Roy Jones Jr. found a way to twist the words of Wladimir Klitschko while trying to take the middle ground in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Usually, this column analyzes the best performance from the boxing weekend for stories thriving beneath the surface. Artur Beterbiev whooped then-WBO light heavyweight champion Joe Smith Jr. in two rounds to unify the division. Beterbiev deserves tremendous praise, but it’s hard to focus on Beterbiev’s impressive performance when retired boxing great Roy Jones Jr. recently made some comments that abdicated his morality.
A sizable crowd wants athletes to remove themselves from the political sphere and focus on sports. If that is your stance, stop reading because this installment of “After the Fight” isn’t for you.
I would much rather spend my time highlighting Beterbiev’s power and skill, but the former champion Jones said some things that my conscience won’t allow me to overlook. While Jones has no problem misplacing his integrity, I do.
On June 19, former four-division world champion Jones gave an interview to TMZ Sports taking exception to Wladimir Klitschko’s June Hall-of-Fame induction video recording. During his recorded speech, Klitschko called out Jones for his ties to Russia. Jones was in attendance in New York as he was also inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
“There’s one person for whom I have a real question. One person broke Ukrainian law by going to the occupied peninsula of Crimea through Russian territory,” Klitschko said during his induction speech (h/t TMZ.com). “So, Roy, whose side are you on? On the side of the aggressor, or on the side of the defender of his right to live? I respect you as a fighter, but I really question your moral compass.”
Klitschko referred to when Jones traveled to Crimea in 2015 to meet with Russian president, Vladimir Putin, to ask for dual-Russian citizenship for an easier time when traveling for business. Russia invaded the Ukranian territory of Crimea in 2014 and unlawfully annexed it in March of the same year. That territory has been disputed ever since.
Jones is well within his right to offer a rebuttal to Klitschko’s words, but taking the middle ground is an ethical cop-out.
Klitschko is a former world heavyweight champion. He is also Ukranian and is fighting against Russia’s unjust invasion of Ukraine. His brother Vitali, also a former heavyweight champion, is the mayor of Kyiv and actively battling against Russian invaders.
According to the BBC, millions of Ukrainians have left Ukraine as refugees. Putin has offered up illogical war propaganda that has slid from false claims of de-Nazifying Ukraine to taking land he feels belongs to Russia.
Roy Jones Jr. suggested he and Wladimir Klitschko fight in the boxing ring after Klitschko called out Jones’s habit of ignoring Russia’s crimes against Ukraine
While Ukrainians are fighting for survival, Jones has a problem with Klitschko’s criticism.
Jones told TMZ Sports: “If it was up to me, we wouldn’t even have a war. You understand where I’m coming from? So don’t try to put me off in there like I’m some guy, ‘Oh, he’s happy this.’ “I don’t know enough about it to be happy about it. How could I tell you? I don’t know that Russia wrong. I don’t know that Ukraine wrong. I don’t know who the hell might be right or wrong. And I don’t care ’cause that’s not my field.”
Jones tried and failed to walk a rhetorical tightrope. He attempted to be anti-war while also feigning an inability to exercise his conscience. Russia chose to raid Ukraine unprovoked. Ukraine has no choice other than to fight back against a tyrant to protect their land, freedom and lives.
It is disgusting and unforgivable that Jones refuses to come to that conclusion.
Jones said he does not care who is right or wrong because that is not his “field,” but he is wrong. It is his field, my field, and your field because we are all people who have to co-exist on this planet. We all have a moral obligation to stand up and help people who are being persecuted.
Not only did Jones assert he’s incapable of telling right from wrong regarding Russia’s insurgence and destruction of Ukraine, but he also showed no desire to use his influence as a boxing legend to help.
He made matters worse by inviting Klitschko to fight.
“If you think you can whoop me, that’s a whole different thing,” Jones said. “I do still box for a living. If you want to talk about whooping me, that’s one other thing. If you want to do something about it, then me and you can fight anytime.”
Sorry Jones, but Klitschko already has a fight. He’s standing arm in arm with his countrymen against a storming Russian enemy force that outnumbers Ukraine by more than 2-1. Klitschko and millions of Ukrainians are fighting against annihilation, so he has no time for a silly exhibition bout.
Shockingly, a fighter who was so brilliant and courageous in the ring throughout his 29-year professional boxing career could be so spineless outside of it. Russia is murdering and plundering Ukraine, yet Jones can’t call their actions wrong.
Jones told the Best Women’s Boxing Show PERIOD (BWBSP) podcast (h/t Boxingscene.com) that he wants to help bring American basketball player Brittney Griner home. Since February, Griner has been detained in Russia for allegedly possessing a vape cartridge containing hash oil. Many believe that her detainment is payback for the U.S. support of Ukraine.
Jones said he was in an “uproar” over Russia’s treatment of Griner. It’s inconceivable that Jones can recognize Russia’s treatment of Griner as wrong, but not their invasion of Ukraine.
Jones also complained of receiving criticism and tried to pass off his dual-citizenship as some sort of humanitarian effort, but he remains silent about Russia’s war machine tearing through Ukraine and the countless war crimes they are committing.
“I catch a lot of criticism for things I’ve done in the past. I love boxing and sports,” Jones told BWBSP. “I became a dual citizen in the U.S. and in Russia because of my boxing accolades, and they love boxing over there. That’s why it’s good to have some kind of sports relationship with people. It goes beyond the political stuff.”
It’s great to want to bring countries separated by decades of political turmoil together, but you can’t ignore the crimes committed by Russia against Ukraine and claim to be fighting for the greater good. That’s antithetical.
Maybe Jones’s silence on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has more to do with his allegiance to Russia. After all, he is a Russian citizen who has admitted business ties to the country. Only Jones knows if his silence on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is motivated by money.
So far, Jones’s contradicting sentiments paint an unflattering picture of his character, but he’s the one that has to look at his mug in the mirror every day. Maybe Klitschko’s words triggered his overreaction because they hit on the truth.
For a guy that wants peace, Jones ironically intends to make war with Klitschko in the ring because Klitschko pointed out a fact. That might tell you everything you need to know about Jones.