Johnson KO's Jones; Bowe wins return bout

Monday, September 27, 2004

Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver were on stage together, joking about a unification fight for the light heavyweight title.

As for Roy Jones Jr., considered by some the world's best pound-for-pound fighter, he was in the back of an ambulance headed to the hospital.

Johnson had just given Jones the beating of his life, landing an overhand right and short left to put in doubt the future of one of the sport's big-time fighters.

Johnson, the underdog despite being the champion, kept his IBF crown by knocking Jones cold in the ninth round of a scheduled 12-rounder Saturday night at FedExForum in Memphis, Tenn., the new $250 million home of the Grizzlies.

"I was never hurt," said Johnson, a Jamaican living in Miami. "I was working to find what I needed. I keep working the body. I keep chopping him down one point at a time until I find the right punch."

Now, Johnson and Tarver, who took the WBC title from Jones -- after Jones had taken it from him -- are talking about a fight of their own.

Johnson, 41-9-2 with 28 knockouts, said he is ready to fight anybody, including Tarver. But Tarver, who jumped in on Johnson's postfight news conference, said Johnson holds a title he once owned and wants back.

"We've got to sell tickets, brother," Tarver said with a loud laugh. "You got to talk it up, baby. You can't get paid sitting up here being the nice guy. You know what I'm saying. We've got to get this thing started. You've got a piece of my championship and I'm coming for it."

Jones began a stellar pro career after the 1988 Olympics, where many believe he was robbed of a gold medal. Though 49-3 with 38 knockouts, he has been beaten only twice. The other loss was a disqualification in 1997.

Jones often was referred to as the best fighter anywhere, pound for pound, and he wasn't shy about calling himself the greatest. He won titles at classes ranging from middleweight to heavyweight. He got a piece of the heavyweight title in March 2003 by taking the WBA crown from John Ruiz.

Jones dropped weight quickly to fight Tarver in November, barely capturing the light heavyweight title in their first meeting. In the May rematch, Tarver stopped Jones with a left that sent him sprawling.

Now, Tarver said, Jones is out of the picture.

"I want to see the man go on and enjoy his life after boxing," Tarver said. "We don't need to see Roy Jones go through the things he went through tonight, the things he went through on May 15. Let the man ride off into the sunset."

Johnson began his pro career at 24 and gained his title, his first, by beating European champion Clinton Woods in February.

"I hope the best for Roy Jones," he said. "I hope he's not hurt and everything else, and I'll fight anybody else. It don't matter."

Johnson came out charging from the opening bell. Jones, the obvious crowd favorite, began to draw boos by the seventh round.

"What are you waiting for, Roy?" one fan yelled.

Johnson threw 437 punches to 270 for Jones who spent much of the fight against the ropes or backing up.

Then Johnson landed the right-left that put Jones flat on his back. And he stayed there. For a few seconds, the crowd was quiet. It took Jones' crew almost four minutes to get him on his feet. Finally, he walked out of the ring helped by his trainers. The trip to the hospital, his handlers said, was for a checkup and he was OK.

Asked about the beginning-of-the-end punch, Johnson was matter of fact.

"The right hand? You want me to tell you about the right hand?" he responded. "It was a right hand. That's it."

Bowe victorious in return

Some in boxing were worried Riddick Bowe would get hurt making a comeback after eight years outside the ring. On Saturday night, he was the one doing the hurting.

Bowe, clearly happy to be fighting again, knocked an outclassed Marcus Rhode down four times before the fight was finally stopped at 2:45 of the second round in a ring on a tribal reservation in Shawnee, Okla.

The former heavyweight champion was heavy and a step slow, but there was nothing wrong with the way he punched. He put Rhode down once with 10 seconds left in the first round and then knocked him down three times in the second round before Rhode's corner stepped in and the fight was stopped.

"It's good to be back," Bowe said. "I feel like a kid in a candy store."

Bowe showed no ill effects from getting hit again, although Rhode didn't hit him very much. In his last fight before retiring, Bowe showed signs of brain damage and there were worries that getting hit in the head could damage him more.

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