Twenty-one years ago, a promising 18 year-old Pensacola native laced up his boxing gloves, donned his American gear and took an epic flight to Seoul Korea to represent his country in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. Going into the tournament, he was highly favored to win the gold medal in the junior middleweight division. Many analysts dared to place his name next to the likes of boxing legends Sugar Ray Leonard and Michael Spinx because of his remarkable combination of speed and strength.
In his first four fights, he easily zoomed through his opponents with flashy footwork and Ali’s taunting tactics. At age 18, he was already setting the stage for his enemies’ biggest bone of contention: his confidence.
Then, it happened. In the Gold Medal match, he battered, bruised and demolished the skillfully inferior fighter in South Korea’s Park Si-Hun. In the first round, he even staggered Si-Hun to the point that the referee had to call a standing-eight count so that Si-Hun could regain his consciousness. But, sure enough, when the judges deliberated, the great American fighter suffered what many spectators call the greatest armed robbery not only in boxing, but also in Olympic history. Si-hun was awarded an undeserved majority decision and given the Gold. Consequently, the scoring system for Olympic boxing has been altered as an attempt to avoid such atrocities from happening. The five judges, three of whom were Koreans, had their judging licenses permanently removed.
From then on, the fighter used the robbery as a fuel to dominate his opponents. What’s most important to note is that he vowed to never again fight in a foreign country. That legend the only middleweight champ to also win the heavyweight title, the light heavyweight title eight times, the super middleweight title, the ’90s Fighter of the Decade recipient along with many other accolades is Roy Jones, Jr. Up until he had 49 wins and one loss by a questionable disqualification, he was unbeatable.
Twenty-one years later, clearly on the decline of his career at the wise age of 40, Jones made a bold and perhaps unwise decision on his comeback trail to the top. For the first time in his professional career, Jones opted to fight outside of the United States. Even more daring, he decided to fight great Australian boxer Danny Green on his home turf in Sydney at a weight class that he’s never fought at cruiserweight. Although critics believe Jones’s decline started when he jumped from weight class to weight class to fight for the heavyweight title one month, then 30 pounds lighter for the light heavyweight title in the next fight, Jones still opted to fight at a completely new weight. Why you ask? He did it for the sport, the fame and the history of being the only man to win every title from middleweight to heavyweight.
But Jones must have forgotten the curse of the foreign land. While Jones’ was a heavy favorite, I couldn’t help but feel uneasy that he was doing what cursed him 21 years ago in Seoul.
Last night, the bell rang for a 12-round International Boxing Association Championship bout in front of tens of thousands of hysteric bloks chanting ‘Green, Green, Green.” A little over two-minutes later the bell rang again this time, for the end of the fight. The Australian referee stopped the fight under the belief that the American legend could no longer compete with the legendary Australian boxer (second to ‘Kangaroo Jack.” And we all know how much money that movie made). Why? Because Green landed an unclean punch on Jones’s neck, dropping him in the first half of the round. I will admit, Jones staggered due to the flash knockdown, but he decided to play it safe and smart by going into a shell defense for the remainder of the round. But the Australian referee was blinded by his irresistible love for his country and fighter. He threw away justice; he defecated on everything the sport ever stood for; he placed himself in Australian boxing history (for what that’s worth).
Twenty-one years later, the sport hasn’t changed. When a confidant and skillful American challenges a humbled non-American fighter in his maiden land, the judges make every effort to rob his gold. Australia succeeded. Now they can rejoice in their iniquities, at the expense of having a great man consider retirement.
Jones is my role model. It was hard for me to watch a man I grew up watching get robbed and disrespected by a heathen pack of Ausies. But I can at least find comfort in the fact that I can tell my in-denial peers that Jones never lost he was robbed.
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011