When last we saw
Jones, of course, made his name collecting eight titles at four weight classes in two decades as a pro, never losing a single
But instead of becoming a part of the sport's decorated past, he's shifted his focus to influencing its future. Jones, who turned 40 in January, made his return to the ring Saturday in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., meeting
There's been plenty written about the complex, quasi-oedipal relationship between mixed martial arts and boxing. Fans of the latter deride MMA as a circus act, a sort of
For Jones, the hype surrounding Saturday's main event was considerably more subdued compared to his most recent fight. Jones promoted his previous bout with Calzaghe by permitting HBO's cameras unlimited access to film "24/7," the four-episode, Emmy-winning reality series airing on the network during the weeks leading up to a high-profile fight. To drum up publicity for Saturday's event, Jones crowned the St. Patrick's Day "Green Bikini" contest winner at Bamboo Willie's before signing autographs and snapping photos with fans at a local Hooters restaurants. My plans to watch the card from a bar in the Lower East Side of Manhattan were torpedoed when I showed up and discovered they weren't even airing it. The bouncer didn't even know there
The preliminary bouts alternated between MMA and boxing. One early MMA fight pitted journeyman
Next up was a boxing match between undefeated cruiserweight contender
The main MMA event came next with three rounds between IFL and EliteXC veteran
There was little sweet about this science, as Nelson made sure the heavyweights spent most of the match grappling on the canvas in holds that would've made the Marquess of Queensbury blush. Here, the voices from the booth remained conscious of their audience, explaining the nuances with periodic teaching moments. "Boxing fans would probably like to see more striking but this is a real art what they're doing in here," Sanders explained. Monson won by unanimous verdict, an apparently criminal decision judging from Petruzelli's reaction. (See, these sports have plenty in common.)
It was 15 minutes past midnight by the time Jones made his way to the ring, wearing a sleeveless jet black Jordan brand robe with blue trim, bobbing his head confidently to the music with the crowd squarely in his corner. On the line was the regional NABO light heavyweight title, so the hometown favorite was effectively fighting for one last shot at one last shot.
The bell rang and Jones sprang from his corner, the stronger and busier fighter from jump street, dancing, preening, dropping both his hands and whipping the right jab with a fighter pilot's arrogance. CompuBox didn't track the fight but Jones' left hand appeared as powerful and prolific as ever.
Sheika made a brief rally in the third round, backing Jones into a corner and doing some modest but cumulative body work. But Jones, emboldened by the partisan crowd, slipped free and continued to dance and taunt, firing jab after jab into Sheika's granite jaw, demonstrating some of his most impressive hand speed and footwork in years.
In the fifth round, Sheika took a hard left hook followed by three more hard shots to the head. He kept moving forward but it didn't take long before the referee intervened and put a stop to it. The stoppage was premature, but not controversial. Sheika's corner offered no protest.
Jones' Square Ring Promotions may be onto something: hybrid cards may be a sustainable model for the future of the fight game. But not for the novelty alone. They'll always need a marquee name to carry the card -- whether its