On This Day: Roy Jones Defeats Virgil Hill With Body Shot
By Sina Latif
On this day on 25 April 1998, Roy Jones Jr, an in-prime and pound-for-pound great of the 1990’s, met Virgil “Quicksilver” Hill in a scheduled 12 rounder at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum in Biloxi.
Jones, the current WBC light-heavyweight champion, was heading into the bout as a three-weight division champion, having also won belts at middleweight and super-middleweight, with a record of 35-1.
However, Jones’ belt wasn’t at stake for this fight, as the WBC had declared him a ‘champion in recess’.
Hill was an Olympic silver medalist in the middleweight division from the star-studded 1984 US squad and the former world light heavyweight champion. Hill had some pedigree himself, with a record of 43-2.
With 20 successful defences of his WBA light-heavyweight title during two separate reigns, Hill was third on the all-time successful title defences list behind only Joe Louis and Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.
Consequently, Hill had much mileage on the clock and had lost his WBA and IBF titles in his previous fight against Dariusz Michalczewski.
Hill’s other defeat had been to one of the greatest fighters to ever lace on a pair of gloves in Thomas Hearns via unanimous decision. However, ‘The Hitman’ was past his prime by then.
Against Jones, Hill was coming up against an all-time great in full effect, with his own best days behind him.
Jones’ lone defeat was in March 1997 to light-heavyweight contender Montell Griffin in one of the most controversial moments in Jones’ professional career.
With Jones comfortably in the lead, Griffin took a knee in the 9th round following some punishment. Whilst Griffin was on one knee, Jones looked like he had time to measure himself and landed a flush left hook square on Griffin’s face. Griffin dropped to the canvas face down and laid there, unable to get up to the referee’s count.
The decision immediately after the fight was that the punch was illegal and Jones was disqualified.
Jones had his rematch with Griffin five months later, and got his vindication via a first-round knockout.
Jones came out aggressively with a barrage of punches, looking to prove a point after the controversial circumstances under which he had lost his light-heavyweight title and unbeaten record, and he did so in spectacular fashion.
Jones landed a left hook that sent Griffin crashing backwards onto the ropes, which was declared a knock-down with the referee’s count. The second knock-down was via another blistering left hook by Jones. Griffin tried getting up with no success, his legs wobbling and the American falling all over the ring.
The stage was now set for a showdown with Hill.
Jones was constantly on the look-out for countering opportunities and ironically, had a clear speed advantage over ‘Quicksilver’. Hill was jabbing and displaying movement which was missing in his previous fight, but his only successful punch was the body jab, so he stuck with it.
However, Jones started to grasp his timing with the counters and was consistently landing lead rights. On the couple of occasions when Hill landed right hands, Jones shook his head to let the challenger know he was unfazed. Hill started to open up a little bit in order to land more telling punches, fighting fire with fire, and against such an effective counter-puncher with a distinct speed advantage, he was going to get burnt soon.
In the fourth round, Jones flicked out a left jab to draw a counter jab from Hill, then swiftly hit Hill to the body with a brutal right to the ribs, and Hill collapsed to the canvas, wincing in pain and could not recover.
Jones was so quick with it and amazingly, Hill tried to rise, but he was clearly in no condition to continue, and was counted out on his feet for the only time in his career, stopped for the first time.
In boxing, we often see fighters hurt, but we rarely witness pain. There is a difference between the two. With Hill wincing in agony and pressing his glove on his broken rib, he was in real pain.
This was the only body shot to ever win Ring Magazine’s knockout of the year. The overwhelming majority of brutal knockouts tend to be head shots, but certain body shots like this one by Jones, which leaves the opponent rolling around on the canvas in agony, will leave them feeling like being knocked out unconscious would have been more appealing.
The disqualification from the first Griffin fight was erased with two brutal early back-to-back KO’s.
Jones had another 12 successful title defences of his light-heavyweight title, becoming undisputed champion along the way in 1999 after defeating Reggie Johnson via unanimous decision.
In 2003, Jones recorded his last truly spectacular victory to defeat John Ruiz and become the first former middleweight champion to win a heavyweight title since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897.
Jones finally retired in 2018 with a record of 66-9 (47 KO’s).
Although a sure-fire Hall of Famer as one of the best and most talented fighters in history, Jones also serves as a poignant reminder to boxers who fight on for too long, far beyond their best years.
Hill retired in 2015 with a record of 51-7 (24 KO’s). He initially retired in 2007, was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013, before making a comeback for one final fight against Jimmy Campbell on February 28th 2015, recording a 2nd round stoppage.
On this night, in a fight which became a prime example of a brutal body shot KO in boxing history, as accomplished a fighter as Hill was, the best fighter of the 1990’s proved to be a step too far for Hill.