Jones Fighting As Light Heavyweight Again

Friday, November 7th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ Antonio Tarver gave Roy Jones Jr. a reason to get excited about fighting as a light heavyweight again. Now, he might be forced to pay the price for it.

Jones, who still holds the WBA heavyweight title, returns to the 175-pound ranks for probably the last time Saturday night in a scheduled 12-round fight for Tarver's light heavyweight title.

If it's Jones' last fight at 175 pounds, he plans to go out with a bang.

``I'm stopping him. I don't care what round it is but I'm stopping him,'' Jones said. ``I'm madder than a son of a gun.''

Jones believes he has good reason to be angry. Tarver tried to spoil his party by calling him out minutes after he beat John Ruiz in March to win the heavyweight title, and has claimed Jones has been ducking him for the last two or three years.

The way Jones sees it, though, every fighter has his time. And that time for Tarver could be short Saturday night.

``I promised this man I was going to give him this,'' Jones said. ``Who have I ever ran from? He's the last person I would run from.''

Jones is a prohibitive favorite to win back the WBC light heavyweight title he vacated to move up and fight Ruiz for the heavyweight crown. He wouldn't be expected to keep it long though, because he wants to meet Mike Tyson in a heavyweight megafight, then retire to raising chickens on his ranch in Florida.

``I think I've got an 85 percent chance of pulling that off,'' Jones said of a Tyson fight. ``He's not as flaky as they say he is. Tyson will do what he has to do to make this fight happen.''

First, though, Jones must beat Tarver, a 1996 Olympic bronze medalist, in the fight at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino. The bout, which will be televised on pay-per-view, is expected to begin at about 11:30 p.m. EST.

``This is a dangerous fight for Roy Jones,'' Tarver said. ``The risks outweigh the reward. Finally he's going to earn his money, every dime of it.''

The 34-year-old Tarver (21-1, 17 knockouts) says he won't be intimidated by either the reputation, skills or experience of Jones. Tarver's win in April over Montell Griffin was his first title fight. Jones is 22-1 in championship bouts.

The two fighters have met once before, as 13-year-olds in the Sunshine State Games in Florida, where Jones won a decision.

``I've beaten everybody there is to beat outside of Roy Jones Jr.,'' Tarver said. ``They know Roy Jones is finally facing a real fighter who has real talent, real ability, real skill.''

Jones, criticized in the past for winning fights easily by boxing instead of trying to stop his opponents, vows it will be different against Tarver because it the fight has become personal.

He's also upset over having to diet and train more to get down in weight after coming in at 193 pounds for his win over Ruiz.

``It was one of the worst times I ever had. You sacrifice so much you want to kill somebody,'' Jones said. ``He's going to pay for this. I wouldn't go down to this weight for nobody else but him.''

Jones probably will not have that problem in any future fights. He said this week he wants to fight Tyson sometime next year in a megafight, then retire.

If he does retire, he'll go down as one of the greatest fighters ever, beaten only once in a disputed ruling and a champion in four different weight classes. But the knock on Jones before he moved up to fight Ruiz also was that he fought weak opponents and never took any chances.

In another championship fight on the card, Winky Wright (45-3, 25 knockouts) will defend his IBF 154-pound title against Angel Hernandez (26-4, 16 knockouts), the sixth-ranked contender.