Boxing's Best Takes the Big Stage Even fighting one-handed, Roy Jones Jr. produced a Radio City spectacular

January 24, 2000

With its soaring ceilings and dizzying spaciousness, Radio City
Music Hall is a shrine to showbigness. The mammoth stage--144 feet
wide and 67 feet deep--could easily accommodate a reenactment of
the Battle of Midway. It's almost large enough to contain the ego
of Roy Jones Jr., the undisputed light heavyweight champion of
the world.

Jones made ring and theatrical history last Saturday, headlining
the first fight card ever at the New York City landmark. Despite
a recently fractured left wrist that he didn't reveal until after
the fight--an injury that pretty much limited him to right leads
and counters--he walloped challenger David Telesco at will and won
all 12 rounds on the cards of all three judges.

"When you look at Telesco, it's like, why even waste your time?"
Jones had said of the 12-1 underdog last week. "He's getting paid
to play the lottery. He wants to land that one big shot and hope
he'll get lucky."

To date, no opponent has landed that one big shot against the
41-1 Jones, who turned 31 on Sunday. "Roy's greatness hasn't been
tested," says promoter Murad Muhammad. "It's a greatness made
from the ingredients of other greats: Sugar from Ray Robinson,
salt from Joe Louis, yeast from Muhammad Ali. Roy stirred those
ingredients together and became the Cake." He's arguably boxing's
best pound-for-pound cake.

The champ's cakewalk through Radio City was as elaborately
choreographed as any Christmas Spectacular. An hour before his
bout he appeared onstage in tear-away tails and cancanned with a
chorus line of Rockettes, whose hooded red robes and six-ounce
gloves added new dimensions to kickboxing.

Even more lavish was Jones's ring entrance. With the house lights
dimmed and the sellout crowd of 5,923 shimmying to the bass-heavy
strains of Wu-Tang Clan, a spotlight trained on Jones
shadowboxing on a balcony high above the audience. Then he and
his posse--rappers Red Man and Method Man--hip-hopped down a
staircase to the ring, which had been set up on the stage and in
which the challenger had been waiting antsily for several
minutes.

For more than a year Telesco had pestered Jones for a title shot.
He had shown up at the champ's bouts and press conferences
demanding, with signs and taunts, that Jones fight him. Yet in
the movie palace that premiered King Kong, Telesco went as limp
as Fay Wray had in the ape's mitt. Telesco's punches, launched
tentatively and from long range, rarely landed. The few that did
had no sting.

Far faster and far more elusive, Jones outboxed, outhit and
outthought him. Having broken his left wrist in a motorcycle
accident in late December--an injury he concealed from
officials--Jones threw hooks judiciously. "Everybody told me,
don't fight this fight," he said afterward. "I only had one hand.
If I had had two, I would have knocked him out easily."

Jones had his best chance in Round 5. Standing with his back to a
ring post, he beckoned his opponent to come and get him.
Hesitantly, Telesco did, only to get sledgehammered. Unable to
parry Jones's hand speed, he retreated to mid-ring, where Jones
rained rights on his torso.

Over the final rounds the only assault Telesco attempted was
verbal. Battered and bruised, he snapped, "You're s---. You can't
take me down." In the midst of another beating, Telesco asked
Jones if he had ever been to prison. "I told him no," Jones said,
"and that I didn't plan on going."

Neither presumably did Telesco, a New Yorker whose promising
career was interrupted by a 1993 arrest for selling cocaine.
"David dealt," says Don Elbaum, his promoter. "He never took."
(The exact opposite, by the way, of Telesco's performance against
Jones.) Whatever, Telesco spent more than three years in a state
penitentiary in Marcy, N.Y., contemplating the transaction.

By the time he was sprung, in 1996, he was 28. "David was on work
release and couldn't go outside the state to fight," says his
manager, Kevin Butler. "So I rented the Capitol Theater in Port
Chester." In '97 Telesco won six bouts there in nine months and
inveigled his way into the top 10.

The Telesco storyline is as familiar as a Radio City revue. "He
grew up poor," says Butler, who owns the women's clothing chain
Rags. "David's mom was a domestic, and he once worked for me. For
the Jones fight, his purse was $450,000." Talk about Rags to
riches.

"Let's put that in perspective," said Elbaum after Jones had left
Telesco in tatters. "David is suddenly a well-paid fighter. His
story is now riches to rags."

COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO

An hour before his bout Jones appeared onstage to cancan with
the Rockettes.

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)