Jones, Trinidad each promise to deliver early knockouts
NEW YORK -- Everybody thought it would be Roy Jones Jr., the former heavyweight champion who struggled so mightily when he later shed those pounds, having trouble making weight for his fight Saturday night against Felix Trinidad.
Turns out it was the other way around.
Despite never fighting at more than 160 pounds, the Puerto Rican hero stepped on the scale Friday at Madison Square Garden and appeared to be two-tenths over the catch weight of 170 -- briefly causing a panic among his entourage, and inspiring the ebullient Jones to leap from his chair and grab the microphone.
"I don't care about that," Jones shouted into the decidedly pro-Trinidad crowd that jeered him mercilessly. "He can have the two-tenths of a pound. I just want my gloves and let's go."
Tito eventually did make weight, right on the number, after officials scooted the scale to a slightly more level part of the stage. Jones weighed in a half-pound light, flexing for a moment and wearing a broad smile before stepping from the scale to chants of "Junior! Junior!"
It's the lightest the former eight-time world champion has fought since knocking out Bryant Brannon in 1996.
Many people wondered whether Jones would be able to make weight, or have any strength left if he was successful. It was Jones, after all, who slowly packed on the pounds while winning titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight.
But after bulking up to 193 pounds and defeating John Ruiz for the WBA title in 2003, Jones found it much more difficult to come back down. He scraped under the 175-pound limit and won a narrow decision over Antonio Tarver later that year, but lost by knockout to Tarver in the rematch six months later.
Jones (51-4, 38 KOs) was knocked out again by Glen Johnson in September 2004, lost the rubber match with Tarver in 2005, and suddenly had people telling him he was finished.
Jones admits he wasn't smart in dropping weight after his foray into the heavyweights. He had put on too much muscle, which he found difficult to lose while keeping the heavy hands that once dropped 17 consecutive opponents.
This time, Jones slowly whittled himself down from 188 pounds during a three-month camp with trainer Alton Merkerson, and appears to be brimming with energy.
"I took a pretty smart approach to it. I kept charge, didn't let myself get back over 190 pounds (after his last fight)," Jones said. "Someone said a fight at 170 or 168 would come next, so I kept in shape."
By contrast, Trinidad has never carried so much weight into the ring -- and only a couple of times has he even been at 160. One of them was a devastating 12-round loss to Ronald "Winky" Wright in his last fight more than two years ago, where he had problems countering jabs from the bigger, stronger opponent.
"Tito didn't show his skills against Winky Wright," said his father and trainer, Felix Trinidad Sr. "Winky is very difficult, as you know."
The big question is whether Trinidad (42-2, 35 KOs) will still be able to deliver the big combinations that defined his career. The power puncher has a stunning 80 percent knockout rate, among his victims Ricardo Mayorga and Fernando Vargas.
But he'll be 25 pounds heavier than when he won his first title at welterweight in 1993.
"Tito has shown no difficulty in moving up in weight," Papa Trinidad said. "He brings his strength and his punch with him."
The two fighters have been exceedingly cordial in the buildup to the fight, often complimenting each other before demurely promising victory. That charade ended when Trinidad appeared for a moment to be over weight, with Merkerson and the elder Trinidad getting into a heated argument.
When promoter Don King brought the two fighters to the center of the stage, posing face-to-face for the cameras, Trinidad mockingly brought a fist within inches of Jones' chin, promising to knock out the former pound-for-pound king in two rounds.
"I feel strong at this weight. My hands are ready as they have always been," Trinidad had said earlier. "When I catch him, he will feel my power."
Jones, echoing the same assurance he's made all week, slashed his hand across his throat and promised the Latino star he would go down by the fourth.
"I heard Trinidad Sr. say Tito is going to knock out Roy. If they come in with that strategy, it's going to be an early night," Merkerson said. "Roy will take him out early with that game plan. I don't see this fight going the distance."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index