Will He Be A Tyson Chicken? After nailing Virgil Hill, Roy Jones wants a big-bank shot against a heavyweight

May 03, 1998

Roy Jones punched Virgil Hill hollow while scoring a
fourth-round KO last Saturday night in Biloxi, Miss., so it
would be churlish to razz the boxer many consider the best in
the sport, pound for pound. So let's be churlish: In the four
years since he took the IBF super middleweight crown from James
Toney, Jones has fought mostly patsies--when he has fought at
all. At 29 the Pensacola, Fla., poultry farmer seems unconcerned
that his prime fighting years are fluttering by. (In the 13
months preceding last Saturday's nontitle bout, Jones had boxed
a single round, having disposed of Montell Griffin last August
with one searing left hook.) Roy Jones's most formidable
opponent has been Roy Jones. His lone defeat in 37 bouts was a
ninth-round disqualification in his March 1997 match with
Griffin. Jones, who was ahead on the cards, landed two punches
when Griffin was down on one knee. Ever the sportsman, he later
called Griffin a coward and even accused him of faking when he
pitched forward after being coldcocked.

Jones normally confines his grousing to money matters. It
rankles him that welterweight Oscar De La Hoya commands bigger
purses. Part of Jones's problem is a lack of credible opponents
in the 175-pound division. Part of it is the cool indifference
he displays in the ring. And part of it is his disdain for
flackery: He has blown off uncounted prefight press conferences
and interview sessions. "That was the old Roy," says his new
promoter, Murad Muhammad, whom Jones hooked up with in December.

Seeking a promoter who can help him land megabuck bouts, Jones
hired Muhammad, a Falstaffian former bodyguard. "Roy doesn't
like boxing politics," says his trainer, Alton Merkerson. "And
he doesn't want to be dictated to." Muhammad doesn't dictate. "I
reason," Muhammad says. "I say to Roy, 'If you're invisible,
nobody will want to see you.'"

In October 1997 Jones was offered $1.8 million to face light
heavyweight challenger Michael Nunn. Rather than settle for
those minibucks, he signed to fight heavyweight Buster Douglas.
"Roy needs reasons to fight," says Muhammad, "and Buster gave
him reasons." Seven million reasons.

The bout, planned for May, fell through after Jones's father
advised him to pass on Douglas. A victory, he argued, would not
assure a title shot at heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield,
which is Jones's dream fight. "If Roy loses to a heavyweight
contender, he's left with nothing," says Muhammad. "But if he
beats the heavyweight champ, he has made the pages of Guinness."

Instead, Jones made the pages of the Jackson (Miss.)
Clarion-Ledger by agreeing to take on Hill for a guaranteed
purse (a career-high $3.5 million), plus the $125,000
Rolls-Royce given him by the bout's host, Grand Casino. A
two-time WBA light heavyweight champ, the 34-year-old Hill had
been inactive since last June, when he lost his belt on points
to Dariusz Michalczewski in Germany. The Hill who showed up at
Mississippi Coast Coliseum was a tired, sorely battered vestige
of the fighter who had successfully defended his title 20 times
since 1987. He waded into a barrage of overhand rights and crisp
left hooks that snapped his head back. Jones's knockout blow--a
right to the kidneys that broke one of Hill's ribs--followed a
lead to the head that persuaded Hill to raise his guard.

Jones says his next opponent may come from cyberspace--he plans
to list prospective foes on his Web site, royjonesjr.com. The
winner will be the one who gets the most hits. To keep his WBC
belt, Jones must agree to a fight with top contender Graciano
Rocchiginia by the end of May, but he'd prefer to fight either
Holyfield or Mike Tyson. "Roy could hold his own against a
stylist like Evander," says Emmanuel Steward, Holyfield's
onetime trainer. "He has the youth and strength to keep him
off-balance, at least in the early going." Against Iron Mike,
though, Jones has few supporters. "Roy would be better off
sandpapering a wildcat's butt than messing with Tyson," says Joe
Goossen, who trains Nunn. "Tyson is too massive and relentless;
he'd be all over him like a soup sandwich. Jones doesn't have
the frame of a heavyweight--he's just got the appetite,
monetarily."

The leader of Jones's hit parade could be De La Hoya--if he'd be
willing to plump up from 147 pounds to 160. Jones says he would
plump down from his current 177, but it's not clear if that
would involve lopping off his left leg. "Oscar would be nuts to
fatten up for Roy," says Goossen. "He wouldn't make a dent in
him, just as Roy wouldn't make a dent in Tyson. What's the point?"

Muhammad sees two: "The first is money," he says. "The second is
more money."

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO [Roy Jones boxing]

"He'd be better off sandpapering a wildcat's butt than messing
with Tyson," says one trainer.

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)