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16 May 2004 00:00
The punch was shocking enough. The result was even more shocking.
Antonio Tarver’s left hand out of nowhere stopped Roy Jones Jnr in the second round on Saturday night, giving him the light heavyweight title and handing Jones the most crushing defeat of his illustrious career.
Tarver had landed only a handful of punches and seemed slow in starting when Jones threw a right hand that missed, which caused him to crouch down.
Tarver came out of the crouch with a roundhouse left hand that caught Jones flush on the side of his face.
Jones was knocked under the ropes in Tarver’s corner, and was badly hurt even though he managed to get up at about the count of seven.
Tarver, who had vowed to settle a score from his loss to Jones in November, jumped around the ring in celebration as the crowd at Mandalay Bay hotel-casino went wild.
It was only the second loss of Jones’s 15-year pro career, and only the second time he had ever been knocked down. His first loss was on disqualification in a fight he later avenged.
“I never gave up on my dream so here we are,” Tarver said.
Tarver was tight from the opening bell, warily circling Jones while his corner urged him to throw punches. Jones began landing his right-hand lead midway through the first round, and it looked as if Jones was going to be the faster and stronger fighter.
In the corner after the first round Tarver said to trainer James “Buddy” McGirt: “He doesn’t respect me.”
“Go out and get yours,” McGirt replied.
Tarver did just that, bringing the fight to a stunning end almost before it began.
Both fighters were the same age—35—but there was a wide difference in experience. Jones was in his 25th world title fight, while Tarver was fighting for a title for only the third time.
But it was Tarver who seemed to have an idea how to handle this fight, much like the first fight in which he lost a majority decision to Jones that he thought he won.
Jones blamed that close win on having to lose 11,25kg after moving up to heavyweight to win the WBA title from John Ruiz, but
there was nothing to blame this time.
“I’m not making any excuses,” Jones said. “It’s just the way it happens sometimes.”
Jones had won the first round on all three scorecards, and seemed well on his way to winning the second round with lead right hands. But he left himself open after throwing one midway through the second round when Tarver launched the left hand that ended it.
“Overhand left right on the kisser,” Tarver said. “It was beautiful.”
Jones tried to get up right after going down, getting to one knee before sinking back to the canvas. He finally got up, but Nady waved the fight off and he staggered along the ropes into a neutral corner.
“I was hit with a good shot, a very good shot,” Jones said.
Jones was a 4-1 favourite going into the fight, and he seemed determined to show his fans that his disputed win in the first fight was largely due to being out of shape and having to lose too much weight.
He admitted though that Tarver, a tall southpaw, caused him problems with his style. It showed when he had to take a chance to get inside against Tarver and got hit with the left.
“What basically happens is I probably got bored with this guy,” Jones said.
Tarver, seldom at a loss for words, had a few for Jones even as the fighters stood in the centre of the ring getting their final instructions from Nady.
“What excuse are you going to use tonight?” he asked Jones.
Before the fight, Tarver had said Jones’s legacy was on the line, and he may have proved correct.
Jones said he would not fight Tarver again, and said he might move back to heavyweight for possible fights against Mike Tyson or Vitali Klitschko.
After being stopped on one punch by a light heavyweight, though, Jones might have trouble convincing boxing fans he can slug with heavyweights, regardless of what happened in his win last year against Ruiz.
“I would rather fight heavyweights,” Jones said.
Jones earned $6-million for a fight he seemed to take personally. Though Jones is widely regarded as perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter of his era, he has been criticised for taking relatively easy opponents throughout his career.
For Tarver, who recently filed for bankruptcy, the $2-million purse was his biggest payday of a pro career that began after he won a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics.
“It takes a great fighter to beat a great fighter,” Tarver said, “and I am a great fighter.”
On the undercard, former 63kg champion Zab Judah won a split decision in a welterweight fight against former champion Rafael Pineda. Judah was fighting for the second time in five weeks, after losing a decision to welterweight champion Cory Spinks on April 10.—Sapa-AP
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