This question has been kicked about pretty frequently over the last couple of years. Who is better, Roy Jones Jr. or Bernard Hopkins? Hopkins might get the benefit because he’s the hot fighter right now. Hopkins made history becoming the oldest fighter (46) to win a major belt, scoring a unanimous-decision win over Jean Pascal, while Jones got knocked out by Denis Lebedev on the same day.
Argument for Roy Jones: Jones (54-8, 40 KOs) fought in every division from junior middleweight through heavyweight. Jones really put himself on the map with his unanimous-decision win over Bernard Hopkins in 1993. Ok, that fight was 18 years ago, but Jones still gets a ton of credit for that win because both fighters were a lot closer to their prime. Jones was 24 and Hopkins 28 at the time. Jones’ real taste of stardom came when he dominated James Toney for the IBF super middleweight title in 1994. There were wins over Montell Griffin, Virgil Hill, Mike McCallum, Clinton Woods and Antonio Tarver along the way.
Jones was the undisputed light heavyweight champion (WBA, WBC, IBF) from 1999 through 2002, relinquishing the belts when he moved up to heavyweight to fight John Ruiz. Incidentally, Jones won the WBA world heavyweight belt in that fight. Jones went through a down period in the mid 2000s, losing three straight fights to Tarver (twice) and Glen Johnson. He recovered briefly with wins over Anthony Hanshaw and Felix Trinidad in 2007 and 2008, but that was the last of the all-time great fighter people loved to watch.
Argument for Bernard Hopkins: People who are quick to give Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) the nod for his win over Jones in 2010, should think again. Jones was 41 and clearly past his prime. Hopkins’ career has been a lesson in resiliency, patience and being the ultimate student of the game. Beating Jean Pascal on Saturday for the WBC belt epitomized what Hopkins is all about. But we need to look past his latest triumph. He dominated an up and coming Kelly Pavlik, he beat Tarver with no problems and made short work of Oscar De La Hoya.
Wins over William Joppy, Carl Daniels and an absolute masterful performance against Felix Trinidad in 2001 at Madison Square Garden put him back on the boxing map. His win over then-undefeated Glen Johnson (32-0) in 1997 also speaks well for Hopkins’ dominance. It’s also worth noting that Hopkins had at least one of the major belts for 10 yaears. He held on to the IBF middleweight championship from 1996 through 2006 and was the unified middleweight champ (WBC, WBA, IBF) from 2001 through 2005. He also held the WBO middleweight title for a portion of those years.
Scorecard: You can make an argument that this one is a toss up. Both fighters were undisputed champs in their respective weight classes. both have done it with grace and both have several signature wins in their careers. Jones gets the nod in many circles because he's done it with a little more flair than Hopkins. Jones' ring entrances, wearing a tuxedo for example, made for great headlines. His dip into professional basketball and his unique fighting style and stance was also easy on the eyes.
As for Hopkins, he's a brawler more than a puncher. He knows how to get under the skin of his opponents with his clutching and rough play. But he got it done at the same rate that Jones did. If you look past the flash, Hopkins was just as much a boxing great as Jones was. Hopkins will get the nod in some circles because he's doing better than Jones at an older stage in his career.
Neutral Corner assessment: Since neither fighter has called it a career, we can reserve the right to render our opinion at a later date. But right now Hopkins gets the nod because he just beat the reigning WBC light heavyweight champion, while Jones has really lost it at 42.
Do you really want to know how close this really is? Hopkins' birthday is January 15, while Jones' is on January 16. It doesn't get much closer than that.