Roy Jones Jr., preparing for his fight with Omar Sheika on Saturday, talked to me about how much longer he can fight and why he's now promoting fights, both in boxing and in MMA.
Michael David Smith: You've been one of America's most recognizable boxers for more than 20 years, since the 1988 Olympics. How much longer do you expect to fight?
Roy Jones: I don't know. I'm 40, and a kid I just signed came down and told me that I should retire now and pin my company on him. So we sparred last night and afterward he said, "I've never seen anything like this. You could fight until you're 50 years old." And I feel the same way.
Everything wears down with time, but truthfully, I was so far ahead of everybody, so much more advanced than everybody, that even if I do wear down, I'm still ahead of them. I probably could box until I'm 50. I don't want to fight that long -- I don't think, I don't know yet -- but right now I don't see the end ahead of me.
Are you concerned about long-term brain damage? You started boxing as a youngster and you're still doing it into your 40s. That's a lot of punches you've taken.
The way my style is, and the reason I'm able to last that long, is I don't get hit much. A few years ago I did, but now I'm back to getting my skills back to the level where you can't hit me. You might catch me with one, but you can't hit me a bunch of times.
But you're 3-4 in your last seven fights. Are you concerned that continuing to fight well past your prime is dangerous, and do you feel like you're slowing down?
I did feel like I was slowing down a lot -- until this training camp. In this training camp, I've been getting better as I'm going on. And you say I'm 3-4 in my last seven fights, but I'm 3-1 in my last four fights. It's just how you want to look at it. You can say I went 0-3 four years ago, but I'm 3-1 in my last four.
What comes up must come down, I'm not saying that's not the case. So maybe I've slowed a little, maybe some things have changed, but that doesn't mean that I'm not so advanced that anybody else can't touch me right now.
You're obviously still very confident.
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What kind of opponent do you think Omar Sheika is?
One of the toughest ones I could pick at a time like this. Because right at a time that people say I'm slowing down, I'm fighting a guy who is very capable of beating me. If I'm going to sell this fight on pay-per-view, I want to sell a real fight, not a one-sided contest. Omar Sheika can beat anybody on any given day. But, at the same time, I think my skill level is where I want it to be, to the point where I can control a guy like Omar Sheika.
Why did you decide to go this route with this fight? You're the promoter, you picked Omar Sheika as the opponent, and you're the person selling the pay-per-view. Why aren't you working with someone like HBO or Showtime or someone else rather than promoting this fight yourself?
Well, Showtime -- they're not big Roy Jones fans because I don't do things the way they want to do things. I'm not really looking to work with them. HBO has other fighters they're putting on big fights, and there was nothing really open with them. But I want to continue to better myself, and in order to better myself, I've got to continue to stay busy. I can't sit idle, I've got to work. If I sit still, I feel myself deteriorating. The more you sit still, the more your skills are going to deteriorate. So I had to set up my own fight.
And for this fight you're training again with your dad, who's going to be in your corner for the first time in 10 years on Saturday. What has that been like?
It's been fine. He's still my dad and I'm still me. We have our ins and outs, but we'll work together to get the job done.
Is Roy Jones Sr. the person who has had the greatest influence on Roy Jones Jr. as a boxer?
Do you see yourself continuing to work as a promoter? Do you think you could have the same level of success that Oscar De La Hoya has had as a promoter?
And that gets me to the other issue I wanted to ask you about, and that's the undercard to your fight with Sheika, which includes some mixed martial arts fights. Why are you getting into MMA promoting?
Because people are always trying to separate the two and make it a big rivalry. Why does it have to be a rivalry? Why would one have to be better than the other? You can have your own personal preference, but mixed martial arts is what it is and boxing is what it is and they're not against each other. They're still two forms of fighting man to man. If you like one you've got to like the other one. There's no reason to like one and not like the other one. And if you're going to do either one, you should try to learn things from the other one.
I agree with you. I love both sports.
I do too. Anybody who loves fighting should enjoy them both. Now, don't get me wrong. Mixed martial arts is different from boxing, and some people have their reasons to like one better than the other, but why not enjoy them both? They can both give you good fights, and that's what you're tuning in to see.
How much do you personally know about MMA?
I'm more of a casual observer, I don't want to claim I know a whole lot. But I know about it -- I know about Brazilian jiu jitsu, I know about the submissions -- but I'm an outside observer. But because they go man to man, face to face, I like the sport, because I like sports where you can be a real man about it.
Do you think boxing is on the decline in popularity, and that MMA has taken fans from it?
No, I can't say that. I would hope that all those mixed martial arts fans would also be boxing fans. I think right now the fans are getting more out of mixed martial arts because they're getting better fights. Mixed martial arts gives the fans more opportunities to see two superstars go against each other.
You've had a lot of different interests: You've been involved in music, acting --
Right, basketball. Do you see yourself branching out more and spending more time with those other interests, or will boxing always be your bread and butter?
Boxing will be my bread and butter because that's where all my years of expertise is. Boxing is where my time has been spent.
Do you want your sons to get into boxing?
It's a dirty sport. It's a dirty game.
But it's been very good to you.
Oh, most definitely.
And now here you are, about to have your first fight as a 40-year-old. What do you think that's going to be like?
I think it's going to be a great fight. I picked Omar Sheika because he's a guy who can beat me. I'm not asking fans to pay to watch me beat up on some guy, I'm asking fans to watch me in a tough fight. But I think I'm going to whoop him. I'm looking forward to it.