If the nation’s Latinos can have Oscar de la Hoya, then African Americans can surely cling to a five-time world-boxing champion whose reputation outside the ring personifies character, dignity and is a widely respected, manager, promoter, actor and musician.
Thus enters Roy Jones Jr. who on Tuesday June 12 became the first Black fighter to host a press conference at one of the nation’s oldest African American newspapers when he announced his return to the ring at the Sentinel.
“Whether he is in Pensacola Florida, Las Vegas or here in Los Angeles he has always been a proud member of the African American community,” boasted Sentinel president Danny Bakewell Jr. at the confab held in the paper’s conference room amid bevy of local boxing writers.
Since being robbed of a gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Jones burst upon the professional boxing scene and had been considered by many to be the greatest fighter since Muhammad Ali.
Named fighter of the decade in 1994 and in 2002 became the first fighter in over a century to move-up from light heavyweight titleholder to capture the heavyweight championship.
However as he admitted capturing the heavyweight crown was just part of his goal, his ultimate goal was to go back down in weight and regain the light heavyweight title.
Drawing an analogy from filly Rags to Riches victory in the Belmont, Jones praised his own accomplishments.
“I know y’all heard about the filly that won the race last week against the boys. It had been over 100 years since a girl horse won that [Belmont] race. That tells you that it takes an amazing animal to do something like that and that God had put something special in it. Well it had been 106 years since a person had won the middleweight title and a heavyweight title and it takes a sacrifice and you have to give up something when you do something like that,” Jones explained to reporters.
He said, “I didn’t just want to win the heavyweight title I wanted to also win the light heavyweight title because that’s what [Bob] Fitzsimmons did.”
Admitting that he did not complete his goal nor did he like the consequences of attempting to achieve it he has vowed that the boxing world has not seen the last of Roy Jones Jr.
Although he has been knocked out twice in his last four fights he will take on unheralded and undefeated Anthony Hanshaw on Pay Per View in Biloxi Mississippi on July 14.
The event will be available at a bargain of $29.99, and promoter Murad Muhammad said that it was Jones who turned down the opportunity to fight on Showtime cable network because he was not going to allow the network to decide who the promoter of the event would be.
Another boxing network Home Box Office (HBO) with which Jones had enjoyed a lucrative long term relationship as a fighter and then broadcaster turned him down and will televise three other bouts on the same night.
Wearing a grey and black two piece checker suit and black short sleeve sweater, Jones looked fight and spoke with the confidence of Jones of old.
“I checked the latest list of the top 12 pound for pound fighters in the world and not one of them can throw a five or six punch combination with power,” he said, pounding the podium as an exclamation point.
His appeal to boxing fans was evident when the majority of the seats at the Golf Coast Coliseum were sold within days of the fight announcement.
Disappointed by his recent defeats, which have marred his 50-4 ring record, he is determined at the age of 38 to prove that he is just as determined to win now than he was since being robbed of the gold medal.
The many critics say he finished, but Jones and his promoter say that the fire is relit again, that having the same people who praised him now doubts him has made him that much more determined.
And to his African American fans, he waves to them and says come roll with me for the whole world to see.