After years of speculation as to when he'd finally learn to walk away, Roy Jones Jr. is finally ready to call it a career.
Widely considered among the very best to ever lace up a pair of gloves, the former four-division world champion has established his swan song for February 8 at the Pensacola Civic Center, the very same arena that played host to his pro debut with a 2nd round knockout of Ricky Randall way back in May '89.
The Pensacola News Journal, Jones' hometown newspaper was the first to report the news.
"It's my last one for the bay front, Civic Center, Pensacola, Bayfront Arena, whatever you want to call it," Jones (65-9, 47KOs) said of his placement on Island Fights 48 at the venue, which is now known as the Pensacola Bay Center. "So if you want to come to see my last day in Pensacola, be there February 8. That's my last one there."
At his very best, Jones (65-9, 47KOs) generated legitimate debate regarding his proper place among the all-time greats. A perfect blend of speed and power led to his tearing through the ranks at middleweight, super middleweight and light heavyweight while barely losing rounds, never mind fights. Fittingly, his lone two losses in a span of 16 years were both mired in controversy: his having to settle for a silver medal in the 1988 Olympics light middleweight finals in a disgraceful decision that forever changed the way Olympic boxing is now scored; and a 9th round disqualification loss to Montell Griffin in their first meet in March '97.
The "loss" to hosting nation South Korea's Park Si-Hun in the Olympics was overlooked by the voting committee in issuing him the Val Barker trophy awarded to the most outstanding boxer of the competition. His DQ to Griffin was emphatically avenged in the form of a 1st round knockout just five months later.
That's as close as anyone came to beating Jones until longtime in-state rival Antonio Tarver knocked him out in the 2nd round of their May '04 rematch to regain his portion of the light heavyweight crown. By that point, Jones had collected titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and—in a feat not accomplished in more than 100 years and still not matched since—becoming the first former middleweight titlist to win a belt at heavyweight following his 12-round decision win over John Ruiz in March '03, before dropping back down in weight to regain the light heavyweight crown in his first meet with Tarver in Nov. '03.
From the time of his middleweight-title winning effort over Bernard Hopkins in May '93 until his aforementioned KO loss to Tarver, Jones remained a fixture in the mythical pound-for-pound rankings—a span of 11 years, with most of it spent at the very top. His first taste of recognition as the best boxer on the planet came in his near shutout of then-unbeaten James Toney to win the super middleweight crown in Nov. '94. Jones turned a grudge match into a tour-de-force showcase, dismantling the pound-for-pound king all while making it look like a shadowboxing session.
If there was a flaw in his game, it was an inability to convince his divisional peers—most of the best residing in the United Kingdom and Germany—to share ring space, which led to a four-year period of treading water while figuring out ways to reinvent the wheel. Still, all was forgotten and forgiven once he moved up to heavyweight to end the first title reign of Ruiz in perhaps the final truly great performance in his career. A subsequent points win over Tarver was his last in a title fight, suffering three straight losses—a knockout and decision defeat at the hands of Tarver, straddling a knockout loss to Glen Johnson in Sept. '04, as well as a 12-round defeat at the hands of Joe Calzaghe in his last ever championship fight (historians recognizing Calzaghe as the lineal champion at the time, despite the absence of a sanctioned alphabet title at stake).
Still, Jones always found a way to bring his talents back home. Wedged in between title wins over Hopkins and Toney were a trio of wins in the Gulf Coast. He brought the HBO cameras to his hometown for the very first defense of his super middleweight crown when he destroyed mandatory challenger Antoine Byrd in one round at the Pensacola Civic Center in March '95, and again later that year in a three-round dismantling of veteran contender Tony Thornton.
His upcoming bout—versus an opponent to be named shortly after the New Year—will mark his 24th hometown appearance, capping a 75-fight career that is undoubtedly destined for the International Boxing Hall of Fame during his first year of eligibility. It fulfills the promise he made to fans following a 10-round win over Rodney Moore in Aug. '16 to return home for one final fight. His lone bout in between is an 8th round stoppage of Bobby Gunn earlier this February in Wilmington, Delaware.
For many in boxing, it means the long overdue end to a career that has suffered some taint in his hanging around a good decade too long. For his adoring local fans, it means the close to the city's one-man pro sports franchise.
"Words can’t even express how I feel about having Roy on this card," stated Dean Toole, founder and COO of Island Fights. "This is amazing, incredible. I am so excited he is going to do his last fight in Pensacola on Island Fights 46. It means everything to me.
"This is somebody I have looked up to my whole life. Somebody who I became a fan of combat sports, just from watching Roy Jones Jr. In Pensacola we didn’t have the Blue Wahoos, UWF football, the Ice Flyers. We grew up and we had Roy Jones Jr. To become friends with him, business partners with him and now having his last fight, it's incredible to me."
Tickets for the event–which will serve as a hybrid boxing and MMA show—are due to go on sale January 5, at which point the final opponent of Jones' career is expected to be named.