Roy Jones Jr. took his time--and it wasn't sweet--on Richard Hall
Samuel Johnson said that the prospect of being hanged
concentrates the mind wonderfully. Last Thursday, 54 hours
before facing undisputed light heavyweight champion Roy Jones
Jr. in Indianapolis, Richard Hall hung at Conseco Fieldhouse,
his mind thoroughly concentrated. "Lots of people say I
nuttin'," he said in a soft Jamaican patois. "I'm here to prove
it to them." And that he did.
To beat the 41-1 Jones--who had lost just one round in his last
seven fights--Hall would have had to perform a minor miracle, or
maybe a major one. "I will call the Almighty," he said.
Evidently, His number was busy. The only thing miraculous about
the bout was the fact that Hall remained standing so long. Even
that may have been more a matter of cruelty, or at least
capriciousness, on the part of Jones.
Wiggling and high-stepping, the champion had the 13,211
spectators on their feet for most of the night. They gaped at
his bolos and windmills and haymakers and double-overhand rights
and quintuple lefts. Jones decked Hall twice in Round 1, dazed
him in Round 2 and dazzled him seemingly at will until referee
Wayne Kelly at last stopped the fight, over Hall's protests,
midway through Round 11.
The champ's speed and shadowy elusiveness were far beyond the
challenger's earnest but mediocre talents. Hall took a steady
and emphatic beating. At times Jones seemed like a sadistic
puppeteer, jerking Hall's strings to keep him upright. "I
probably could have taken him out earlier, but I didn't carry
him," Jones said. "The guy was game."
Though the 28-year-old Hall had 24 victories in 25 fights, his
record had been fattened against a series of nonentities, and he
had never fought for more than $30,000. The WBA's mandatory
challenger (did we mention he's in Don King's stable?) was such
a total unknown that the betting line was 100-to-1. Still, the
prospect of taking on the world's best prizefighter didn't faze
Hall. "Just because Jones is the best, doesn't mean no one's
better," he reasoned. "He doesn't scare me."
The product of a broken home in Kingston and raised by his
grandmother in the coastal town of Negril, Hall began boxing as
a teenager, and after moving to Florida in 1992, he turned pro.
He won his first 17 fights but retired abruptly in June 1996
following a 10th-round TKO by the equally ragged Rocky Gannon. A
few months later he unretired and signed with King. "I give Hall
more than a puncher's chance," a charitable Jones had said last
week. "You've got to respect all your opponents."
Not that Jones showed much for Hall. Toward the end of last
Thursday's press conference, he stood up, snapped his fingers
and commanded the challenger to join him on the podium for a
photo op. Hall obediently complied. Though Jones conceded 4 1/2
inches to the 6'3" Hall, he towered over him psychologically.
"You can tell what a fighter feels by his music," said Hall, who
climbed through the ropes to the lyrics "Look into my eyes/Tell
me what you see/Can you feel my pain/Am I your enemy?" Contrast
that with the title of Jones's new rap single: Who Wanna Get
Not Hall. In the end, though, it really wasn't up to him.
Jones in Germany?
Ask Roy Jones Jr. whom he'd like to fight next, and his face
falls like a souffle. The 175-pounder has floated the ideas of
moving up to face 247-pound heavyweight king Lennox Lewis and
down seven pounds to face IBF middleweight champ Bernard
Hopkins, whom he defeated as a middleweight in 1993. Yet his
biggest money fight may be against fellow light heavy Dariusz
Michalczewski, the Polish-born, German-groomed WBO champ.
A slothfully paced brawler, the 32-year-old Michalczewski rarely
engages in combat beyond the German border. His
multimillion-dollar paydays have less to do with his 42-0 record
than with his unpopularity in Germany, where boxing fans tune in
and turn out just to jeer him. They still haven't forgiven him
for the way he beat a Berliner named Graciano (Rocky)
Rocchigiani in 1996, in the first of their two bouts.
Rocchigiani landed a left hook just after the referee commanded
the two boxers to break from a clinch. Michalczewski crashed to
the canvas and was removed from the ring on doctor's orders,
winning the fight on disqualification.
Given the pricey purses demanded by both boxers--Michalczewski
wants $6 million, Jones, a couple of million more--the bout
would almost certainly have to be held in Germany. "When
American fighters go overseas, odd things happen," says Jones,
who hasn't boxed abroad since his infamous loss at the 1988
Olympics in Seoul. "I'd knock Michalczewski out regardless. But
the money has to be right."
A HEAVY CHALLENGE
Is Lewis Ready For Samoa?
The most intriguing opponent for 6'5" heavyweight champion
Lennox Lewis is not Mike Tyson, but a Tyson-shaped, Tyson-sized,
Tyson-styled New Zealander once known as the Throwin' Samoan.
"Lennox is tailor-made for me," says 5'10" David Tua, the IBF's
mandatory challenger. "When he fights someone he is eye-to-eye
with, he gets the knockout. I'll be looking straight ahead at
his chest, with his chin as a target. His reach will be useless."
Tua (35-1, 30 KOs) has one of the best left hooks and perhaps
the best chin in boxing. "I am too strong for Lennox," he says,
adding the Tysonesque observation, "if we got in a clinch, I
could break his arm with my neck muscles." Four years ago Tua
took all of 19 seconds to polish off John Ruiz--now ranked No. 1
by the WBA and the WBC and the fighter slated to face Evander
Holyfield on June 10 for the WBA heavyweight title. "It's a
shame about John," says Tua. "I wish I'd had more time to get to
Born Tavita Maf Lio Mafaufau Sanerivi Talimatasi, he was taught
to box by his dad, convenience store owner Tuavale Lio Mafaufau
Sanerivi Talimatasi. "Father used to line up grown men and make
me spar with them," Tua recalls. "If they won, he'd reward them
with candy, bread or oranges." If they lost? "He'd give them the
Lewis, set to meet Frans Botha on July 15 in London, will be
required to fight Tua by the end of November or relinquish his
IBF title. "When I beat Lennox, my father will give me a hug and
a kiss," Tua says. "If I look really impressive, maybe he'll
give me a couple of oranges, too."