T Nation

RJJ - Not Just a Product of Athleticism


Been watching a lot of roy's early career lately and some documentaries on him. I know several times on these forums, myself included, people have mentioned how Roy is mostly a product of insane reflexes and hand-speed.

However lately I'm not so sure. Roy gets away with a lot of things that would be considered technical mistakes by most, sure, but at the same time RJJ was a master of his craft just like any other elite boxer. Then I think you have to consider what makes a young RJJ that cut above, and for that we have to look at his formative years in boxing.

By most accounts RJ Snr put little RJJ through hell in the gym at a very young age, working him extremely hard and doing stuff like tying one of his arms up in sparring, as well as making him spar older, heavier and much more experienced boxers.

In much of his professional career, RJJ has played his cards very close to his chest. Unlike many fighters who are happy to let cameras roll around in their gym while they work their asses off, attempt to find much footage of Roy doing anything other than relaxed work and you will be hard pressed. He's said himself he's not keen on letting all eyes in on his training camps. This is a smart move as a fighter, he never gives his opponents a chance to see him at his worst or making mistakes and paying for it.

His athletic attributes certainly play a large part, speed is always a dominating attribute to have in boxing, especially combined with his potential to KO guys on the spot. However there are plenty of fighters who have had near RJ's hand speed, and have not been nearly as dominating or successful as he has.


RJJ possessed mind blowing speed, cat-like reflexes and stupifying KO power. He is unquestionably ONE of the most gifted fighters and quite possibly THE most gifted fighter I have ever seen. I'm sure RJJ knew his trade very well. He had a lot of fights and a lot of sparring sessions. No-one becomes a champion without them.

However, I do not believe he could win a world title with garden level genetic material. By means of contrast, I think someone like Mayweather could be a damn good boxer even if he were not possessed of unearthly talent.

It is possible that what you say is true, and that RJJ would be a fine pugilist without his birth advantages, but his hasty fall from grace does your argument no favours.

For the record, Pernell Whitaker, who many would regard as built of the same stuff as peak Roy Jones, worked viciously hard in them gym developing that shadowy slippery style that would become his and his alone. That does not mean that Matthysse could fight the same way.


I agree that Roy knows his craft very well. But it really must be said that the difference in reflexes on one fraction of a second is what makes the difference between being Floyd Mayweather and being Arturo Gatti.

So while Roy could have been a good B or C level fighter with less physical gifts, that doesn't really mean much.

However, that being said, Roy did get by on athleticism more than anything else. He never comes in behind the jab, he never kept his hands or guard up until the very end of his career, he'd leave his chin wide open... but then, that's the difference - great fighters are great because besides working incredibly hard, they've got gifts that the rest of us don't.

Floyd Mayweather never fights behind the jab either -but he still leads with a left hook, which few besides Jones could do. Pacquaio is far from a conventional fighter - he punches from all angles and his hand speed lets him do that.

The great fighters are rarely conventional because they don't have to be, and being so odd in their style makes them incredibly hard for anyone - especially sparring partners, to replicate.

But then a strong example of a very textbook fighter who is also great is Juan Manuel Marquez. He doesn't have the physical gifts that the others have but he's technically so excellent, and he adapts so well, and he's so smart, that he can get away with it.

Being of mediocre physical talent myself, I emulate Marquez as much as possible because you don't have to be as fast as Roy or Floyd to fight as he does.


This is what I mean however, often when people comment on Roy's athleticism, i feel its somewhat dismissive of the work he's probably put himself through to get there. I suppose a good analogy would be Michael Jordan, Jordan probably had gifts and talent other players did not possess, but he also worked harder at perfection than any other player in his time.


Roy Jones Jr could box when he wanted to, a lot of times he did just rely on his natural talent. I think if he wasn't as gifted athletically he would have been a better fighter with more longevity, he wouldn't have been able to get away with keeping his left low and chin sticking out so he would have had to have a more fundamentally sound style.

Either way it wasn't pure athleticism that made me enjoy his fights. When he actually boxed someone it's a lot of fun to see someone so athletic landing a lead right faster than most of his opponents could jab.


The Ruiz fight... dude was landing and moving like crazy.

He had spectacular footwork that he never got credit for. Great, great angles.


Well I don't think that anyone's saying that the talented just turn up in the ring and then take home the belt. Otherwise we'd currently be looking at a slew of heavyweight champions from the NFL. The really interesting question here is "Was Roy Jones style the right one for someone with his speed and reflexes"? As FI alluded to, the unorthodox nature of his style made him very hard for opponents to fight. They couldn't get anyone like him in sparring, so once in the ring they had to deal with weird angles, punches and footwork on top of the speed reflexes etc. Obviously what Jones was doing wasn't hurting him at the time, so perhaps if he was a conventional boxer he would have been worse off. It's a theory.

And thank god for crazy dads giving us world champions by the bucketful.

Also inb4 people are like "WTF Marquez isn't talented? U crazy?". We're obviously taking relatively here.


bernard hopkins


while not a pugilist by any stretch, I have trained with some super super freaks of nature.

its a huge advantage
to have the luxury of finding a style that naturally works with your gifts.
its a massive time save.

You take all the time that others would spend trying to bring up attributes
that you happen to have in abundance, and put into training the shit out of
what works for you.

I think his speed and yes his footwork let him do things that most others couldn't match.

Its two fold - gifts + crazy work ethic.


Absolutely agree.

This relates to why I hold that Louis would have flat out hurt Ali, and Robinson would have wrecked Jones. I think that when they faced opponents with equal gifts, speed, reflexes, etc. Ali and Jones would have found out exactly why the textbook reads the way it does.


Robert A


That is what made Whitaker so special. He could do what he did BECAUSE of his absolute command of angles, timing, and distance. A normal boxer might slip a punch and wind up at your side. Whitaker could damn near put himself behind you.

I don't see Jones in the same light. A lot of his game was getting away with things that mere mortals cannot. During his prime I had several friends that had amateur careers going. It was pretty much a consensus that Jones was a fighter you did not want to watch when a fight was coming up for fear that you might try to imitate him. In contrast Hopkins was someone you wanted to watch and study. Funny how they look today as opposed to 1993.


Robert A


What about him? I respect Hopkins a lot as a fighter but he wasn't trying to get a second fight with Jones until Jones was well past it. Prime vs prime Jones wins 10/10.

I think Robinson would have a tough time with Jones. A boxer was Robinson's weakness and Jones was naturally bigger and very much more powerful. It wouldn't be a blowout but I believe he would have a good chance of beating him. Louis on the other hand wouldn't beat a pre-ban Ali, Louis would have just chased him while getting outpointed. That would be a fight where Louis would just be looking to land a big shot and get him in trouble.


Honestly, I think fighting textbook would hurt Jones more than it would ever help him. Like Irish brought up these fighters develop these styles because they can get away with different stuff, but in turn that becomes their style and their advantage.

What I mean to say is, it's not like Roy is just going in there brashly and hoping his reflexes will take care of what ever is thrown at him, there is a method to his madness so to speak. FI brought up the Ruiz fight and I think that's a great example, Roy is feinting and switching angles all over the place, constantly setting himself up to maneuver out of danger, even if it looks like he is just showboating.


Roy Jones Jr would have never been text book. He never wanted to hurt anyone in boxing and never really went for the knockout except against Montell Griffin, him showing his athleticism was his selling point. I think the real problem is that he tried to fight like the young Roy Jones as the old Roy Jones and he's not the type of person to admit he declined as a fighter.


Mike McCallum describes Roy Jones as "the smartest fighter I ever fought".


The plot thickens.