Roy Jones Jr. to Fight Bare-Knuckle Boxing Champion in February

Fightland Blog

By Nick Wong

Photo by Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

From becoming an honorary Russian citizen to knocking out a fan on quite possibly the most bizarre PPV in the history of fighting, the late career of Roy Jones Jr. has been a strange one to say the least. If you didn't think it could get any stranger, well, the former “Mr. Unknockoutable” sure is trying.

Earlier this week, it was announced that Jones would be taking on cruiserweight journeyman Bobby Gunn for the vacant World Boxing Federation championship on February 17th of next year. For those readers who can’t quite put their finger on the name, it’s probably because it’s somewhat recognizable, though not in any sort of legitimate sporting terms. Instead, Bobby Gunn is widely known for his feats in underground bare-knuckle boxing, and claims a perfect 72-0 record with 72 knockouts. He’s been one of the more visible advocates for the legalization of the sport, serving as somewhat of a public tour-guide to the underground culture in major publications like Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal.

Gunn is also not completely foreign in the professional ranks. He holds a winning record of 21-6-1 with 18KOs, and has shared the ring with names like James Toney, Glen Johnson and Tomasz Adamek. Though he’s lost each time he’s faced any sort of recognizable competition, Gunn appears confident in his chances against the ring legend.

"It's an honor to share the ring with a legend like Roy Jones," Gunn said. "I've been chasing him for a few years now, and on Feb. 17, I will catch him."

That isn’t just promotional fight-talk either; the two were actually scheduled to fight in December of 2013, but Jones opted to fly to Moscow and fight Zine Eddine Benmakhlouf for the German version of the WBU title instead. Gunn ended up facing former Jones rival Glen Johnson, losing a lop-sided decision. After the loss, the journeyman went back to the bare-knuckle circuit where many have anointed him as king. Gunn comes from a nomadic tribe of Travelers, who customarily take work where they can get it, and fight in their spare time. When he was 18, he spent 3 years working as a sparring partner for Don King’s brother-in-law to help pay for his mother’s liver transplant surgery, which ultimately proved unsuccessful. He’s been fighting to make ends meet ever since.

This may be one point where him and Jones share commonality. After all, Jones, a shoe-in for the International Boxing Hall of Fame, has accomplished just about every possible thing in the sport of boxing. He’s won titles in four different weight classes—from middleweight to heavyweight—making him the first fighter in 106 to accomplish such a feat, and was the most dominate force in the sport from the mid-90s to early 2000s, topping most boxing experts’ pound-for-pound lists for over a decade. Why then, at the age of 47 (he will be 48 by the time of the fight), would he want to continue fighting?

It’s been long rumored that Jones has been suffering from financial troubles due to failed real estate ventures and exploits in the world of music. Currently, he has a successful career as an HBO analyst and most viewers would like to see him cognizant enough to continue. It’s hard to imagine any other reason why he’d put that all at risk by involving himself in a bout like this. Jones, however, has publicly denied any claims of financial difficulty, and instead appears focused on further proving his greatness.

"I know Bobby Gunn is coming to bring it," Jones said at a press conference. "He's a hard-nose, tough fighter that comes right at you, but I'm going to show him why I'm one of the best that ever did it and he doesn't belong in the ring with me."

It is then, perhaps, legacy that keeps him fighting. He has said in the past that he wants to capture one last championship before hanging it up—a common sentiment for why fighters past-their-prime continue fighting and can sometimes end disastrously (as we’ve already seen in the late career of Roy Jones Jr.). By all estimations, Jones should win the proposed bout handily, and well, it is for the vacant WBF Championship, which under normal circumstances would never be considered a legitimate world title. But if winning it will help Roy Jones Jr. call it a day afterwards, I’d be happy to make an exception.


Check out these related stories:

Anthony Joshua & Terence Crawford Retain Titles While a New Heavyweight King Is Born

Evander Holyfield Voted Into International Boxing Hall of Fame

Bernard Hopkins Takes His Final Fight (We Swear!)