Glyn Leach: The end of two eras

Glyn Leach
13/01/2019 12:35pm

Photo: TORSTEN BLACKWOOD/AFP/Getty Images

As a tribute to the late Glyn Leach, the former Editor of Boxing Monthly, we are proud to bring his Editorial columns back for you to read again and again on our website. On this occasion we go back to January 2010 when Glyn was pondering Roy Jones Jr's loss to Danny Green...

JANBMcoverRoy Jones Jr’s career should now come to an end, but one writer carries on, older and wiser, but with a sense of empathy he once lacked...

“That almost hurt me to do that to someone whom I aspire to look up to as a professional fighter inside and outside the ring,” Danny Green was reported as saying on the BBC Sports website following his one-round destruction of a 40-year-old Roy Jones Jr in Sydney in December.

Fair play to Green. His post-fight manner was befitting that of a man who, even at his peak as a WBA light-heavyweight champ in 207, knew that Jones - as in the real Jones - would have been a bridge too far.

Contrast Green’s classy attitude to that of Joe Calzaghe, following his points win over an already shot Jones in 2008.

Seeing Calzaghe drop to his knees, close to tears, arms raised to the heavens, as though he had just beaten the real Jones, still sticks in my throat. As does Lennox Lewis’s reaction to beating the ghost of Mike Tyson.

I hate it when wins over faded greats are over-celebrated, as if their name on your record is all that counts. It’s so deluded.

I liken it to digging up the corpse of Marilyn Monroe, taking it down the pub, and yelling: “Look who I’ve pulled!”

I am, though, unashamedly defensive towards Jones, the greatest fighter I have seen during my time in this sport.

I would go to the U.S. to cover even the most meaningless fights of his career at one stage, when certainly no other journalist was travelling from the U.K. to do so, simply because I believed Jones was a potential all-time great and I wanted to be there to watch him.

And, to me, he is an all-time great. I was there to see him win world middleweight, super middleweight and light-heavyweight titles. I had stopped covering fights in America by 2003, when Jones made history by beating John Ruiz to become the first former middleweight champion in over 100 years to win a heavyweight title. But what a feat that was.

While other commentators criticised Jones for what they perceived to be a succession of mismatches during his tenure as WBC, WBA and IBF light-heavyweight champ, I applaud him for defending his belts against every No.1 contender the alphabets could throw at him.

That, to me, is how boxing should work. Today, too many champions give up their belts rather than be what a champion should be - a man who defends his title against those who have earned the right to fight for it.

Jones was wilfully perverse, PR-wise, without question. He was reclusive, would no-show for TV commentary gigs, and was always reluctant to leave his hometown of Pensacola, Florida.

To him, being the best fighter in the world was enough. But the fact that in 60 fights, 26 of which were for real world titles, he fought in Las Vegas just six times shows how his insularity hurt his standing in the sport.

Jone wasn’t perfect. There were allegations of steroid use and I remain disappointed that he never fought the long standing and undefeated WBO champ, Dariusz Michalczewski.

But anyone who questioned Jones’s competitive nature should have been silenced by his challenge to Ruiz. While others ramble on about legacies, Jones dared to be great and, through his heavyweight title victory, in my opinion he became great.

But he should have retired after beating Ruiz, legendary status assured. The subsequent and often humiliating defeats to lesser fighters, resultant of the rigours of coming back down in weight, needn’t have happened at all. His was a variant on such a recurring theme in this sport.

Early in my career, I would scoff, privately of course, at the older writers who seemed to talk about nothing but the Ali days and how everything had gone downhill since then.

But now, as an older, marginally more mature man, and with much of my youthful arrogance knocked out of me by life experience, I understand.

Greatness is something bestowed on many, but an accolade deserved by few. Those writers had been in the presence of greatness, only for it to disappear from their lives, leaving a void that they could never find another fighter to fill.

Jones, in his prime, was my Ali and, as such, an era in my working life ends with what should be his final fight.

I feel as though I have just written an obituary for two careers. But while I have no intention of giving up just yet, I hope to God that Jones does.