Roy Jones Jr. can still put on a show — and he can still fight, too.
The aging superstar played Qwest Arena in Boise on Saturday night and, though the attendance figure (estimated at 2,000) made it seem like the Idaho Stampede were in town, Jones delivered as if it were Las Vegas in his prime.
In 12 dominant rounds against lightly regarded Prince Badi Ajamu, Jones earned the North American Boxing Organization's light heavyweight title and asserted that he can again be a factor in the division he once ruled.
And he did it all in style, with the flash and charisma that once made him among the biggest superstars in boxing history.
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"The champ is on the way back, baby. Don't pay attention to what you've heard," Jones said.
Outside of power — in his prime, Jones would have laid Ajamu on his back at least once — the 37-year-old Jones showcased all of his considerable talents in earning an overwhelming 119-106 decision on all three scorecards.
The quickness. The smarts. The boxing acumen. And, above all, his vintage style.
He laughed off his frustrated foe, smiling the entire night. The million-watt grin he flashed at the beginning of the night only grew brighter.
"I had a wonderful time in there tonight," Jones said.
Jones has always understood that boxing is as much about entertainment as it is fighting. Even after three losses in his past three fights, including two by knockout, Jones didn't forget that lesson. No doubt aware that his star power has been diminished — Qwest Arena was less than half-full for the card — Jones seemed intent on raising his profile, as both boxer and an attraction.
The showmanship comes as naturally as the boxing skill. After all, Jones once played a basketball game on the same day as a fight. He once rapped his way into the ring. Saturday night he let rapper Rick Ross lead him and his entourage of 15 into the ring.
"Everywhere I go, like I told you before, I got to have a show. It cost me a lot to do the show that I did; to bring Rick Ross in; to give them a
good, fair opening; to give them a Roy Jones-type opening," he said. "To let them know that when Roy Jones comes in, it's going to be a show. By doing that, that made me more enthused to put on my show."
By the fifth round, with the fight already under control, Jones began holding his arms aloft — victory style — during clenches. Throughout the night, he held his fists low, inviting — no daring — Ajamu to catch him. And when the champ tried, Jones simply danced away.
It was among the things Jones needed to prove to himself in this fight, he said afterward. He needed to know he could hold his hands low and still make opponents miss, he needed to know that he had both the substance and the style.
"After tonight, I realize I can do anything I want," said Jones, whose future certainly includes more boxing.
It was sweet validation for Jones, a five-time world champion in four different weight divisions who has been maligned for his recent performances and the litany of excuses that followed.
Jones deserved this one. He clearly put in the time in the gym.
After listening to boxing experts and fans write him off as finished, as diminished, as too preoccupied with his other interests to return to elite status in the ring, Jones can savor this win.
And the Treasure Valley boxing fans that dug deep into their pockets got all they could have asked for. Jones came through — and didn't hold it against the ones who failed to show.
"They didn't realize, 'Oh my god, we've got a chance to see a living legend in the flesh,' " he said. "They didn't know what to expect. You've got to prove it. I think I did, right?"
Jones showed his appreciation for the faithful, which seemed 75 percent in favor of him at the start, but 100 percent behind him when the fight was over. He went to each side of the ring, sending kisses and fists of appreciation to the standing fans.
After all, as any great entertainer knows, when the show is over, you take a bow.