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Roy Jones Jr. Favored to Hold Title

September 6, 2002

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ The storyline is familiar for Roy Jones Jr. Only this time there’s an intriguing subplot to his latest title defense.

On Saturday night, Jones will fight yet another nobody, making several million dollars to defend his light heavyweight titles against an opponent even Jones says doesn’t deserve to be in the ring with him.

The challenger is named Clinton Woods, a once-beaten Englishman who has never fought outside his native country. He might as well be Tiger Woods, without a club, for all the chance he has at the Rose Garden.

Assuming Jones wins, though, his next bout may be the megafight he’s always saying he deserves _ and the one his critics say he always goes out of his way to avoid.

If all goes as planned _ and it seldom does in boxing _ Jones would make the risky move up to heavyweight to take on John Ruiz for the WBA heavyweight title.

``I don’t know how much weight I’d have to carry,″ Jones said. ``As long as I’m taken care of (financially), I’ll take the fight.″

The fight could happen Dec. 7 if HBO and promoter Don King get their way. King wants it to be part of a semi-unification series that also would include a fight the following week between Evander Holyfield and Chris Byrd for the IBF version of the title. Lennox Lewis vacated the title Thursday because he doesn’t want to bother with Byrd, the IBF’s mandatory contender.

The pressure is growing on the ever-cautious Jones to take a chance, and if the money is right, he finally seems ready to do just that.

``He knows it’s time,″ said Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports. ``How many of these fights can the public want? Clinton Woods will do nice ratings and showcase his talents, but (Jones) needs to step up and see a real contender across the ring and fight for something meaningful. Ruiz would be just that.″

Though Lewis still holds the WBC belt and is generally recognized as the one legitimate heavyweight champion, boxing’s sanctioning bodies are doing their part to make sure there are enough titles and enough room in the heavyweight ranks to keep everyone happy.

King helped persuade Lewis to give up the IBF belt _ and avoid a fight he really didn’t want against the crafty Byrd _ by giving Lewis $1 million and a Range Rover while in Ghana last week.

King already promotes Byrd, Holyfield and Ruiz. Now he only needs to sign Jones to secure the two fights in December.

First, though, Jones must take care of some unfinished business Saturday night against Woods, who mysteriously rose to the No. 1 ranking in the WBC 175-pound ranks.

Las Vegas oddsmakers view the fight as such a mismatch that they won’t take bets on it.

Even Jones agrees with them.

``Do I think he’s the guy I should be fighting? No,″ Jones said. ``I don’t even know why they ranked him No. 1.″

But Portland hasn’t had a championship fight in decades, and after Jones got together with Nike to bring the fight here, local fans responded. It may be little more than an exhibition, but 12,000 tickets were sold as of Thursday, and HBO figures to get decent ratings for the telecast.

``I’m interested in guys who want my title. Clinton Woods wants my title, so I’m giving him a chance,″ Jones said. ``I hear a lot of people talk, but do you think the people of England would be happy if I didn’t give their guy his opportunity?″

Unfortunately for Jones, there are few fighters in the 175-pound division worth his time. That reality has led Jones to take on forgettable foes like Otis Grant, Richard Frazier, Glen Kelly and Richard Hall in recent years.

It could be argued that the 33-year-old Jones hasn’t fought anyone of stature _ who wasn’t already past his best days _ since beating Thomas Tate and James Toney as a super middleweight in 1994.

``For some reason, I can’t seem to make a fight with nobody, except guys who deserve it and know it’s their time,″ Jones said. ``For me, from my standpoint, I’m the champ. I’m just champ. I’m the king of the hill. I don’t care where they come from, this side or that side. It isn’t my job to tell you who is next in line.″

Jones (46-1, 37 knockouts) doesn’t expect much trouble from Woods, who learned to fight on the streets of Sheffield, England, and who has fought no one of any note in building a record of 32-1 with 19 knockouts.

Though he’s far more talented than Woods, Jones says Woods can do one thing well _ take a punch. He figures to take a lot of them against Jones, whose skills are unparalleled in boxing today.

``He’s a good survivor and can survive a big punch,″ Jones said. ``I’ve seen him survive a lot of big punches and come back and win fights.″

Woods believes he has a chance. ``No one is indestructible,″ he said. ``Every fighter has a day when he gets beat.″

Also on the card, which will be televised by HBO beginning at 10 p.m. EDT, is a junior middleweight title fight between IBF champion Winky Wright (43-3, 25 knockouts) and Bronco McKart 45-3, 29 knockouts). Wright, who has beaten McKart twice already, is hoping a win might get him a rematch against Fernando Vargas, who beat him in a disputed decision in 1999.

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