Roy Jones, Jr.’s illustrious boxing career could likely end in Memphis in early 2013.
At least, that is what longtime Mid-South All-Star Boxing promoter Malcolm Terry said Friday during Jones’ surprise appearance at Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins’ Charities Day event to benefit Le Bonheur Children Hospital at Walmart Neighborhood Market in Southeast Memphis.
Jones, 43, arrived in Memphis Friday morning to speak at an anti-bullying rally at a local community center. A former world champion in multiple weight divisions, Jones also met with Terry to discuss plans of fighting twice in Memphis in the coming months, the first of which would be a 10-round cruiserweight main event title bout against Covington native Donnell Wiggins (24-13-4) at the Cook Convention Center in late-February or early-March.
“We’re almost a hundred percent he’s going to fight,” Terry said of Jones, whom he said will retire after his fights in Memphis. “He’s determined he’s going to fight here. He’s going to get in the ring and he’s going to leave a statement here.”
Sitting at a table alongside Hollins and Grizzlies players Darrell Arthur and Wayne Ellington to greet fans and sign autographs, Jones said he has visited Memphis several times in recent months, in part to become acclimated to the city and help Terry promote his regular fight card at Omni New Daisy Theater. Now he said he’s ready to atone for his last fight here, a ninth-round knockout defeat to Glen Johnson for the IBF light heavyweight title.
“When I came to Memphis the last time, the fight didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to come out,” Jones said. “But the fan support was still there. They supported me the whole week. And they were there to support the fight. They always showed me much love and respect, so I feel I owe it to them to come back and give my support.”
While Jones, who owns a 55-8 record, including 40 knockouts, said nothing is “carved in stone” in terms of finalizing plans to fight in Memphis, he said he’s almost certain his next fight will take place here. Since his loss to Tarver in FedExForum on September 9, 2004, Jones has fought 11 times, compiling a 7-4 record. The Pensacola, Fla. native has won his last two fights, including a split decision win in Lodz, Poland, against three-time Polish Senior champion Pawel Glazewski back in June.
“I actually came to watch a fight last month (at New Daisy Theatre) and (Terry) said to me, ‘We want you to fight in Memphis,’” said Jones, who turns 44 January 16. “So I said, ‘Let me come and see what’s going on and if some good things are happening, I may do it.’ It feels like a good marriage.”
Terry, who has been promoting fights in Memphis since 1998, said because Jones has remained in top-notch shape despite having fought once this year, he’s confident the UBO Intercontinental Cruiserweight champion will erase the memory of his last showing here. Among the reasons is that many fans felt the sport had passed Jones by in the wake of his first loss to Tarver and subsequent setback in Memphis to Johnson. In a rematch with Tarver in Tampa approximately a year later, for instance, Jones lost a 12-round unanimous decision bout, his third consecutive defeat in less than two years.
“Let me say this,” Terry said. “Boxing has not passed him by. Roy has won his last two fights against top competition. My phone is ringing off the hook. People are calling from all around the world asking, ‘Can I book a Roy Jones fight?’ They want him in China. They want him in Ireland. They want him in Russia. Roy is a megastar. Roy was light heavyweight champion. He was super middleweight champion. He was named fighter of the decade (in the 1990s). He was named pound for pound champion. (Mike) Tyson went in and knocked people out. But Roy is a show .”
Having twice won the WBC and WBA light heavyweight titles during a professional career that spans 23 years, Jones emerged as one of the world’s elite fighters when he won 34 consecutive bouts to start his career before being disqualified 33 seconds into the ninth round of a WBC light heavyweight title bout against Montell Griffin for hitting Griffin while he was on the canvas. In a rematch against Griffin five months later, Jones regained his WBC title with a first-round knockout. He won his next 14 fights before losing three consecutive bouts in a span of 17 months, two of which came to Tarver.
Besides the overwhelming support from Memphians in 2004, Jones said among the reasons he’s contemplating fighting in Memphis is because of his strong ties with Grizzlies power forward Zach Randolph. Jones, who was in attendance for the Grizzlies’ game against Denver Saturday night, said he and Randolph became close acquaintances when Randolph played for the New York Knicks during the 2007-08 season.
“I love the Grizzlies,” Jones said. “Me and Zach Randolph go way back when he played in New York. I thought (the Knicks) were stupid for getting rid of him. He’s one of the best, non-jumping athletes in basketball. He doesn’t jump that high. But he gets the job done.”
If plans are finalized for Jones to fight in Memphis, he will likely be a heavy favorite against Wiggins, who hasn’t fought in over two years. The 32-year-old Wiggins won his first six fights after turning pro in 1999, but has struggled in recent years. Wiggins’ last win came in July 2005 when he won by unanimous decision over Anthony Greeley in Memphis.