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Jones takes risky fight against southpaw Sanders


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Jones takes risky fight against southpaw Sanders

By Dan Rafael, USA TODAY

Lennox Lewis appears headed for retirement. Evander Holyfield opted to fight James Toney. Mike Tyson's messy life doesn't leave much time to think about boxing.

So Roy Jones Jr., disinterested in unifying heavyweight titles with Chris Byrd or going back to light heavyweight to meet rival Antonio Tarver, was running out of potential opponents for his fall HBO PPV date until he and promoter Murad Muhammad pulled off quite a surprise Thursday, agreeing to a fight with fast, powerful southpaw Corrie Sanders of South Africa. The fight will probably be in Las Vegas Nov. 8.

"It's a done deal," Muhammad told USA TODAY. "I wouldn't be talking to you if it wasn't signed. This is basically a miracle because we were stuck for an opponent and we didn't want to lose our date."

Sanders (No. 8 USA TODAY, 39-2, 29 KOs) poses a serious threat to Jones. After all, he threw a jolt into the sport in March when he scored a major upset, demolishing top contender Wladimir Klitschko in two rounds to win a minor title.

"When Sanders knocked out Klitschko, Roy said, 'Go get him.' (First) we worked on a Holyfield fight and it fell through. We worked on Tyson and it fell through. We wanted Lennox Lewis, but he's not fighting," said Muhammad, who will co-promote the title bout with Don King. "Everyone kept asking, 'Where do you go next?' We got it. You have a man who knocked out Klitschko ... so you know he's a puncher and bonafide heavyweight."

Jones (No. 6, 48-1, 38 KOs) also made history in March, becoming the second light heavyweight champ to win a piece of the heavyweight crown as he easily beat John Ruiz despite giving up 33 pounds.

At 6-4, 230 pounds, Sanders, 37, is quicker, more skilled and much more powerful than Ruiz. Sanders' only losses are KO defeats to ex-champ Hasim Rahman in 2000 and to Nate Tubbs in 1994.

"Roy Jones Jr. is an all-time great, but this is not Ruiz," said Sanders promoter Rodney Berman. "Corrie Sanders is going to stop Roy Jones. Corrie is over the moon about the fight. He said it will be a privilege to walk into the ring with Roy Jones, but he believes Roy has made a mistake."

HBO PPV, whose schedule took a hit when Lewis passed on a fall fight, is thrilled with Jones-Sanders. "My immediate reaction was elation," HBO's Mark Taffet said. "The public was treated to a very special night in boxing history when Roy Jones defeated Ruiz. Now they'll get to see if he can stand tall against a man who knocked out Wladimir Klitschko."

The fight came together quickly. Berman and manager Vernon Smith planned to fly from South Africa to Miami on Wednesday for a Saturday purse bid on Sanders' mandatory vs. Lamon Brewster. But after a call from Muhammad they instead flew to New York, where they negotiated until closing a deal on Thursday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed but Jones, 34, was guaranteed a minimum $10 million to fight Ruiz and Muhammad said, "Roy will not go backwards." Sanders will earn by far the biggest purse of his career.

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I don't know if any of you saw the Klitschko vs Sanders fight, but this guy Sanders is no joke. Could easily see him rock Jones.

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