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Jones needs more wins, fewer excuses

We'll find out tonight if time has run out on Roy Jones Jr.'s extraordinary boxing career.

What we already know is that the 37-year-old Jones has run out of excuses.

Jones, who fights Prince Badi Ajamu in the main event of the "Hold Nothing Back" card at Qwest Arena, has lost his last three fights. The aura that once surrounded the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is gone.

Where fists once fired rapidly, now it's excuses that fly in succession. Dropping weight, voices in his corner, battles with his father, a lack of focus — anything to explain away defeat.

Boxers have never been ones to acknowledge that time takes its toll, that the wear and tear adds up, that skills diminish. Jones is no different.

It wasn't that he no longer had it. It's always been something else, something easily remedied. A tweak here, a tweak there.

Jones blames his struggles on his decision to return to the light heavyweight division after capturing the heavyweight title. He had to drop 18 pounds and has looked lethargic in his four fights return to the light heavyweight division after capturing the heavyweight title. He had to drop 18 pounds and has looked lethargic in his four fights since.

"It took a toll on me. It took a real heavy toll," Jones said.

After his latest loss to Antonio Tarver in October, Jones blamed the defeat on unrest in his corner, where his father was making a rare appearance.

"That's the mistake I made in the past. I stopped worrying about myself and started worrying about everyone else," Jones said.

With losses came doubt, and Jones began to listen to other voices, ones that had been helpful in his past. Trying their techniques or their advice.

"I got caught up in doing what people wanted me to do instead of what I wanted. You've got to look out for yourself. It's about putting your priorities in line," Jones said.

And for the last few years, he said, those priorities have been out of whack for a boxer who dabbles in music and acting and competitive fishing and minor-league basketball.

"Physically, I've been ready, but mentally I hadn't," he said.

Jones — and those close to him — now claim that all that has passed. Jones said he worked out harder and longer, nine weeks, for this fight than he has for his recent bouts.

He said he has cut out the distracting voices and returned to what made him a superstar.

"Right now I'm 100 percent me," he said.

"Right now all he wants to do is have this fight,'' Jones' attorney Jim Thomas said. "That's the most important thing to him right now, and it's been a while. He wants to get back there, and I think we're going to see a tremendous performance.

"He's one of the most skilled fighters in history and he still has those skills. He hasn't lost them."

Thomas is what some would call an enabler.

Of course, Jones has lost some of his athletic skills. Of course, he's not the same fighter he was at his prime. If he was, Jones would not be fighting Ajamu. The five-time world champion would not be fighting for the lightly regarded North American Boxing Organization crown. The superstar would not be struggling to fill seats in Boise, Idaho.

Who knew the transvestite convention occupying the Grove Hotel wouldn't be the biggest freak show in town this week? Boxing has the cross-dressers beat, wigs down.

This is boxing — the sport of kings that turns men into fools.

Jones is not there yet. But, for all the talk and bravado and charisma he has exhibited this week, he still looks old, especially when compared to the 34-year-old Ajamu.

Time doesn't stop, even for the greatest. Especially for the greatest.

The excuses, however, must.