- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Well, the Harlem Globetrotter of boxing has agreed to step up in class — well, at least in weight.

Roy Jones Jr. won't exactly be facing the Los Angeles Lakers of the ring, though, on March1 at Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas. But at least John Ruiz passes for more than the Washington Generals, because he weighs more and, presumably, punches harder.

I've compared Jones, the undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world, to the Globetrotters because they share the same act talent and flash against doormat opponents.

But Jones has made his move. Instead of fighting mediocre light heavyweight fighters, he has agreed to fight a mediocre heavyweight who just happens to hold a version (the World Boxing Association) of the heavyweight championship, thanks to the wheelings and dealings of promoter Don King.

Roy Jones Jr. vs. John Ruiz. These days, this is what passes as heavyweight championship history.

It is intriguing, and that does count for something in a dead division. No one cares who World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis fights anymore, now that the sham against Mike Tyson is out of the way. He can fight all the Klitschko brothers he wants, at the same time, if he likes, but no one cares.

So King reached into his bag of tricks and came up with a gimmick to create some heavyweight interest. First, he had to pay Lewis $1million to give up the International Boxing Federation version of the heavyweight title, leaving it vacant. That set up the Dec.14 match in Atlantic City, promoted by King, between former champion Evander Holyfield and Chris Byrd.

The second component of this plan by King is Jones-Ruiz, with the hope that the winner fights the winner of Holyfield-Byrd, and then that winner, who would hold the WBA and IBF belts, fights Lewis in a unification bout. Jones, though, has not agreed to any fights beyond Ruiz, and Lewis has not agreed to fight the winner of anything down the line.

"All I got on my mind is to win this fight," Jones said yesterday in the news conference to officially announce the fight. "If I continue to fight in this weight division, [fighting the winner of Holyfield-Byrd] is something I would be interested in looking at."

Jones has taken a beating in the arena of public opinion for his continuous title defenses against the unknown and untalented opponents that the sanctioning organizations would trot out against him as the mandatory challengers. And Jones, rather than tell those organizations to kiss off, has instead embraced every alphabet group that was willing to put a belt around his waist the WBC, WBA, IBF, IBO, IBA, NBA and WBF. I would tell you the full names of all those organizations, but then I wouldn't have space for anything else to write, and anyway, you really don't care who says Roy Jones is light heavyweight champion. You know it, and I know it, and that is all that matters.

But Jones has lost his alphabet infatuation. His decision to fight Ruiz means he will be stripped of the IBF belt, which is unfortunate only because he will need all the extra weight he can carry with him into the ring when he fights Ruiz (38-4-1, 27 knockouts), who is expected to outweight Jones (47-1, 38 knockouts) by at least 40 pounds (Ruiz could come in between 225 and 230 pounds, and Jones, who usually fights at 175 pounds, could weight between 185 and 190 pounds).

It got so bad for Jones that at one point there was an Internet boycott movement by some fans, known as "Roycott," of Jones' fights. But he insists his decision to fight Ruiz is not an effort to gain respect and silence his critics.

"The critics should go home and pick up their Bibles," he said. "Then maybe they should learn something." The book of Roy must be one of those long lost parts of the Bible that remains hidden, because I don't remember any Roy Jones references in the current version of the good book.

"This will be the biggest challenge of my career," Jones said. "I have been trying to make this jump, but people haven't given me the opportunity," (Oh, yeah, as if the heavyweight division has been ducking Roy Jones).

If he beats Ruiz, Jones, who will earn at least a guaranteed $10million purse (Ruiz will earn half that), will be the first former middleweight champion to go up and win a heavyweight title since England's Bob Fitzsimmons won the heavyweight crown more than 105 years ago. Don King may have promoted that one, too.

Speaking of the promoter, King is scheduled to come to Washington tomorrow for a news conference at RFK Stadium to promote the Jan.4 show at the D.C. Armory that features Washington's DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley defending his World Boxing Organization junior welterweight championship against former title holder Randall Bailey.

They may want to erect those Grand Prix sound walls again out of courtesy to the surrounding neighborhoods.

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