Boxing Rivalries Installment 2: Bernard Hopkins vs. Roy Jones Jr.
Timing and Rivalries.
Timing has always been, and is still considered an essential element in sports. The right time, the right place, and the right circumstances can make all the difference in what kind of historical footprint an athlete or sporting franchise can leave in their respective sport. When it comes to the sport of boxing, timing plays a critical factor in a fighter's career. Timing can also make or break careers, but can also leave a last imprint on a fighter's legacy.
Timing indeed played a factor when it came down to future hall-of-fame boxers Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. In 1993, the then younger Hopkins and Jones squared off in their very first title bout. Looking back, that match maybe has more implications that many could have imagined it would. Following their first bout, there would be a slew of personal attacks and witty exchanges among the two, and it would take all of seventeen years after their first bout for the two to finally settle the rivalry that began in their first bout once and for all.
Although there was a slew of verbal bitterness between Hopkins and Jones Jr, there was always a mutual respect among them. There was no amateur history between the two, they were just two young talents that were looking to leave their mark on the sport of boxing, and determine who would potentially be boxing's face of the the 90's. In this second edition of 'Boxing Rivalries', We're going to look at the history, careers, and bouts between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones Jr.
Roy Jones Jr. is considered by many to be one of boxing's most talented fighters during the 90's. In fact, Jones Jr. was named 'Fighter of the Decade' for the 1990s by The Boxing Writers Association of America. Before turning pro in 1989, Jones had a standout career as an amateur that resulted in several standout awards and medals from various Olympic boxing matches.
Jones first major accomplishment as an amateur came in 1984 when he won the United States National Junior Olympics in the 119 lb division. Two years later in 1986, he would win the United States National Golden Gloves in the 139 lb division, and a year later he would claim the United States National Golden Gloves in the 156 lb division.
In the year 1988, Jones represented the United States at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. Jones left the games with the silver medal, and finished his amateur career with a record of 121-13. Jones turned pro in 1989, and ran off an impressive streak of 21 straight wins, with 20 of those wins coming by way of knockout before getting his first title shot against in 1993 against Bernard Hopkins. Jones first meeting against Hopkins would be the bout that led to their future rivalry.
While Roy Jones Jr's climb through the ranks consisted of a polished amateur career, and Olympic glory, Philadelphia native Bernard Hopkins's path throughout boxing was more of bumpy car ride down a long road. As a youth growing up in the Raymond Rosen projects in Philadelphia, the then young Hopkins became involved in a life of crime during his young years. After various criminal offenses that consisted of mugging and even being stabbed on several occasions, Hopkins was sentenced to 18 years of prison time only at the age of 17.
While in prison Hopkins developed a love for the sport of boxing, and developed an ironclad level of discipline that he still maintains to this day. Hopkins worked out vigorously, and learned to fast while in prison. Hopkins was released from prison in 1988 after serving five years. He converted to Islam, and decided to take his love for boxing as a tool to help escape from his previous life doings.
Hopkins turned professional not long after his prison stint. However, he would lose his very first bout as a light heavyweight to Clinton Mitchell in 1988. Hopkins went into a sixteen month hiatus following the loss, but resumed his career at the middleweight division. He appeared to return as a better fighter, as he won his first bout back to the sport in 1990. Hopkins would run off 21 straight wins without a loss between 1990 and 1992. Next up for Hopkins would be his biggest test to date, and would be the first of his two encounters with Roy Jones Jr.
Hopkins vs. Jones I.
Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. squared off for the first time on May 22, 1993 at RFK Stadium in Washington D.C. The fight was for the vacant IBF Middleweight title. Since Jones basically dominated the competition in the 1988 Olympics, and had won all of his 21 professional bouts up until this point in a dominating fashion, he was the favorite to win heading into fight.
Jones used his then exceptional athletic ability to dance around the ring, and jumped in with hard left hook attacks to Hopkins. Jones also had very quick hands to go along with his athletic ability, which allowed him to fire off shots on Hopkins, and then quickly move away. Roy Jones's athletic abilities in the ring were amazing for his size, and was nothing that the technically sound Hopkins had seen. Though many of the rounds were close and competitive, Roy Jones Jr. went on to defeat Bernard Hopkins by unanimous decision. All three judges scored the fight 116-112 in favor of Jones.
There was a mutual respect among the two fighters before the fight, and it was maintained for years following the fight. Hopkins wanted a rematch with Jones, however, Jones stated that he came into their fight with a broken right hand, and was still able to outpoint Hopkins using only one hand. Jones also later stated while working as a commentator for HBO that he was 16 lbs bigger than Hopkins on fight night. In essence, Jones felt that he would easily dominate Hopkins in rematch two two healthy hands, and would have a size advantage as well.
The Birth of A Rivalry.
Although a rematch didn't appear to be in the works anytime soon following their fight, both Hopkins and Jones still maintained respect for one another. They both forged ahead doing quite well in their respective careers. However, the respect between the two took a turn for the worst in the early 2000s during a heated argument on an HBO Boxing telecast. The heated argument took place following Hopkin's win against Carl Daniels on February 2, 2001.
Roy Jones, who was in his dressing room in Miami awaiting his fight against Glen Kelly, was linked up with Hopkins and HBO commentator Larry Merchant in Pennsylvania. Merchant brought the two together in an attempt to negotiate a rematch nine years after their first bout. Any negotiations at this point became void as sparks flew between the two fighters. Both Jones and Hopkins exchanged verbal blows and insults against one another, which lead to Jones angrily ending the conversation. Jones would go on to defeat Glen Kelly later that night.
Following their heated exchange on HBO, both Hopkins and Jones continued forward with their careers. However, both fighters were up against the clock, as age was beginning to play a role in their careers. After 17 years from their first bout, the two veterans finally agreed to a rematch. The bout took place on April 3, 2010 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Hopkins vs. Jones II (The Rivals).
Since there was a seventeen year gap since their first meeting, the public narrative for the Hopkins vs. Jones rematch was viewed as a joke in many peoples' eyes. The rematch was rightfully billed as 'The Rivals', and found both Hopkins and Jones in the latter stages of their careers. Both were way out of their prime, however, by this time Roy Jones's career was in jeopardy. Jones was knocked out by Danny Green prior to the rematch against Hopkins, and many thought that he was at the end of his rope in his career.
Hopkins on the other hand was far from his prime, but was still having some success. At the age of 44, he defeated middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik in 2008. The fight was a non-title fight, but Hopkins surprised many critics and skeptics with his victory against a young and talented Pavlik in such an impressive fashion. As expected, there was much trash talking going on between Hopkins and Jones leading up to their rematch. It was a clever way to hype up a fight that a lot of people weren't too interested in, but the animosity between the two was real.
The rematch turned out to be a far cry from what most people would have expected from two legends of the sport of boxing. It looked a lot like a sparring match between two actors in a movie. The fight was full of low blows, hugging, and crazy antics that were a far cry from their first bout. Hopkins would go on to win the fight by a wide margin unanimous decision victory.
Although Hopkins got his revenge after seventeen years, there was more talk from the public about why these two guys should have retired several years earlier. Had this fight taken place years earlier while both were in their prime, it could have been an epic encounter. Instead, 'The Rivals' left more fans wanting a refund, rather than a rematch.
Current, and Legacies.
Following the disappointing rematch, both Hopkins and Jones resumed their careers in boxing, but only one of them is still having some success at this stage of his career. That would be Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins defeated a much younger Jean Pascal by unanimous decision in 2011, and became the oldest man in the history of sports to win a major title. Hopkins was 46 at the time, and surpassed former heavyweight champion George Foreman, who previously held the mark after his victory over Michael Moorer.
Roy Jones Jr. on the other hand is still active, but has suffered from a rough patch of knockout defeats following his loss to Hopkins. Jones was knocked out in Russia by Dennis Lebedev not long after his fight with Hopkins. Jones returned to the ring on December 11, 2011 to take on Max Alexander in Atlanta, Georgia. Jones won the ten round fight by unanimous decision, which snapped his three fight losing streak. Jones's last fight was in June of 2012, when he defeated Pawel Glazewski by split decision.
After it's all said and done, it's unlikely that there will be a third match between Hopkins and Jones. The timing for these two rivals meeting for a rematch seemed to be off, as each of them made personal gains in their careers without the other. However, we can all appreciate Roy Jones Jr's masterful performance in their first fight, and the legacy he will have on boxing. As far as Hopkins goes, we can continue to watch and marvel at how he continues to further cement his legacy today.