COMMENTARY | As the 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins looks to make the first defense of his IBF light heavyweight title this Saturday and extend a post-40 professional run that defies belief, two of Hopkins' high-profile contemporaries work to diminish their Hall of Fame legacies.
James Toney and Roy Jones, pound-for-pound superstars in the 90's and every bit equals of Hopkins in their primes, have both recently announced plans to continue long-dead careers, much to the dismay of well-wishing fans and media members. Both Toney and Jones have spent much of the new millennium as shot fighters, looking less and less impressive with each ring appearance and increasingly vulnerable to serious injury.
The 45-year-old Toney, who will be participating in the one-night November 14 Prizefighter UK heavyweight tournament, looks to be in dire need of intervention.
Just 2-2 in his last four fights, Toney has struggled against unknown, low-level opposition like Kenny Lemos, Lucas Browne, and Bobby Gunn-fighters who would not have been good enough to be sparring partners for a near-prime Toney. Also troubling is his deteriorating ability to speak and a shocking deterioration in overall motor skills in recent fights. The one-time master of the shoulder roll defense is now taking flush shots from third and fourth-tier pugs, looking every bit like the shot fighter he is.
But Toney has a name and a penchant for making headlines-even through his garbled speech. As long as someone, somewhere is willing to throw money at him, he'll keep fighting. And in the chaotic Wild West world of boxing, nobody can protect James Toney from James Toney.
"Nobody wants to fight me, so this is an opportunity to get a fight, or fights," Toney told Boxing News Online. "I'm super excited. I love England, I've visited before, and now it's time to show y'all the best fighter in the world…I can't wait to show the British fans I'm the real heavyweight champion."
Roy Jones' decision to keep fighting is more curious than Toney's. Unlike Toney, the once lightning-fast ring star has a commentating gig at HBO and, reportedly, is not in dire financial need. But the former four-division world champ is no less vulnerable in the ring or delusional outside of it.
Dependent upon almost superhuman reflexes to avoid punishment in his prime, an aging Jones has grown increasingly vulnerable and easy to hit over the years. As a result, Jones' punch resistance has diminished greatly, making the once-invincible star a candidate for a crushing KO defeat every time he enters the ring.
The 44-year-old Jones is scheduled to return to the ring in December against journeyman, and recent James Toney opponent, Bobby Gunn, in a bout he describes as a "tune-up" for a fight with UFC star, Anderson Silva.
"If [Silva] beats [Chris] Weidman, then we'll do a boxing match, which is what he wants to do," Jones said. "The Gunn fight would give me a tune-up so I'm ready for the fight in case he beats Weidman. So if he beats Weidman, I've got to be ready for it because he's going to be coming for me and I want to be ready when he comes for me. I want to give him what he wants."
And while Toney and Jones continue to fool themselves and work toward diminishing their legacies, Bernard Hopkins keeps building upon his legend.
A testament to the benefits of clean living, sound thinking, and well-learned lessons in boxing fundamentals, Hopkins is at the top of the world. At 48 he's living the professional life of someone, perhaps, twenty years younger.
Of course, at this age and after a long, long career, Hopkins' incredible run could be over at any time. It's more than conceivable that his 30-year-old opponent this Saturday, Karo Murat, could end this feel-good story decisively.
But even if the end does come this Saturday at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, it's hard to imagine Hopkins walking the same bizarre and delusional road as James Toney and Roy Jones. Hopkins is smart enough to know that, both in boxing and in fables, a story's ending can be the most important part of the tale.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
Sources: Boxingnewsonline, ESPN UK
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- James Toney
- Bernard Hopkins
- Roy Jones