By MIKE MUDD
Special To One Great Season
Let's see, what year is it again?
Saturday night in Las Vegas, a boxing rematch 16 years in the making and about 10 years overdue will take place between Roy Jones Jr. and Bernard Hopkins. During their primes in the 1990s and early 2000s, Hopkins and Jones were at the top of the sport, worthy of any discussion about the greatest non-heavyweight boxers of all time. Charismatic, controversial and entertaining outside the ring. Quick, powerful, athletic specimens in it. They have combined to win more than 10 world titles from 160-pound weight divisions all the way to the heavyweight title Jones captured in 2003. All along, I cheered them both.
Their first fight was as middleweights in 1993, back when the Beverly Hills 90210 crew were still in high school and smart cars were considered anything that had power windows. Jones won a unanimous decision, outboxing and beating the slower Hopkins to the punch despite an injured right hand much of the fight. But it was a good fight and seemed destined for a rematch six months or a year down the road. Then ...
Jones decided he wanted to go up in weight, and Hopkins remained at middleweight and got better, dominating lesser competition and reclaiming the title, and then making a goal of setting out to break Joe Louis' record for the most consecutive successful title defenses in one weight class. As each year passed, the two moved further apart. There was the occasional attempt at a rematch, but money, weight and ego always won out and scuttled any such possibility. Boxing fans last craved a Jones-Hopkins rematch about the time we all thought Y2K was going to end the world. Eventually we got used to the idea there wouldn't be one, and we learned to accept it.
So that leads us to Saturday. Jones is 41, Hopkins 45. What do they have left? If you watch the fight, you'll see both are still in great shape. They'll be ripped and still can move well around the ring. Jones' big downfall in recent years is that most of his quickness has abandoned him. His ability to stay out of the way of punches has greatly diminished, and his chin has proven glassy in losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnston, as well as a mauling by Joe Calzaghe.
Jones was knocked out seemingly by a feather of a punch from little-known Danny Green of Australia late last year, a first-round debacle that seemed to all but end his career -- finally -- after a couple of weak comeback attempts. Hopkins has been plugging along with more success, still winning titles and beating guys much younger from time to time after two losses to the former Oympian Jermaine Taylor. Hopkins' old-school, defensive, counter-punching style has proven to give him more flexibility to fight into his 40s than Jones' reliance on uber-speed and slickness. Roy's problem was that for so many years, he did a lot of unbelievable things in the ring, the Michael Jordan of boxing he was called. But even Jordan got old, and so did Roy.
So I'll take the easy pick and go with Hopkins to win. I think it will go the distance, or end on a late stoppage, as neither fighter has a lot of punching power left. I would love for these guys to stage a grand fight worthy of talk years from now. But I think that fight was left back in 2001. I think Hopkins will grind away at Jones with body shots and a good jab. Roy will try to counter but Hopkins still has a good enough defense to stay out of the way.
It's $49.95 to see the fight on pay per view. If you just cashed in a nice lottery ticket, maybe it's worth buying and checking out these great champions one last time. But I'm going to save my money and hold on to the memories of the glory years. Besides, I have plenty of VCR tapes of these guys' greatest performances. I'll get those out instead. And name-dropping a VCR in 2010 pretty much sums up the credibility of this rematch.Mike Mudd is an editor on the sports desk at the Louisville Courier-Journal who follows and researches boxing in his spare time. He has covered several title fights and enjoys collecting cool boxing memorabalia. His favorite all-time fighter is Marvelous Marvin Hagler. You can follow him on Twitter @mudd4goals