<
>

Jones frustrates Ajamu in comeback bout

BOISE, Idaho -- For one night and against one man, anyway, Roy Jones Jr. was back.

At least the showman part of him.

"I'm close. In two or three months, I'll be all the way back,"
Jones said Saturday night.

Minutes earlier, Jones ended a 10-month hiatus by being his
usual showy self. He played, pranced and preened throughout a
methodical -- and inconclusive -- 12-round unanimous decision over
frustrated champion Prince Badi Ajamu to win the NABO light heavyweight title.

All three judges scored the fight 119-106 for Jones, who gave
himself a "C" grade for the rather lackluster win. All three
cards had the tired Ajamu winning only the first round.

"The champ is on the way back, baby," a beaming Jones said.
"Don't pay attention to what people say."

Word had been Jones (50-4) was finished after three consecutive
losses, two by knockout.

Then after being announced as "arguably the greatest
pound-for-pound fighter in boxing history" before the fight, Jones
was merely the greater fighter in the Qwest Arena ring in winning his
sixth belt in four different weight classes.

"I wanted to see if my reflexes were still there," he said.
"I wanted to see if I could put my hands down and not get caught,
do all the things people say I shouldn't do. Do the things I used
to do.

"After tonight, I realize I can do anything I want to."

The 37-year-old Jones withstood his younger opponent's
immediate, wild flurry that began the fight -- "I had him going in
the first round," Ajamu said -- before controlling the final 11
rounds.

Jones used repeated body shots early and head blows late for his
first win in four bouts. Two of his three previous losses had been
to Antonio Tarver. Tarver's trainer, Buddy McGirt, was in Ajamu's
corner Saturday.

"He came out early and tried to catch me -- just like Tarver
did," Jones said. "And I took his best stuff."

Ajamu (25-3-2) said afterward that he had trouble breathing out
his nose the entire fight, his first loss in seven bouts.

"I never got off," he said.

The NABO belt is lightly regarded. But after three straight
defeats, two by knockout, and the long hiatus, Jones was glad to
take it and presumably move on to at least one more fight.

"It all depends if they make it worth my while," Jones said,
referring to promoters, television outlets and their money.

"If I wanted to, I could go out right now and feel good, go out
my way."

Jones said he'd might like to face undisputed world super
middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe of Wales or Bernard Hopkins
next, "but Bernard said he doesn't want to fight anymore."

Ajamu (25-3-2) lost three points for repeated low blows and
tired noticeably beginning in the fifth round. When he landed a
right hand to Jones' head in the ninth round, it startled Jones and
the crowd -- it was one of Ajamu's few telling blows all night.

By the end of the 10th round, Ajamu had a cut and swelling over
his right eye.

And Jones had his first win in 32 months well in hand. The fight
ended with Jones pleasing the standing, roaring crowd with
exaggerated steps and upper cuts.

Ajamu charged at Jones immediately after the opening bell. His
flailing barrage continued through the opening minute, with Ajamu
chasing Jones across the ring.

Jones held his gloves over his ears and deflected much of that.
The fight then settled into Jones working repeated body punches and
Ajamu defending more -- with Jones smiling at his opponent and the
couple thousand fans inside the half-full arena.

Jones exaggerated holding his arms up while coming out of
clenches. He pranced around the ring after breaks. And "Oooohh!"
was Jones' audible reaction to landing a right-hand body shot late
in the fifth round.

Meanwhile, Ajamu huffed heavily through his mouth and
continually lowered his shoulders to push Jones into clenches on
the ropes.

One minute into round seven, after a couple of warning and many
Jones' complaints, referee Jerry Armstrong deducted a point from
Ajamu for another low blow during a tie-up. One minute and another
Jones complaint later, Armstrong took away another point from the
champion for the same offense.

Jones, meanwhile, continued to pound Ajamu's ribs with left-hand
leads immediately following the many clenches.

An increasingly frustrated Ajamu lost yet another point for
another low blow during a clench late in the eighth.

"I didn't mind the low blows," Jones said. "That's what
people try to do to win."

Jones last won on Nov. 8, 2003, when he beat Tarver for the WBC
and IBO light heavyweight titles. Tarver then beat Jones twice in
rematches.

The 34-year-old Ajamu's last loss had been on April 24, 2004, to
Otis Grant.

On the undercard, William Guthrie of Palm Beach, Fla., stopped
Luke Munsen of Spokane, Wash., with a technical knockout in the
fifth round to win the vacant IBF International Cruiserweight title

And 41-year-old cruiserweight Arthur Williams (43-14-1) stopped
Kenny Keene (51-4) of Emmett, Idaho, in the 10th round TKO. The
38-year-old Keene said after the fight he would retire.