WHEN the shock of Chris Eubank Jnr getting stopped in four rounds by Liam Smith wore off it was time for the blame game to begin. It seems that we can never accept a fighter’s defeat at face value, that there is always a reason. Inevitably it nearly always starts with the trainer. No surprises there. But when that trainer is Roy Jones Jnr you can’t help but do a double take.
In fairness, Jones has only made matters worse by saying that an illegal elbow from Smith was the primary reason for Eubank’s downfall. It reminded me of a conversation I had with Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson in the days following his stoppage loss to “Prince” Naseem Hamed where he told me the same thing. I remember thinking how Johnson was in denial, just as Jones is now. But regardless of Jones’ attitude toward how the match ended, he is certainly not to blame for Eubank’s defeat. Yet he will be blamed to a degree, if not by Eubank himself, then by others who have a vested interest in the fighters career.
If promoter Eddie Hearn did not fire the first salvo then he certainly fired the biggest one by basically saying that Jones was the wrong trainer for Eubank, that Chris’ greatest assets had been taken away by the way he was coached. Hearn is certainly entitled to his opinion, but it should be noted that he has taken a while to arrive at it; Jones has trained Eubank for more than two years.
Hearn does not promote Eubank, but has an interest in him if a matchup with his man Conor Benn can be revived. That is a story for another time, though. Jones did not take kindly to Hearn’s remarks and penned a response on social media, but these back and forth shouts are seldom helpful to either party.
His prowess as a coach should not interfere with his reputation as a fighter but it nonetheless makes you think. Jones is always referred to as being an all-time great, but when push comes to shove is he really?
Unless there is a reversal of the outrageous decision that went against him in the 1988 Olympic Games, Roy will never be a gold medalist. Due to that blatant robbery he was never afforded the Olympic buildup in the pro ranks that was a springboard to stardom for Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya.
Though the undoubted pound for pound king when he fought, Jones never really made a mark in one particular weight class to be named as the best ever in that division. He decisively defeated the likes of Bernard Hopkins, yet few refer to him with the reverence they do of Marvin Hagler when discussing all-time best middleweights. Same thing at super-middleweight, where Jones tounced James Toney, where the discussion usually starts and ends with Joe Calzaghe and Andre Ward, with nary a mention of Jones. At light-heavyweight we hear about the likes of Archie Moore, Bob Foster, and Michael Spinks, but how often does Jones’ name come up? And beating John Ruiz for a WBA heavyweight belt, though impressive, is not in the same league as Spinks upsetting Larry Holmes.
You can, however, make a very valid case that no champion in boxing history showed the level of dominance Jones did in his prime. He would rarely lose a round. Compare this to Floyd Mayweather who despite always finding a way to win struggled far more than Jones ever did in his prime. Which brings us to the Hall of Fame banquet in Canastota, last June, which due to the pandemic inducted three classes. Among those being enshrined were Jones and Mayweather.
Mayweather treated the induction weekend like he was the main event and all the other honorees, Jones included, were merely the supporting cast. Floyd proclaimed himself as the greatest of all time and said he would always be. Meanwhile, Jones was seated at the end of the very long dais, a location usually reserved for the less prestigious honorees. Maybe this would have irked others in a similar situation, but Jones simply did not seem to care even though he was probably the greater of the two when both were in their respective primes.
It will be interesting to see whether Eubank Jnr retains Jones as his trainer. But just the mere fact that an icon like Roy is putting himself in a position where he could get fired by Eubank is something that would be unthinkable for the likes of Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali, who lived off of their iconic status when they retired as Mike Tyson and Leonard do today. Somehow it seems beneath boxing royalty like Jones to put himself in a position of being dismissed by any fighter, let alone Eubank.
But Jones, just like always, is different to all the rest.