Roy Jones looks to salvage glory
Looking to stop his stellar career from fizzling out with a whimper, Roy Jones Jr. takes on Denis Lebedev in Moscow on Saturday, and is challenging Russia's top cruiserweight to prove his worth: ''If you can whoop me, whoop me.''
The 42-year-old Jones has been in decline since his mid-30s, prompting a return to cruiserweight — perhaps as part of a hopeful quest to add the only title to elude him between middleweight and heavyweight.
But the American's poor form — losing his last two fights to Danny Green and Bernard Hopkins — and the jarring power of his more youthful opponent, recognized as one of the best fighters in the division, have earned him the underdog tag.
Jones, who has a 54-7 record with 40 KOs, exuded confidence at Friday's weigh-in, letting out a roar after officials registered his weight.
''If you can beat me, beat me,'' a philosophical-looking Jones told the state television network Russia Today. Jones, who has a 54-7 record with 40 KOs, exuded confidence at Friday's weigh-in, letting out a roar after officials registered his weight.
Despite the absence of a title at stake, the tension was palpable as Jones and Lebedev stood toe-to-toe, avoiding eye contact.
The 31-year-old Lebedev, a versatile southpaw trained by former undisputed welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu, boasts a 21-1 record, with his only defeat coming in a controversial points decision given to WBO cruiserweight champion Marco Huck in Germany last year.
Lebedev, feared for his knockout power in both fists, started out as a light heavyweight before settling in the cruiserweight division, accruing a string of impressive victories while fighting mostly out of Russia.
''When Denis steps in the ring for this bout, I want him to be an aggressive, hungry and aspiring fighter, thinking: I'd rather die than lose. That's the feeling I didn't have in my last bouts. And neither does Roy now,'' Tszyu told Russia Today.
Jones, who once held a record seven belts at the same time and was named the 1990s Fighter of the Decade by United States boxing writers, still likes to display a lighthearted side, performing his rap song ''Heart of a Champion'' for his Moscow fans.
And he is under no illusions about his age, either.
''I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His trainer is just as old as me.''