Roy Jones Jr. travels light. After arriving on a red-eye from Los Angeles, he’s driven Wednesday morning from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to Mattie’s Diner.
His entourage consists of his co-managers and Charlotte’s “Money” Mike Long. Long will promote Jones’ fight Friday at the Cabarrus Arena and Events Center. (For more information, go to www.CarolinaBrawl.com.)
The entourage is small enough to fit in a booth. Also small are the pounds Jones must lose to make the 200-pound cruiserweight limit. He weighs 204 pounds Wednesday before he orders breakfast – two scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and black coffee. He pulls from his pocket a small bottle and pours secret white fluid into the cup.
Is that secret Florida stuff (he lives in Pensacola) or secret California stuff?
“It’s cream,” Jones says as he shows me the label. “The best kind.”
Before we get to Jones’ comments about the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton and the Charlotte Hornets’ Michael Jordan, Kemba Walker, Big Al Jefferson and Mo Williams, let’s get to the secret Jones won’t divulge.
For the past four weeks he has worked in Los Angeles with trainer Jim Foster. Foster, says Jones, devised a method that’s enabled Jones to regain some of the speed that age has claimed. The secret does not involve fluid.
Do you remember the speed Jones offered at, say, 26? Do you remember the power he generated? Do you remember how difficult he was to hit? He won titles in four weight divisions. He won his first 34 fights and 49 of his first 50.
He is 59-8 with 42 knockouts. If you have a conversation about the greatest pound-for-pound fighters of all time and do not include Jones, you have to start over.
What will fans see Friday when he boxes Baltimore’s Willie “For Real” Williams (14-8-2 with four knockouts)?
Jones sets his white cup on the table and says: “They’re going to see a revamped version of the old me. Hand speed, foot speed – my foot speed is good, but I don’t know how much I’m going to use.
“My hand speed is so outstanding it’s scary. My hand speed is so fast you can’t possibly get out of the way. And if you can’t possibly get out of the way you can’t possibly stay standing because I hit too hard. Everybody’s going to see it the first punch of the fight.”
But wait. How can you, at 46, become faster? Are you talking about disguising speed; that is, moving at half-speed so you’ll appear faster when you choose to go?
“I’ve never trained like this, and if it works out like I think, (For Real) is in a world of trouble,” says Jones. “If I can get back to half of what I was at 26, nobody can beat me. And I believe I’m above half right now.”
Fans will take that. They don’t expect Jones at 26. They expect a pay-per-view star in the ring in front of them. They expect glimpses of the qualities that made Jones a legend.
Jones insists Charlotte isn’t a stop on a farewell tour. The idea is to challenge for a title. Win a sixth-straight fight and continue to win until a champion is tempted to give him a shot.
Jones exhibits superior hand speed as he works through his eggs. He has been in Charlotte only once before Wednesday; he flew in en route to Duke, where he took his son to a basketball camp.
But he has a connection. He wears a Jordan Brand “Jumpman” jacket, pants and sandals. Jones endorsed a “Jumpman” boxing line.
“I’m a Michael fan,” Jones says of Jordan.
How about Jordan’s basketball team?
“I watch the Charlotte Hornets,” he says. “You know I like Kemba Walker. And y’all got the big boy who played at Utah (Al Jefferson). And Mo (Williams) is something special. He’s very special.”
Jones steps outside for a picture, and I point across the street toward Label, the nightclub where Cam Newton had been Saturday when shots were fired. I tell Jones that Newton has been criticized for being in the upscale club. Imagine, a 25-year-old attending a party.
“That’s just haters, man,” Jones says of Newton’s critics. “That’s just haters.”
Figuring that being so close to Label might make Jones nervous, I assure him that I have his back. As gracious as he has been throughout the morning, he is not moved by my gesture.
He is not moved when the term “legend” – as in, when does a Charlotte card feature a legend? – comes up.
“See, this is the thing about being a legend,” says Jones. “When you start thinking of how much of a legend you are, you just quit. Not that I take offense, because I earned it. But I’m still operating.”
Sorensen: 704-358-5129; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @tomsorensen