The con is over, Roy Jones Jr.
It's time to get off the stage. You know it, deep down, don't you? You have to know you're operating at three-quarters effectiveness from those days when you romped over opponents with such stylistic grace, uncommon coordination and superhuman hand speed that we debated your place among the greats.
Those guys around you -- the sponges who get those scraps off the gravy train that should have ground to a halt after you got knocked out by Glen Johnson in September 2004, before you further sullied your legacy Saturday against Antonio Tarver -- they probably don't tell you that you fooled no one.
Can you blame them? That gravy tastes good.
The applause, it just doesn't reach the same decibel level at those cockfights you enjoy, does it? Nah, very little compares to the roar of 20,000 fans chanting your name. It's an addiction, really, and it's why the Stones lug their geriatric carcasses from city to city. The roar is like smack, idn't Keef?
The gravy lappers aren't going to cop to this fact, Roy, but it should be very clear that you are thinking like an adulation addict. After Tarver handed your behind to you on a platter, you were talking like a graduate from the Norman Vincent Peale School of Borderline Delusional Optimism.
"I'm not going to stop," you said. "That's the champion I am. I felt like Saturday could have been the beginning of a new day because I felt good in the ring for a while. My body is starting to get better. I'm looking at everything as a positive."
Whoa, scary talk. You say "champion I am." Not to get all grammar police on you, but you got the tense wrong. It should be "champion I was."
Someone has to cut through the fog of delusion here. You haven't had a belt to strap on your waist since 2003. Two years, Roy. You were 34 then, you're 36 now.
I'm not an ageist, mind you. Tarver, the guy who's bested you twice now -- three times in the eyes of some people who say you lost the first try in November 2003 -- he's also 36. But he has more tread on the tires than you do, Roy.
You threw 320 punches against him last week, and while you were usually economical with your output, this was sub-Butterbean level activity. You tossed 424 in that first, successful outing. But your standards have dropped since then, along with the capability of your body.
"I want to have good, competitive fights," you said after Tarver chiseled away at your eroding legacy in Tampa, Fla., Saturday. "That's my whole goal."
Yeah? That's a switch. Refresher time, Roy.
"I could beat Mike Tyson," you said in 1995.
"I couldn't beat a large heavyweight like Riddick Bowe, but Tyson's only 5-11. I could reach him. I could carry 185 pounds. I want to do something no one thinks I can do. That's what a champion does. A warrior is someone who'll fight to the dying end. But a champion is someone who'll find a way to adapt to any situation and win. That's what I am."
You had the tense right then, Roy. But that was before the fog settled in your head.
Was it the fog talking when you said: "If it made money, it made sense," after Tarver was done with you, yet again?
Hey Roy, remember when I said the con is over? You aren't just conning yourself with talk like that, trying to pretend that as long as the promotion made money, you're all good with losing. You're conning all those Average Joes out there who don't spend $50 as easily as you do.
They called their cable company Saturday night after watching a Tarver-Jones III infomercial, thinking that maybe your reunion with Big Roy would reverse the irreversible slide, and they're on the hook for $50 on the next bill. But as long as you got yours, eh, Roy?
You really never did factor in the indubitable fact that you are an entertainer because people are paying you to watch you ply your trade. That's why you coasted through countless rounds, often using 30 percent of your astounding genetic package as you solidified your place among the all-time greats. It's why so many of us had to give you credit for your skills but not for your demeanor.
But maybe there is hope, Roy. Let me try that Norman Vincent Peale stuff for a second. You did say, "I realize I lost a step" in your postfight analysis session. Bravo.
Shoot, I can't keep up that happy talk, Roy. Think of me like a counselor for the Betty Ford Clinic For Athletes Who Don't Know When To Walk Away.
Sorry to depart from the Peale Deal, Roy, but you've lost more than a step. Don't let the gravy lappers and flesh peddlers who'd love to see you continue this campaign of legacy defacement tell you different.
You've lost several steps, and your chin has been involuntarily rewired, compliments of Tarver and Johnson, don't forget. Can't let you forget, Roy, because the gravy lappers aren't big on injecting reality into the mix.
You had to know you needed to knock out Tarver in the 12th round Saturday and you just couldn't pull the trigger. You failed to pull the trigger, and thus you shouldn't belabor this sad spectacle of a quest.
"Boxing loves Roy Jones," you said after the latest loss, the bad kind of three-peat. "This couldn't happen without Roy Jones."
What did you mean by "this," Roy? If you mean the sad diminishment of one of the most talented pure boxers ever to lace up a pair, then you're right. But if you keep at it, that first statement, about how the sport loves you, will ring even more falsely than it does today.
It took us a little while to shake off the images of Ali getting mugged like the greenest of sparring partners by Holmes and playing out the string inelegantly against Berbick.
And we liked Ali, loved him even. Your brand of hubris never compared favorably to the Greatest's, Roy, no matter what the gravy lappers tell you.
We have to defend our sick sport too often, Roy, so we don't need another all-time great talking with a mouthful of marbles when he's 50.
Walk away today, Roy, and tell the world that time is no longer on your side. Exit the stage today with most of your marbles and a good chunk of dough so we can ponder your place in the savage science pantheon, Roy, and you'll do pretty well when the votes are all counted.
You were one of the best, Roy, but now it's time to rest. Let the roosters do the fighting.