There might never have been a better boxer for pure offense than Roy Jones Jr. who led with power punches and set up his punches with psychology and corner cutting movements in equal measure.
Continuing my series of most requested pieces I will be looking today at the great Roy Jones Jr. in brief. Just as with my Giorgio Petrosyan piece I will only be giving a brief glimpse into the tactics of a legitimate striking genius and so will be focusing attention on a single video. In one Roy Jones Jr. highlight so many unique and high level strategies for landing strikes can be seen that I could probably write a series of pieces on just this video. When observers watch Roy Jones they seem to believe that they are watching ludicrous speed and natural talent, but the truth is that while those are both present Jones was perhaps the finest offensive strategist boxing has seen yet.
While Jones' counters were exceptional it was his ability to land punches off the bat against an opponent who was ready to defend which made Jones so unique. Where many coaches and pundits, myself included, preach that the jab is the basis of a good offensive game, Jones was known for his relatively low jab output - instead leading with right straights and left hooks or uppercuts. There were numerous ways in which he made these punches safer to throw and quicker to the mark and we'll take a look at a good few today.
Here is the video which we will be working from - take it in and then read on.
Roy Jones Jr. "Perfect Fighter" Highlights by Kimura (via MuayThaiKimura)
Windmill Right Lead
Seen at: 1:58, 2:00.
We are on a tight schedule so we shall dive right in with Jones' pot shotting power punches. Jones' right hand lead attracted a great deal of attention but it was treated as one technique, when in fact it was entirely dictated by the situation as any good boxer's jab is. The most memorable form of right hand lead which Roy Jones used to stun and up stage opponents was his windmill right. Taking his right hand from it's position in front of his right shoulder Jones would circle his arm at the shoulder away from the opponenent, slowly and flamboyantly. When he began his downward swing Jones would speed up his motion and explode straight into the right hand lead.
The genius of this technique was the change in tempo. Beginning slowly, once he gets to the downward part of his circle Jones may explode into the right hand lead at any point - whether it be from level with his shoulder behind him, down by his hips, next to his lead thigh or from shoulder level in front of him. With virtually any point in the circle to explode from it is near impossible for the opponent to predict the timing of the blow and he is forced to cover up or eat a blow as he attempts to time it.
As much as Jones' blistering speed made this technique especially effective, I have demonstrated this technique to many strikers from different backgrounds and they have had pretty good success in executing it.
Jones would also begin his circling from a further distance to bait the opponent into moving in to punish him for showboating. At this point he would pop them with a stiff jab from his always ready lead hand.
Below he does the same thing against John "The Boring Man" Ruiz. Circling his right arm Jones gets all the way to the bottom of his circle, crouching for effect and jumps up into a hard jab.
Sneak Right Lead
Seen at: 1:01, 1:14, Pretty much constantly.
The finer details of Jones' basic right hand lead are worth examining. From distance Jones would always throw the right hand lead with his right shoulder almost direct in front of him as he finished so that he was safe from counter jabs, but would always continue to sidestep off to the left. Against southpaws this was perfectly safe, but even against orthodox fighters it was safe at distance - because of Jones' feints and tricks if an opponent was focused on trying to counter the right hand leads he would often simply eat them. Covering against Jones often seemed the best option.
Jones right hand lead was not merely a feat of speed however. Jones put himself into positions where he scientifically shaved off fractions of a second in his right lead. For instance his stance, in which he carried his right hand forward of himself, ready to extend or parry a jab, and his right shoulder was often almost squared with his left, unless he was on the defensive. Due to Jones having the shoulders almost square the right hand lead had nowhere near as much distance to travel as when a more orthodox boxer attempts it.
Here Jones lands his venomous right straight and immediately runs out on an angle to the left.
What might not be visible in the above stills is Roy's sneaking footwork. In any Roy Jones fight his head is always jiggling about and his shoulders are wobbling, inviting attention to his unguarded and elusive jawline. What this allows Jones to do better than anyone else is to sneak his back foot underneath of him. Keep your eyes on Jones' right foot.
As Jones is strutting and moving his head, he turns his right foot onto the ball and coils his right knee. With his right shoulder almost squared the punch is essentially a coordinated thrust of the back leg and lead arm rather than a punch delivered with a powerful hip turn. It is interesting that a few years ago I was taught a similar lesson in sneaking my back foot underneath while distracting the opponent with hand movements by the great Shotokan karateka, Kojii Ogata.
Ogata, like Jones, was able to catch opponents out because the distance which a fighter can lunge in with strikes is dictated by his stance. If a fighter's right foot is coiled almost underneath him he can lunge in further than if he was in his ordinary stance. A great many of Jones' opponents clearly thought themselves out of range of his right hand leads, yet he easily connected once he leapt off of his back foot.
Inside Hand Trap
Seen at: 1:40, 2:25
This trick punch is simply sublime and shows the psychological level of Jones' tactics. Traditionally a hand trap is performed to remove an opponent's hand from the path of a punch or to remove his counter punching opportunities. Here is Fedor performing an inside hand trap.
Hand traps can also be used on a more psychological level to play with the opponent's expectations. If you slap an opponent's hand away, he will commit to bringing it back into position. This is similar to taking an angle and allowing the opponent to turn to face you. It seems like one has failed in exposing the opponent, but time spent getting back into position is time not spent defending.
Here Jones slaps his taller opponent's lead glove outward. Rather than trying to open him up and fire inside of the opponent's left hand, Jones wants his opponent to pull the hand back in. As the opponent pulls his left hand back into position Jones clubs through behind it with and overhand which puts his opponent on wobbly legs.
So much of elite level fighting is about lying and exhausting the opponent's mental ability. Jones' skill was in always varying his tricks and gimmicks in order to keep and opponent on edge at all times.
Seen at: 1:48, 3:54
One of Jones' uglier but ultimately extremely effective techniques was jumping off to the right as he jabbed and then coming back in with his right hand. This he did extremely well against southpaws as you can see below.
Jumping off to the right with a jab against an opponent who is not acting the aggressor is actually pretty difficult to do and you don't see it all that often. Muhammad Ali used it against Cleveland Williams and Sonny Liston liked to do it a lot, but it often involves crossing one's feet over to move enough distance to the side to have any effect. Jones' footwork was both explosive and sublime.
Obviously there is a great deal more to say about Roy Jones' game but I simply want to brush on the greatness of the fighters I am looking at in this series, hopefully whetting readers appetites for more detailed analysis at a later date.