face, like a lamb on line at the slaughterhouse. I've never seen that face on you, RJ - that defeated, languid gaze. How have your eyes dulled in these past few years? Did you protect your titles for so long that you forgot how to fight for them? Maybe I'm the one who missed the signs. Maybe that narcissistic sparkle left your stare many pay-per-view events ago.

Roy, Enjoy your roosters. Enjoy your lavish digs in Pensacola. Get fat. Let your muscles atrophy in a lazy-boy like the rest of us mortals. Watch some reality TV. Sleep in, but try to rise by 11 a.m.. That's when Mickey D's stops serving breakfast. Try the sausage, egg, and cheese McGriddle. Decadent stuff - the pancakes are filled with syrup and serve as a roll for the eggs. Trust me, you'll have no idea where the extra pounds are coming from. You've earned your pension, RJ. Go peacefully into the sunset with all of your marbles intact. Boxing produces middle-aged dotards. Those who hang on too long. Not you, Roy. Go get fat. Turn that sinewy frame into a portly mess of cellulite. Smell the roses. Do not fight again.


A Former Fan

No soothsaying here. Not a "told yah so" moment. Really not hard to divine when a boxer's career arc invariably begins the slope downward. Jones's story is not unique, but a predictable, sad narrative featuring ill-advised fights, obscure opponents and venues, the unnecessary absorption of punishment, and all perpetuated by shameless promotion and braggadocio - as the boxer shouts he is "still great," "still hungry" and "still looking for that title shot," usually with a disfigured face and after a recent revival via smelling salts.

Roy's career has been over for 5 years. Yet he fights on . . . into "Bolivian." I wish he wouldn't.