Boxing

Jones can't hurt legacy with future fights

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It's sure been a tough year in the legacy business. For those who actually have one, that is. No matter the acclaim earned over a career's worth of service in the athletic field of choice, it seems a keyboard-toting basement-dweller is never far away with a binder's worth of evidence as to why another second in the spotlight — win, lose or draw — will immediately turn it all to dust. Case in point: Brett Favre. You know ... the guy from the Wrangler commercials. Remember him? Just a few months ago, seems every would-be genius with Internet access and an NFL Ticket subscription was reciting reasons why the mercurial No. 4 should call it quits once and for all, lest he erase all the good crammed into a multiple MVP, multiple title game and multiple record-holding resume. As for how those brilliant forecasts turned out, well ... check the latest football news. Not only did the 40-year-old complete 32 passes for a season-best 392 yards and three TDs while playing an NFL record (for non-kickers) 282nd straight game on Sunday, but the team many damned for signing him won for the 10th time and padded its division lead to three games with five to play. Not exactly Pulitzer material. So when it comes to boxing, what makes anyone think they'd know any better? Still, nearly every day since October 2005 — when a unanimous decision against Antonio Tarver provided a third straight loss in a career that 18 months earlier had been sans blemish — some soothsayer from some outlet has written that Roy Jones Jr. ought to retire in order to protect his legacy. Or more accurately, the writer's warped view of it. As if three straight losses — or 33, for that matter — would be enough to cancel out championships in four weight classes, one-sided wins over a roll call of Hall of Famers and more highlight-reel history than any 100 fighters who'd given up at the first sign of adversity. It was nonsense then ... as a subsequent three-fight win streak, a competitive showing against unbeaten pound-for-pound elite Joe Calzaghe and subsequent bounce-back wipeouts of Omar Sheika (TKO 5) and Jeff Lacy (TKO 10) proved. And it's nonsense now, even as it continues. Admittedly, in the interest of full disclosure, neither Sheika nor Lacy are anyone's idea of Ray Robinson. But the one-sidedness of the victories proved, if nothing at all else, that Jones at 40 can still handle himself quite well against 99 percent of the active pros out there. And for the life of me, I can't understand why that's a bad thing. Or how it takes anything away from what happened between 1989 and 2004, when he won 49 of 50. In my view, it just doesn't. Short of pulling an O.J. Simpson or Pete Rose, his history is safe.

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Muhammad Ali lost to Trevor Berbick, but he's still "The Greatest." Ray Leonard lost to Hector Camacho, but he's still "Sugar Ray." Julio Cesar Chavez lost to Grover Wiley, but he's still "El Gran Campeon Mexicano." And regardless of what happens to Jones from here on out, he's still "Superman." He'll don the cape again Wednesday night in Australia, where he'll pack Acer Arena and create the country's biggest all-time fight night with a challenge of hometown hero Danny Green in Sydney. A win earns him the IBO title at cruiserweight, the one class he skipped while acquiring scalps from 160 pounds to heavyweight in his heyday. And it sets up one of this country's slam-dunk PPV events of 2010, when he's already agreed to take on Hopkins in a rematch of their 1993 middleweight match. Incidentally, Hopkins will fight his own tune-up Wednesday night in Philadelphia against a far less ominous opponent in Enrique Ornelas. Sure, he's old, too. And his own last five years have been only marginally better than Jones's, featuring a 3-3 record to Roy's 5-4, a far less-watchable loss to Calzaghe and a win over Kelly Pavlik that Jones could probably have matched had gotten to the robotic Ohioan first. But while the naysayers look at that and see 100 reasons to instead watch 25-year-old bantamweights with no legacies to compromise, I'll drop another $55 as a tribute to those who've proven their worth to me 100 times over. It might not be Tom Brady or Drew Brees ... but I've got a feeling the old guys might still be worthy of a good score on the way to induction.

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