Roy Jones was the world's best boxer in 1999 when Steve Collins wrecked his victory celebrations and climbed through the ropes and challenged him to a fight.
"He ran like a child," remembered Collins. "I knew that he was not interested and would never be interested in giving me the fight that would get me back in the ring."
It was in Florida where Collins issued his challenge. Just seconds earlier Jones had knocked out Richard Frazier in two, one-sided rounds; Jones was fighting at light-heavyweight at that time and would move through the weights, winning a legitimate portion of the world heavyweight title in 2003, and he is still fighting now.
A few months ago a throwaway comment by Collins, the type that fighters throw like lazy jabs, upset Jones. It was nothing too outrageous but, after a bit of mischief online, the quote by Collins led to the pair speaking over the phone. The phone call led to the two fighters agreeing terms, including a split for the money, and it now looks like they will finally fight. "I said a couple of things about Roy being scared of me. It got him a bit annoyed, we spoke and now there will be a fight. I clearly said the right thing," said Collins, who was renowned for his ability to upset his opponents in the days and weeks before fights.
Collins, who is 48 and has not fought since the summer of 1997, retired as WBO super-middleweight champion. "I had been asking for Jones to fight me for years – we were the last two left at the weight. He had beaten all the Americans and I had taken care of all the Europeans [Collins beat Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn twice in world title fights]. I had to go and confront him in the end."
Jones has fought 29 times since Collins last did but it has not been an endless line of glory and now, at 44, he can look back on a decade spent flitting in and out of a boxing twilight zone of denial. There are too many images of Jones out cold or taking a beating in recent years. If Collins was not on the horizon, Jones would still be fighting.
If Jones was not still fighting then Collins insists that he would simply be enjoying life. This is not strictly about the money. "It's not a comeback, I don't have to fight again," insisted Collins, who has been in the gym hitting things since before Christmas. "This is just about me getting the only fight I ever wanted – I get Jones and I will knock him out now like I would have done 17 years ago. I told him that, he was not very happy."
Last year there was the disturbing image of Ricky Hatton collapsing in a comeback fight after just three years out of the boxing ring. Dozens of other fighters train hard, suck in their bellies and give it another go after breaks of between three and 15 years. It can end in pain, like Hatton, or just in frustration that the timing and desire are sadly no longer working in tandem.
The Collins and Jones fight could be different and would certainly be an event wherever it ends up. Dubai and South Africa remain favourite destinations for the ultimate "unfinished business" fight, but Malta and Ireland could come in with late offers.
Jones has been active but has looked far too vulnerable and easy to hit in the last few years. Collins has everything to gain and, win or lose, he will still be remembered for the Eubank and Benn wins. There will be full medical tests for Collins, including MRI scans, and when he gets his licence, which he will, the fight will take place and it will not be the biggest freak show of 2013.Reuse content