Even in an era of alphabet-soup absurdity, only the most insipid of promoters would ever claim that a title sanctioned by the World Boxing Foundation counts as a “world championship.” So when they haul their cruiserweight belt out of mothballs after almost four years and put it up for grabs, it hardly qualifies as a noteworthy event.
However, when the bout features Roy Jones Jr. and Bobby Gunn, it’s tough not at least raise an eyebrow in interest. This Friday in Delaware, the two will meet with the WBF trinket on the line.
Jones was the greatest boxing stars of the 1990s and early years of this century. Perhaps no better pure athlete has ever climbed between the ropes. And Jones possesses a boxing IQ that allowed him to exploit his athletic advantages to the fullest. He was nearly impossible to hit and delivered blistering, explosive offense. In his prime, he was an extremely entertaining and dominant fighter.
But Jones has not been an elite fighters since getting knocked out in back-to-back fights by Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson in 2004. Yet, he has stubbornly remained active. Since 2009, he has suffered brutal knockouts at the hands of Danny Green, Denis Lebedev and Enzo Maccarinelli, cruiserweight contenders who Jones would have toyed with in his prime. In between such losses, he has routinely defeated obscure club fighters. Now 48, he is a sad shadow of his former self.
At 43, Gunn has not had a sanctioned prizefight in over three years, since he was knocked out by Johnson in December 2012. Prior to that, he was stopped by James Toney in April 2012, by Tomasz Adamek in July 2009 and Maccarinelli in April 2007. As a professional boxer, he would best be described as a journeyman/fringe contender. He had a respectable career, but it is memorable only to the most hardcore fans.
But Gunn is much more famous for what he has done away from the world of sanctioned prizefights. He is widely hailed as the “Bareknuckle Champion of the World.” That is a shadowy world of dubious legitimacy, though Gunn has put a lot of effort toward bringing Bareknuckle fights to respectability. He is the kind of tough and colorful character that makes boxing lore sparkle.
So in one corner this Friday we will have one of the sport’s all time greats, now a shadow of his former self. Across from him will be a hard-scrabble, underground legend. The fight has absolutely no relevancy in terms of the top of the cruiserweight division. But it will likely draw a better audience than most cards.