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Former champion Roy Jones gives Charlotte boxing fans a show worth repeating

“I told you,” Roy Jones Jr. said in his crowded locker room early Saturday morning.

He told me.

“Who else throws 10, 12 punch combinations?” Jones asks. “I’m bringing it back to boxing. Did I tell you?”

He still told me. I counted only nine punches, but it would not be an exaggeration to say that his hands were moving too quickly to record them.

Jones says he wanted to sit on his punches, put something behind them. But he says his hands were so fast he didn’t have time to slow down and set up. Yet it’s tough to offer sympathy for him. Sympathy should be reserved for his opponent.

His opponent was Willie “For Real” Williams, whom Jones destroyed in the second round. Jones is the reason fans made the trip to Cabarrus Arena & Events Center, a 25-mile drive from downtown Charlotte.

The drive is a haul. But based on the reaction of the 2,500 or so fans in the building, there were no complaints.

North Carolina’s boxing royalty was at ringside – former bantamweight titlist Kelvin Seabrooks, former Olympian and heavyweight contender Calvin Brock and former heavyweight champion Bonecrusher Smith.

Perhaps new royalty will emerge. Some boxers need only one name. Some need only a letter. Q is sufficient.

Charlotte’s Quinton Rankin, 28, is a light heavyweight. He also is big time. Rankin, who entered with a record of 7-2 with six knockouts, fought Craig Duncan (5-0) of Apopka, Fla.

Rankin, who specializes in defense, moves deftly for a big man. But Duncan hurt him early. The taller man pursued and often reached Rankin, walking through Rankin’s jab. But Rankin was calm and suddenly began to connect with big punches. Once he started he didn’t stop, and knocked Duncan out.

As he did before the fight, Rankin moved to each side of the ring to reach out to his hometown fans, who reached back. He says his plan is to bring the light-heavyweight title to North Carolina.

A dazzling fighter is welterweight Miguel Cruz. Cruz, of Lake Mary, Fla., is 7-0 with six knockouts. He fought Eli Addison. Addison (11-4) is from Winston-Salem but fights out of Charlotte.

You don’t have to follow boxing to know that Cruz is special. He doesn’t get hit. He hits. Addison is quick. But Cruz knocked him down twice, and after the second knockdown, Addison didn’t get up. Cruz, 24, will contend for a title. Cool to see him before he does.

Williams came to the ring with the evening’s largest entourage, which featured his own rapper. You could have staged an 11-on-11 football game with his Baltimore-based entourage and had enough extras to play special teams.

Jones’ entourage was almost as big. He wore a green robe, green trunks and green gloves. As he walked to the ring, fans stood. In front of them was a man they had paid to watch fight on pay-per-view TV.

For Real, 36, is a journeyman, 14-9 with four knockouts. He was the aggressor early. Jones, unquestionably one of the greatest fighters in history, is 46, and he mostly played defense. As Williams attacked, Jones covered up, looked to the crowd, winked at the fans at ringside, perhaps Smith.

“I got bored,” Jones says.

To alleviate the boredom, he’d throw fast and precise punches. How fast can a man be at 46? Based on what we saw Friday, as fast as he wanted to be.

In the second round, Jones tagged For Real with a combination that was unreal. Hook to the head, hook to the body, each punch certain and quick.

Jones, now 60-8 with 43 knockouts, wants to fight for the cruiserweight title. The champion, Marco Huck, has held the title for almost six years. Huck, 30, is a big man and a big puncher. He’s from Serbia but lives in Berlin.

Huck is good. He’s very good. Does Jones have the speed and precision to beat a man 16 years younger?

Jones says so, and I’d pay to find out. Jones does not want to fight Huck in Germany. Winning a fight against a German in Germany is like winning a basketball game against Duke at Duke.

Friday, Jones won, Cruz won, Q won and fans won. I’ve seen every major boxing card, and most of the minor ones, since I moved to Charlotte in 1981. Friday’s was among the best if not the best.

We ought to do this more often.

Sorensen: 704-358-5129; tsorensen@charlotteobserver.com; Twitter: @tomsorensen

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