- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

LAS VEGAS Several questions had swirled around Roy Jones Jr. since he agreed to move up from the light heavyweight division and fight World Boxing Association heavyweight champion John Ruiz.
The most important: Would Jones show up Saturday night at the Thomas & Mack Center?
It was not an unreasonable question. Reports had circulated until this week that Jones had not signed the final contracts, finding things wrong with the deal. Then there was his failure to show three times for interviews with TV Guide that would have put the Ruiz-Jones fight on the cover this week.
It had gotten to the point that fight organizers were worried Jones would not show up for yesterday's final news conference at Caesars Palace. Promoter Don King tried to make light of the uncertainty.
"I'll just talk to an empty chair," he said. "This is what makes a promoter. Maybe I can get [magician] David Copperfield to use his cape and just make Roy appear."
Jones appeared as the news conference was about to start. So it seems likely he will show up for the fight Saturday night.
If so, then another question lacks a satisfactory answer: Why would Jones agree to fight a man who could weigh as much as 40 pounds more?
Is it for the money? Jones is getting a guaranteed paycheck of $10million, about three times his usual payday against unknown light heavyweight challengers.
"A paycheck isn't what is really on my mind," Jones said. "I have the opportunity to make more money than I ever made in my career, but I could still make the same thing in three or four fights [against] guys that I am sure to beat."
Is it to secure his place in boxing history? Jones, 34, is regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter of his time, but he has never had a quality opponent. Adviser Brad Jacobs, said yesterday that this fight "will cement his place in boxing history."
Jones (47-1, 38 knockouts) believes his reputation as one of the greatest fighters of all time has been established because he has outclassed the opposition by such a wide margin.
"I've already proven myself," he said. "People who know boxing know I'm the best."
Then is it to gain respect and quiet critics who claim that Jones doesn't fight anyone of note and is unwilling to take the risks to be regarded as one of the all-time greats? It got so bad that some boxing fans on the Internet tried to organize a "Roycott" of Jones' fights.
"I don't pay attention to that," he said. "I just take care of my business."
So which one motivates him? Money? History? Respect?
Probably all three.
Jones spoke briefly at the news conference, but his animated manner was telling. He stood up, pounded on the table and yelled, "People want to see me get beat! They want to see my blood! So I had to find [an opponent] for them."
This is the dilemma for Jones he is an artist, but he doesn't want to get any paint on himself. He came to this conclusion after seeing his friend, former middleweight champion Gerald McClellan, wind up severely brain damaged after a brutal fight with Nigel Benn in 1995. McClellan still needs 24-hours-a-day care, and they hold fundraisers to help pay his medical bills. Jones told Esquire magazine that what happened to McClellan still affects him.
"I don't want nobody to do it to me," he said.
Jones also may have decided that the paycheck he earns despite his claims otherwise would be incentive enough in his boxing career after being robbed of the gold medal in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Since then, Jones has approached the business of boxing with a chip on his shoulder and perhaps rightly so.
Ruiz (38-4-1, 27 knockouts) could knock that chip off. Although he is considered a mediocre heavyweight champion, he does have enough skills and power (he put Evander Holyfield on the canvas) and size to be a dangerous opponent for Jones.
"I didn't find someone I thought I could beat," Jones said. That still begs the question why why is Jones, who first won the middleweight championship in 1993, taking this fight?
Perhaps Robert DeNiro, as middleweight Jake LaMotta in the film, "Raging Bull," had the answer when he bemoaned to his brother, "I got these small hands. I got a little girl's hands. … You know what that means? No matter how big I get, no matter who I fight, no matter what I do, I ain't never gonna fight [for the heavyweight championship]."
Roy Jones Jr. will, on Saturday night.

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