In early June, I published an article contemplating two questions. First, whether one should watch the credits of a movie that he or she watches to completion. Second, whether one should leave a bad movie before it is finished. It was perhaps peculiar that I of all people would write that article, for I have not been to a movie theater in a long time – since April 3, 2010, to be exact. I know the exact date not because the movie I saw was good, but because the second fight between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. was anything but good. It was, in fact, an unmitigated disaster. Now, with Mr. Jones, aged 51, publicizing his upcoming exhibition fight against the 54-year old Mike Tyson, I was reminded of that strange night at the theater just over ten years ago. In this article, I revisit the circumstances leading to my trip to the theater that night to see Hopkins-Jones II, and why I stayed for the entire show rather than leave early.
As I noted in my article about watching the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Shane Mosley fight with my friend on May 1, 2010, I am a boxing fan. I started following boxing somewhere in the vicinity of 2007-2008, and I watched most of the big fights through about 2015, when I punted cable.
Since I only started watching boxing in the late 2000s, I missed the respective primes of Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr.
A Brief Overview of Bernard Hopkins Before the Fight
Mr. Hopkins, who first fought professionally in 1988, was already 45-years old at the time of his second fight with Mr. Jones. He had, to that point, compiled an illustrious career. Mr. Hopkins brought into the fight a 50-5-1 career record. Mr. Hopkins captured his first title at middleweight (160 pounds) on April 29, 2005. Over the next decade, he would defend that title 20 times and, on September 29, 2001, he unified the four middleweight title belts in a dominant victory over the great Felix Trinidad. Mr. Hopkins’ reign would end with consecutive controversial losses against Jermain Taylor in 2005.
Undeterred, Mr. Hopkins, then 41 years old, moved up two weight divisions to light heavyweight (175 pounds), and defeated Antonio Tarver to become the light heavyweight champion. After defeating future hall of famer Winky Wright in a 2007 defense, Mr. Hopkins lost his light heavyweight title against Joe Calzaghe, another boxing hall of famer, in a contested 2008 decision.
Undeterred as usual, Mr. Hopkins won two fights leading into his 2010 fight against Mr. Jones, including a fight at 170 pounds against then-middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik – who had taken the title from Jermain Taylor.
A Brief Overview of Roy Jones Jr. Before the Fight
Mr. Jones came to the fore in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, wherein the judges adjudicated him the loser in the gold medal match at 156-pounds in a fight that he had clearly won. Mr. Jones combined the Olympic chip on his shoulder with transcendent talent, as he then began a meteoric rise through the professional ranks.
After starting his career 21-0, Mr. Jones faced Mr. Hopkins on May 22, 1993, for the IBF middleweight title. Mr. Jones controlled the fight en route to a unanimous decision victory and his first title. But while Mr. Hopkins would stay at middle weight and claim that very title two years later, Mr. Jones opted to move up to super middleweight (168 pounds) to fight James Toney – who was regarded by many as the best pound-for-pound boxer at the time – on November 18, 1994. Mr. Jones won nearly every second of every round, taking Mr. Toney’s super middleweight title and beginning a nine-year period wherein he was acknowledged by most as the best fighter in the world.
After several defenses at super middleweight, Mr. Jones moved up to light heavyweight (175 pounds) wherein he was similarly dominant, with the exception of a single loss by disqualification to Montell Griffin, which he avenged five months later in a first round knockout.
After several years’ worth of title defenses, Mr. Jones moved all the way to heavyweight (200+ pounds) and, with a unanimous decision victory over John Ruiz, became the first former middleweight titlist to win a heavyweight title in 106 years. Rather than remain at heavyweight, Mr. Jones moved back down to light heavyweight, where he won a hard-fought decision over Antonio Tarver. In the May 15, 2004, rematch, however, Mr. Jones was violently knocked out by Mr. Tarver, and so things began to go south.
After being knocked out by Mr. Tarver, Mr. Jones was knocked out by Glenn Johnson on September 25, 2004. He lost a third fight to Mr. Tarver before winning three easier fights, including one over a faded Felix Trinidad. On November 8, 2008, Mr. Jones challenged Mr. Calzaghe for the light heavyweight championship he had wrested from Mr. Hopkins. However, while Mr. Hopkin’s fight with Mr. Calzaghe was painfully close, Mr. Jones lost in decisive fashion, losing the final eleven rounds after scoring a first round knockdown.
Setting Up Hopkins-Jones II
Despite achieving amazing results in his career and unprecedented success after turning 40, Mr. Hopkins was still sour about his 1993 loss to Mr. Jones. After nearly two decades of teasing another fight, the then-44-year old Hopkins and 40-year-old Jones agreed to fight in early 2010, contingent on their both winning tune-up fights on December 2, 2009. Mr. Hopkins looked solid in a boring-but-workmanlike win against the solid Enrique Ornelas. However, earlier that evening, Mr. Jones’s attempt to win a minor cruiserweight (200 pounds) title belt in Australia went less swimmingly, as he was knocked out by Danny Green in the very first round. Undeterred, Mr. Hopkins insisted on having his revenge. So, despite Mr. Jones’ loss, their April 2010 fight was still on.
Lead-In to Hopkins-Jones II
At the time of Hopkins-Jones II, Bernard Hopkins, notwithstanding being 45-years of age, still featured on boxing pound-for-pound lists after his dominant win over Kelly Pavlik in 2009. I recall that ESPN’s Dan Rafael had Hopkins ranked third behind Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, while Ring Magazine had Hopkins ranked fourth. Mr. Jones, on the other hand, was nowhere near the pound-for- pound list he had previously dominated for nearly a decade. There certainly was not much reason to think that Mr. Jones had enough left to deal a second loss to Mr. Hopkins. Perhaps the only thing that could be said for him going in was that Mr. Hopkins, who had not scored a knockout since he fell a smaller Oscar de la Hoya with a rather painful looking liver-shot in 2004, was nevertheless far more likely than Mr. Jones to win by a clear decision even if it was unlikely that he would deal Mr. Jones a fourth knockout loss in six years.
After Mr. Jones’ underwhelming loss against Mr. Green, neither HBO nor any other network could be convinced to spend money on the fight. Thus, the fight went where any fight between two legends that no network would buy goes: pay-per-view. If HBO could not be convinced to buy the fight for its subscribers, surely its subscribers would buy the fight for themselves. To add insult to injury for prospective buyers, the undercard for the fight was dreadful.
Buying a Movie Ticket, Heading to the Theater
For reasons that can be left unsaid, I did not really want to spend $50 to watch the fight. Fortunately – or unfortunately – several movie theaters were showing the fight for a mere $20. I decided that $20 was an acceptable price, and I went to the closest theater in Manhattan to bear witness to the sad contest.
I printed my ticket and headed to the movie theater. It was the first and only time I printed a ticket for a movie theater. I think that the theater was in the East Village – but I do not recall for sure. I also do not remember if I walked or took the train to the theater, although I definitely took the train back.
For some reason, I am always a little bit paranoid about printing tickets. Did I print the ticket wrong? Will it be readable? I think I was that day too – given the novelty of printing a ticket to go to a movie theater. Fortunately, there were no problems with my ticket. I went right in to the theater room.
A Wild Crowd
Nearly one year before the Hopkins-Jones II, I had gone to Madison Square Garden with a friend to watch the great Puerto Rican fighter Miguel Cotto fight Joshua Clottey on Puerto Rican Day parade weekend. The Garden was sold out, and the crowd was wild. We had a unique experience by virtue of the fact that the only ten-or-so Clottey fans in attendance were close behind us, waving Ghanaian flags and chanting for their champion.
If I were to say that the scene in the movie theater reminded me of Cotto-Clottey – which had turned out to be a very good fight – I would be lying. There were no similarities at all other than that a boxing match was on the screen. There were probably about 20 people total in the theater. Given the fact that the fight was only lightly advertised, that neither Hopkins nor Jones had done much of significance in the preceeding two years, and the fact that we are talking about watching a fight in a movie theater, I would say that the turnout was not bad, all things considered. We were into it. I mean having come all that way to watch one fading legend and one long-faded legend, why not?
The Fight – Hopkins Obtains His Revenge
For the first 1,500 words and change of this article, I managed to avoid talking about the actual fight that transpired on April 3, 2010. If you are expecting a blow-by-blow commentary, you will not find it here. However, if you have a self-loathing streak, you can watch the entire fight on YouTube. There is no need to punish yourself, however – you could just as easily watch any number of their far better fights.
Hopkins-Jones II, was for the most part, an irredeemable mess. The fight was full of clinching, wrestling, staring, and illegal punches. Mr. Hopkins did not fight well – in fact he looked quite a bit worse than he had in his December tune-up fight. But a sub-par Hopkins had more than enough to control the fight from start to finish, winning 9 of 12 rounds on two scorecards and 10 on the third (I gave Mr. Hopkins either 10 or 11, generally agreeing with the decision of the judges).
For the twelve round fiasco, Mr. Hopkins landed 180 out of 526 punches while Mr. Jones landed a mere 82 out of 274. The only punches of great significance were illegal. Mr. Hopkins went down three times to punches that he felt were illegal, both below the belt and behind his head. For his part, Mr. Jones accused Mr. Hopkins of throwing illegal punches and head-butting. Mr. Jones was docked one point for his fouls.
Mr. Hopkins savored his victory, saying that getting revenge against Mr. Jones was totally worth it. That was shortly before he collapsed in the dressing room and had to be taken to the hospital, an outcome Mr. Hopkins attributed to Mr. Jones’ repeated shots to the back of his head.
While many called for Mr. Hopkins to retire, he called out then-heavyweight titlist David Haye. Fortunately, Mr. Hopkins did not move up two weight divisions to fight a much bigger man with heavy hands. Mr. Hopkins instead would fight light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal twice. Their first fight would be draw, but in their second fight, Mr. Hopkins defeated Mr. Pascal to regain the light heavyweight championship and become the oldest champion in boxing history, surpassing George Foreman. In so doing, Mr. Hopkins proved that his subpar performance against Mr. Jones was not a sign that he had nothing left to offer as an elite fighter. Mr. Hopkins would lose that the light heavyweight title in 2012, but he later regain the IBF light heavyweight title against Tavoris Cloud in 2013 at age 48, breaking his own record as the oldest boxing titlist. Mr. Hopkins retired after losing his final fight at the age of 51 years and 337 days on December 17, 2016.
Mr. Jones after the April 3, 2010 debacle ventured to Russia to fight the fearsome and hard-punching Denis Lebedev at cruiserweight, which in anticipation did not seem consistent with remaining in good health. Surprisingly, Mr. Jones acquitted himself relatively well, remaining competitive until the tenth round, when Mr. Lebedev knocked him unconscious for five minutes. Mr. Jones fought on for two years longer than did Mr. Hopkins, but with far less success. Fortunately, after the violent knockout loss to Mr. Lebedev, Mr. Jones stuck mostly low-level opponents who were no match for him even as he neared 50. Mr. Jones fought 13 times after his loss to Mr. Lebedev, winning 12 against weak competition. He retired after a final victory on February 8, 2010.
Why Did I Stay Until the End of the Terrible Fight?
In my article on whether one should leave a bad movie before it is over, I suggested that, in general, we should consider leaving movies or other similar forms of entertainment early if they prove not to be worthwhile:
We must remember that our time is both finite and valuable. We owe it to ourselves to find and consume meaningful content from which we can either glean something useful or at least spend a pleasant time with.Nicholas Ferrell in “On When to Watch Credits or Leave a Bad Movie“
All that needs to be said about the quality of Hopkins-Jones II is that the only memorable punches in the fight were illegal. With that being said, I do not regret watching the fight in its entirety, even though it was a disaster. For one, even though Mr. Hopkins went into the fight as a heavy favorite and proceeded to show, even in the midst of a poor performance, that he was on a different level than the sadly shot-version of Roy Jones, you never know what can happen in a boxing ring. After all, although Mr. Jones took a severe beating in his loss to Mr. Calzaghe, who was then considered by many to be the best fighter in the world, Mr. Jones did knock Mr. Calzaghe down in the first round and give him a scare. Anything can happen within the confines of the boxing ring.
Second, I recognized that both Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Jones were two of the best fighters in boxing’s storied history. The fight was important to Mr. Hopkins, and I suppose Mr. Jones figured that he had nothing better to do as a boxer after his shockingly quick loss a few months earlier. Although their second fight should not have happened, it did. Most of us who bought the fight had an idea of what we were getting into, but concluded that the two legends squaring off after many years of false starts was worth watching. While it was an ugly fight, replete with illegal punches and theatrics, neither man quit and both fought on for twelve rounds. While I would not say I owed anything to either fighter, especially since I spent $20 on what was an awful product, I look back at staying to the end of the fight as something akin to remaining in the theater until a movie’s end credits.
Neither I nor anyone else from the small audience left before the fight was over. The theater was not exactly an energetic atmosphere, befitting the geriatric wrestling and rabbit-punching match on screen, but there were a few stray cheers during the event. I vaguely recall there being at least one clear Hopkins-supporter in the audience. It was a memorable and, perhaps in that sense, worthwhile event to witness. Furthermore, given the low reviews received by the main event after the fact, it is unlikely that many who missed it live saw it at all. Part of the promotion, in fact, centered on the point that the fight would not be re-aired on television after the pay-per-view. Thus, those of us in the theater and the approximately 150,000 or so other poor souls who purchased the debacle are among the small number of witnesses to a regrettable piece of boxing history.
To the Present: Tyson-Jones?
In a sad postscript, while Mr. Hopkins remains happily retired, Mr. Jones is coming out of retirement – sort of – for an exhibition fight against Mike Tyson. In promoting the exhibition, Mr. Jones stated: “His skill set – his power – is still there. My skill set – my legs – are still there, but not what they used to be.” “But not what they used to be” is an understatement. Had Jones fought a diminished-but-larger Tyson in 2003, it would have been a very interesting spectacle. Seventeen years later, it will without a doubt be a spectacle of another sort.
Unlike Hopkins-Jones II, I will not be purchasing Tyson-Jones the exhibition. I will check the results, however, and hope both fighters have a good time and entertain the audience while avoiding any injuries, much less violent knockouts, which may be a concern even with their larger-than-normal 12 oz gloves.