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Roy Jones JR Vs The IRS: Russian Roulette

By Geno McGahee

I wrote in a prior article that I believed that the Roy Jones, JR., boxing career was now motivated by money. I could not see any other reason, other than possible ego, why he could continue to put his life at risk, and now my suspicions have been proven to be accurate. He owes the IRS 3.5 million dollars.

When I wrote that I suspected that money was at the root of the comeback, as I believe to be the driving force behind Evander Holyfield’s never-ending career, there was a lot of negative feedback from the Jones, JR., followers. They were on solid ground. How could a guy that makes that much money owe anyone anything? The problem is the management of the money, and apparently Roy didn’t keep track of it too well and has now in the position of finding fights in hopes of getting out of the hole. It’s very unfortunate that he would be in this position after all of the years of fighting and headlining shows, but the IRS is contending that he is way behind and needs to pay up.

On February 8th, a lien shows Jones owing $2,673,568 for earnings in 2003, and another $273,081 for earnings in 2004. Another lien shows that he owes $629,085 for earnings in 2009. With a bout with Russian cruiserweight coming up for a reported $500,000, it is very possible that the IRS will sieze it all, which leads to the question: “What motivation does Roy have to win?”

The major concern here isn’t for Roy’s bank account and it’s not a concern that the IRS won’t get their money. The concern is that Roy will be hurt in the ring. There are consistent reports of brain damage, his reflexes are near shot, he has taken beating after beating as of late, and now he is facing Denis Lebedev, 21-1, 16 KO’s, a plodding Russian powerhouse that may be slow, and Roy of old would have a good time with him, but his speed won’t matter. Roy can’t get out of the way of the punches. Lebedev’s people know that a win over Roy Jones, JR., especially a knockout will do wonders for his career. Look what it did for Danny Green.

Roy is a name and he still draws a crowd (unless he’s facing Bernard Hopkins). The choice of Lebedev may be the only choice he has at this point. I’m not sure he can sell a fight with another washed up former champion like Jeff Lacy, but at least that fight wasn’t a big danger. It resembled a senior’s tour where the older guys get in there and duke it out and the fans just sit back and enjoy seeing them fight again. Against Lebedev we are going to see a prime cruiserweight go after and over the hill former middleweight that can’t avoid punches.

With Roy 3.5 million in the hole, he would need several bouts against guys like Lebedev or better to get out of it and then he would have to keep fighting to rebuild his finances. This means that the 42 year old fighter with 61 fights, and a record of 5 wins, 6 losses, in his last eleven fights, would be playing Russian Roulette. If not Lebedev, which opponent will do permanent damage?

Muhammad Ali is the most popular example of what happens to a fighter when they take too many hits. It could be argued that Holyfield’s words have been slurred and that he is also in considerable danger of permanent damage. Meldrick Taylor is another sad case that felt the wrath of the cruelest sport when he decided to hang on too long. The sad fact is that many boxers gets the shaft from promoters or they don’t know how to handle their money and end up in Roy’s shoes: shouldn’t fight, but needs to fight.

On May 21st, we will see Roy Jones, JR., step into the ring in Moscow. At one point in his life, Roy was incredibly impacted by the fate of friend and fellow champion, Gerald McClellan, a fighter that was severely brain damaged in a fight. Roy changed his style, became more safety first, and took it easier on his opposition because of the fear of death or permanent injury to himself or others. Now, we have Denis Lebedev on the horizon, a puncher…a basic heavyweight, eager to throw bombs at Roy. It’s not going to be pretty, and the Roy will have 3 million to go when its done.

The hope is that Roy will walk away from any future fights, win or lose, without any serious injury, and that he can overcome the debt and finish his life in boxing as a trainer or commentator or even just ease into retirement and enjoy his time away from the ring. Much like Joe Louis in the wrestling ring and Mike Tyson crumbling to Kevin McBride, it would be a sad sight to see Roy continually battered by 200 pound men, perhaps leading to something tragic. I wish him luck.

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