Jones, the trainer of Chris Eubank Jr, who danced past Liam Williams in Cardiff on Saturday, is still acclaimed as the best boxer of the 1990s and the most naturally gifted athlete to enter a boxing ring. Unconventional, rarely bothering with a jab or a traditional defence, he relied on his lightning reflexes, speed, balance and astonishing hand-eye coordination.
Eubank Jr has sought out top coaching and they don’t come with much bigger reputations than Jones Jr
He was a boxer who, like Mayweather, could make an opponent miss with feints and head movement alone. But he was also a master of offensive innovation, leading with rapid-fire treble hooksi and showboating to the point that he once stopped an opponent (poor Glen Kelly) with a one-punch KO that began with Jones having both hands behind his back.
The knock on Jones in his early career was that he was cautious with his matchmaking, a result perhaps of the daylight robbery he received in his 1988 Olympic final in Seoul against home fighter Park Si-hun (widely viewed as the worst decision in boxing history). Burned by that, Jones was unwilling to leave the USA to seek out challenges – but few could complain when he shockingly leapt up to heavyweight in 2003 to fight for a world championship.
The boxer nicknamed ‘Superman’ had won world titles at middleweight, super-middleweight and light-heavyweight – but looked relatively small even at 175lb. In a move basically equivalent to Canelo Alvarez jumping up to heavyweight today and, without any tune-up, fighting for a major world title belt. Admittedly, ‘The Quiet Man’ John Ruiz – a tough, awkward but limited spoiler – will not go down as an all-time great heavyweight champion (Jones was not about to fight, say, Lennox Lewis). But the sheer size difference made it hugely intriguing.
After a boxing masterclass, Jones won a unanimous decision over Ruiz in Las Vegas to become the first former middleweight world champion to claim a heavyweight title in 106 years. At the time Jones’s record was an astonishing 48-1 (38 KOs) and his only defeat had been a DQ loss to Montell Griffin for hitting an opponent while he was down (Griffin was blitzed in one round in an immediate rematch). Griffin, incidentally, sparred Mayweather and claimed there was no comparison between the pair’s speed. “I’ve never been in the ring with anyone in my life as fast as Roy Jones,” Griffin told Ring magazine after he retired. “I sparred Floyd Mayweather and he’s 25 pounds lighter than Roy and nobody could compare.”