Jones wary of Gonzalez despite being heavily favored
LOS ANGELES (AP) – Roy Jones Jr. saw what happened to then-heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis three months ago, and has worked to ensure he’s not a victim of the same thing Saturday night at Staples Center.
”I trained harder than I have in the last two years,” Jones said of his preparation for a 12-round light heavyweight title defense against unheralded Julio Gonzalez.
Jones is a prohibitive favorite, as was Lewis against Hasim Rahman in their championship bout April 22 in South Africa.
Rahman stopped Lewis in the fifth round for one of boxing’s biggest upsets. A victory by Gonzalez would be an even greater shocker.
”I always go in as a heavy favorite,” Jones said. ”That’s part of being the best. You can’t listen to that garbage, you’d better be ready when you come in there.
”One bad lick and you’re out of there. If the guy’s got the heart to throw that lick, then he has a chance. He’s a threat. He’s big, he can punch, he can take a punch.”
At 6-foot-2, Gonzalez is three inches taller than Jones and has a five-inch reach advantage.
The 32-year-old Jones, from Pensacola, Fla., is considered – along with Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley and perhaps Oscar De La Hoya – as the best pound-for-pound fighters around.
Voted the fighter of the decade for the 1990s by the Boxing Writers Association of America, Jones owns the WBC, IBF and WBA light heavyweight belts (175 pounds), has a 44-1 overall record with 36 knockouts, and is 18-1 in world championship fights.
His only loss was on a disqualification in the ninth round against Montell Griffin in Atlantic City, N.J., on March 21, 1997, for hitting Griffin while he was on one knee.
Victory, all but assured, turned into defeat.
Jones, who will earn $1.5 million for his first fight in Los Angeles, avenged the loss less than five months later, stopping Griffin in the first round of their rematch.
More than four years after than loss, Jones says he’s never been better.
”I’ll know when I’m going downhill,” he said.
Jones has been criticized for his cerebral approach to boxing rather than going toe-to-toe with his opponents.
”I let this lead this,” he said, pointing to his head and then his heart. ”I was trained to hit and not to be hit. I can punch. I will put my life on the line if I have to.”
Gonzalez, who turns 25 next week, brings a 27-0 record with 17 knockouts into the bout. His family moved to nearby Orange County from Mexico when he was 12.
”I think Julio’s going to be my fourth world champion,” said trainer Mack Kurihara, who began working with Gonzalez in 1992 when Gonzalez was a high school student. ”We’re going to see who’s going to back off first. I know Julio’s not going to back off. If Roy Jones doesn’t back off, it’s going to be a hell of a fight.”
Jones is known for his speed, but Gonzalez, who will earn $500,000, said he believes the champion has lost some quickness.
”But he’s still very fast, more than all of us out there,” Gonzalez said. ”I just have to put a lot of pressure on him and make him fight. He doesn’t like to fight toe-to-toe.”
When informed Gonzalez believes he’s slowed down a little bit, Jones replied: ”If he said that, he’s out of his damn mind. But I hope he thinks that.”
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