Roy Jones Jr. gets his swagger back
There was a time when Roy Jones Jr. was considered the best "pound-for-pound" boxer in the world. He was the draw for a sport that struggled to find legitimate heavyweight money-makers after Mike Tyson left a void that was clearly never filled.
And even though Floyd Mayweather has seized the "pound-for-pound" title from him recently (Jones acknowledged this in our interview), he is not ready to drift off into the sunset just yet. When he squares off with Felix "Tito" Trinidad on January 19th, fans are hoping to see old Roy Jones, flashy and dominant. We spoke with Jones recently, and it turns out he's expecting the same thing.
MF: The De La Hoya/Mayweather fight was a landmark event for boxing. What does your fight with Felix Trinidad mean to you, and what do you think it means for the sport today?
Jones Jr.: The loser's out of the game or down to eating peanuts, na'mean? We're both proven. We've got nothing to lose, so we can go out and fight confident until the best man wins. Did you see how safely Oscar (De La Hoya) and Floyd (Mayweather) fought? Neither guy wanted to lose. If nobody took a chance and got hurt, they can go on and do bigger and other things, you na'mean? So they fought very reluctantly, because nobody wanted to take a chance and take that gamble to give somebody that win or that loss, and give the crowd what they really want. If you take that gamble in boxing, end up on the bad end of it, you're done.
I lost one fight to Antonio Tarver, by maybe a round or two, and they say it's time for me to retire. Damn. Most of the time, I didn't even lose rounds when I fought! I lose a fight by one or two rounds, and they say I need to retire! You feel me?
MF: We feel you, Roy. Does that sentiment drive you crazy?
Jones Jr.: It don't really bother me, but I'm just showing you how it is. I got love for the Ultimate Fighters because they don't play like that, you know?
MF: Yes, and the UFC now challenges boxing for pay-per-view buys, revenue, and fans. How do you feel about the mixed martial arts movement?
Jones Jr.: I think it's wonderful. I'm a big fan. I watch a lot of it. I never really thought about getting in the cage, but I do love it. I love anybody that fights. That's just what I am. I'm a fighter and I love anybody that has the heart to go in there and face somebody one on one and fight. You got to love that, you know?
MF: Absolutely. Who's your favorite fighter right now?
Jones Jr.: Rampage is probably my favorite right now.
MF: Do you ever train with those guys?
Jones Jr.: Nah, but I like ‘em.
MF: You carried the title for a while, but who's the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world right now?
Jones Jr.: Floyd Mayweather.
MF: No question?
Jones Jr.: Nope.
MF: Flex Trinidad hasn't exactly been a busy fighter the last few years. He's coming out of retirement for this fight. Does it offend you that he thinks he can dust himself off and beat Roy Jones?
Jones Jr.: No, it's just, I know what it is, you know?
MF: Well, what is it?
Jones Jr.: He saw me get caught with a couple punches and now he feels like, "wow, he's getting older, they're hitting him so maybe I can hit him." And he knows he wants to throw those punches out there, so he's like, "here goes my chance. I want to gamble, I'm gonna go for all the marbles. I'm gonna see, can I catch him?" You na'mean? He's gonna fight me, and he'll open up to punch, and when you open up to punch, you can also be punched. And so it's a calculated gamble that he's willing to take.
MF: Trinidad has to bulk up to fight at 170 lbs. Do you think he'll have trouble adjusting to the extra weight?
Jones Jr.: No, he's not going to have any trouble adjusting to the extra weight because he's not going to be out there long enough to worry about that. He's going down about three, four rounds.
MF: That's the prediction?
Jones Jr.: Yup. About four rounds.
MF: So it'll be an entertaining fight?
Jones Jr.: Oh, most definitely.
MF: Let's talk training. Where are you now, and how's everything going?
Jones Jr.: Pensicola, Florida. Everything's going good.
MF: Are you training any differently for this fight than you used to?
Jones Jr.: Nope. Same old, same old.
MF: What kind of daily cardio are you doing?
Jones Jr.: I do running and bike riding. I run about five miles, 3-5 miles every morning, and when I don't run I do my bike riding, about 5-10 miles. I do shadow boxing, jump rope, speed bag both for hand-eye coordination and for cardio. Shadow boxing and the heavy bag are both great for cardio.
MF: Are you lifting at all?
Jones Jr.: I'm doing a little bit, but not much, only because I know for me, it can compromise my speed, so I try not to lift too much.
MF: You were the first middleweight champ in over 100 years to win the heavyweight belt. Was it hard to change your body for that fight?
Jones Jr.: It really wasn't hard at all. I have good eating habits. I worked hard, the good part it was so easy. I did it the right way. Losing it was a problem that I didn't think I'd have. My back was having a hard time because it wasn't used to carrying that much weight. So I had a really hard time, even during the fight. After round seven I knew my back was going to give mea problem, and it did. It was a heck of a transformation to gain 25 pounds of muscle in six weeks was very difficult.
MF: Do you have any tips for our guys, how they can gain weight and not get fat?
Jones Jr.: Make sure you maintain a healthy diet and exercise every part of your body. Make sure you eat right. Animal fat and animal protein are the best things to help you put on weight. Animal protein is beautiful. Animal protein will put on muscle weight, but you got to be working out to do it. You can't be eating animal protein all the time and not working out or it'll turn to fat.
MF: Do you diet for a fight?
Jones Jr.: Yeah I do diet. No fried food, no red meat, no sweets, no dairy products, no bread, not many starches.
MF: Is it hard to get used to?
Jones Jr.: Nah, I've done it so many times. My body just goes on automatic. I stop eating the wrong food and I drop weight right away.
MF: Do you enjoy training for a fight?
Jones Jr.: Love it. It's a passion. It used to be work — it's gotten to be work lately — but now it's back to where it's very enjoyable. The last fight it was very enjoyable, the fight before that was very enjoyable. What was enjoyable about it for me was being an entertainer. But lately, as of my last two fights, I had stopped doing that. I was kind of out there for work. It was more like, "well, I got to go rake the yard, so let's go ahead and get it over with." And that's not what God blessed me to do, you feel me?
That's why I wasn't winning, because I wasn't eager, wasn't hype, wasn't having a good time, wasn't playing, wasn't entertaining. People like to watch Roy Jones because they never know what Roy Jones might do. The three fights that I lost, after coming back down from heavyweight, losing 25 lbs of muscle, I didn't have any extra energy to do nothin'. That's not Roy Jones, you feel me?
MF: Do you think you'll be back to your old self in this fight?
Jones Jr.: Oh, I am back to my old self. I had a good time in my last fight, the last two fights I had I had a really good time. I was energetic: I was just as fresh in round 12 as I was in round 1. That's the old Roy Jones. That's how I know I have enough energy to do what I want to do now.
MF: What changed? Did you figure something out?
Jones Jr.: I figured out that I had to let my body make a real adjustment. 25 lbs of muscle was a lot to lose. That's a lot of pressure to put on my body at 36 years old. I also feel like I wasn't having a good time, I was doing work. That's not what I was blessed to do. I was blessed to do it to have a good time. I'm the kind of guy who's blessed to go in the ring and put my hands behind my back if I want to, do whatever I want to do. That was part of me entertaining the crowd. That's what I was blessed to do. I wasn't blessed to fight with my hands up.
MF: Do you take supplements?
Jones Jr.: I take iron, protein, potassium because I sweat a lot, just different things I think I might be missing.
MF: You had one of the fittest moments of the last 50 years in sports, when you played a semipro basketball game during the day and defended your super middleweight title that night. Tell me a little about that experience.
Jones Jr.: To me, basketball players are probably the second-best conditioned athletes. Four, five nights a week they're job is running up and down the court. You've got to get in shape if you keep doing that. That's why I like to play in my off time. That's how I got involved in playing, because it's great cardio to get you ready for a fight. For me, it's even better, because in front of a crowd, you're nervous, and nervous energy is the same thing that gets most people overly-exerted when they fight. Basketball gave me a chance to deal with that three or four times a week and it really helped me get my cardio up to par in dealing with a real life situation.
In that basketball arena, I'm going to be nervous, because I'm not at home, not doing what I've been training to do all my life, I'm doing something that's out of my element. So, it was great for me. I knew I could do it, because every day I was going to practice, and then going to train anyway, so it's like, I prepared myself for that too.
MF: So in between the two, you didn't have any doubts?
Jones Jr.: None whatsoever. I went to practice every day, and I'd go to train when I got done with practice. And I used to get up and jog in the morning. I knew I could handle it, there was never a doubt with me. I just wanted to do it to show the world that boxers can do more than one thing.
MF: You mentioned that basketball players are the second-best conditioned athletes in the world. Are boxers the best-conditioned?
Jones Jr.: A swimmer needs to be in some sure enough, hellacious shape. Next has to be a basketball player or a boxer. Just like the swimmer, the boxer doesn't have anybody to come in and call timeout and take his place for a minute because he's tired or because he's hurt, you feel me? They can get that break, but they still have to get their legs for a while before they get that break.
MF: After you beat Antonio Tarver in 2003, you lost three fights in a row. If you beat Trinidad though, you'll have won three in a row. How much longer do you want to fight? What's left to prove?
Jones Jr.: Nothing. I just want to get myself back in shape, get ready to go knock out Joe Calzaghe. After that, I'm good.
MF: Why's that?
Jones Jr.: Because he's the best super-middleweight, and I am older now, but I want to give him a fair shot and see if he can take it.
MF: If you fight him and you lose, would that be it?
Jones. Jr.: Yeah, that'd be it. I'll retire after that. I'm not going to go much longer. I just want to try him and see what he got. They say he's so good. I want to see.
MF: You are a little older now. Your assessment of your own skills — how have things changed?
Jones Jr.: Power is not as sharp as it used to be. I've become more economical, so I only throw power shoots where I need them and when I need them. Speed is about the same. Reflexes are a little bit different. You don't see as much coming as you used to see, or as quick as you used to see it, but I'm not sure if that's reflexes or the fact that I'm just not having fun anymore. So I'll see. I have to find that out shortly.
MF: People wanted to see you fight Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, a lot of heavyweights years ago. If money was no object, who would you want to fight?
Jones Jr.: Mike Tyson. Any time would have been fine with me, because he's always just as dangerous as he would have been for me. He's such a big guy, such a strong puncher. I wanted to see could I outbox him, outsmart him, out-speed him, which I thought I could, and piss him off, make him try to kill me like Ali used to do Joe Frazier.
MF: That would have been such a huge spectacle and a great fight. What held that up?
Jones Jr.: He just never could make it happen. He'd get in trouble, or something else would happen to him. It just wasn't meant.
MF: So you're saying you were pushing for it...?
Jones Jr.: Oh, most definitely. When I won the heavyweight title, he was the only person I wanted to fight. If I could have got a shot at him, I would have stayed at heavyweight. But because I couldn't get that, I came back down to light heavyweight. This was right after Ruiz in 2003.
MF: What do you listen to before a fight to get you pumped up?
Jones Jr.: Songs with good beats to them, good rhythms to them. Sometimes I listen to the lyrics, but most of the time just I listen to the beats and the rhythm of the hook, because I just want a good hook, and a good beat that I can ride to keep my mindset right. The only person word-wise I want to listen to is Scarface, because he's going to speak what I need to hear. I'm very particular about what I want to hear.
MF: Are you still involved in recording music?
Jones Jr.: Oh yeah. I'm still involved in it. I've got a song coming out for Trinidad. I can't give it to you until I'm finished with it, but I got one coming out. In about another week and a half, should be finished. I can send you a copy of it.
MF: Is that your entrance music?
Jones Jr.: More than likely it will be.
MF: Are you going to perform it on the way to the ring?
Jones Jr.: You know I am. This is what I do.
MF: Roy Jones the entertainer is coming back.
Jones Jr.: There you go.