TRAINER: "I THINK ROY HAS LAST HURRAH LEFT IN HIM!"
By Michael Walters
Roy Jones Jr., 43, who most boxing fans believe should be retired by now, is fighting once again. The future Hall of Famer has gone just 7-7 in his last 14 fights and has been stopped in four of those seven defeats. A lot of boxing fans and experts would like to see the all-time stick to his HBO annouincing duties, Jones is not planning on retiring quite yet. He has a fight scheduled for the end of the month against a respectable Polish cruiserweight, Dawid Kostecki.
His head trainer, the respected Tom Yankello, doesn’t think it is time for the former pound-for-pound king to hang it up either. “I see too much left in him in the gym,” said Yankello, nixing the idea that Jones should ride off into the sunset. “I think he has something left in him like a last hurrah, like Bernard Hopkins had against Kelly Pavlik.”
On June 30, Jones (55-8 with 40 KO’s) will travel to Poland to face Kostecki (39-1 with 25 KO’s) in his own backyard in a cruiserweight bout. This is a far cry from the Roy Jones Jr. who in his heyday refused to fight abroad after the 1988 Olympics, where many people thought he got robbed. He turned down huge fights against Joe Calzaghe (in the 90’s) and Dariusz Michalczewski thoughout the years because he didn’t feel he could get a fair shake in Europe. These days it appears that he’s willing to go to Europe because' much like many faded pop stars' he is still a big draw across the Atlantic.
Roy Jones Jr. is unquestionably a first ballot Hall of Fame fighter, although some would say he has tarnished his once illustrious record by continuing to chase another world title.
“To me he’s the greatest talent in the history of boxing,” beamed his current trainer Yankello of World Class Boxing Gym in Ambridge, Pa. “Even at 43 he still has a lot left talent wise.”
Jones was arguably the most dominant fighter of the 1990’s and besides a disqualification loss to Montell Griffin, (which he later avenged by first round knockout) Roy only lost a handful of rounds during that time.
“He got to the point, because he was so talented and so above everybody else, he got bad habits,” Yankello said. “He got to a point were he totally relied on his speed.”
Yankello admits that Roy may not have the foot speed he once possessed, but he thinks he can still be a top-flight fighter. “His hand speed is still tremendous and he has technical skills he hasn’t used in a long time,” said an optimistic Yankello. “I really think he can compete at a world championship level.”
According to his trainer, to compete at the highest level Roy will need to do things he hasn’t done in years. “When he’s using his jab he’s still unbelievable,” Yankello said, adding that they have been focusing on using the jab more in the gym. “In his younger days he was able to control the fight with that jab.”
To be successful, the current incarnation of Roy Jones Jr. will not be able to rely on his once unparalleled speed and will have to fight in a more conventional manner. “He just has to do what he does best at all times and be technical, he just can’t freelance and use his speed,” Yankello said.
Yankello also thinks that Jones cannot fight with his back to the ropes like he did in his younger days if he expects to win. “He needs to keep the fight in the middle of the ring. He can’t let guys get him up against the ropes,” Yankello said. “In any of the fights he has lost he’s been laying up against the ropes”.
In his only fight under Yankello’s tutelage against the unheralded Max Alexander last December in Atlanta, Jones was able to keep the fight in the middle of the ring. “He wasn’t on the ropes at all in that fight, that was our first goal,” Yankello said. “He fought very well on the inside in that fight,” another thing they have been working on in the gym.
With the fight fast approaching, Yankello is concerned that Jones may be spreading himself a little thin. Training for this fight will present some challenges due to his obligations to HBO Boxing. Jones will travel to Las Vegas during camp to work on the Pacquiao Bradley PPV card and the following week he will be in El Paso working the Chavez Lee fight.
“My concerns are bringing a 100 percent top Roy Jones to the table. I think that if Roy can have great training camp he can compete on a very high level, a world championship level, but those things remain to be seen,” Yankello said regarding Jones’s hectic schedule.
“My job entails that I get him up to the best of his abilities under the circumstances because the circumstances aren’t going to change.”
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