LAS VEGAS -- Antonio Tarver won the light heavyweight title, but it hardly seemed significant. With one crushing left hand, Tarver not only knocked out Roy Jones Jr. but also may have rewritten his place in boxing history.
Tarver did the unthinkable Saturday night, stopping the man many thought to be the greatest pound-for-pound fighter of his era with a left hand in the second round that knocked Jones silly.
Jones was staggering along the ropes when referee Jay Nady waved the fight to a close at 1:41 of the second round in an ending that was as shocking as it was stunning.
"Overhand left right on the kisser," Tarver said. "It was beautiful."
Jones had been beaten only once in 50 previous fights - and that was on a disqualification. To see him knocked silly by one punch left the crowd at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino roaring in unison on their feet.
"This fight will go down in boxing history as an instant classic - another Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns," Tarver said.
That's doubtful because there wasn't enough action. But the one punch will long be remembered as much as it did to Jones equilibrium as it did to his reputation.
"I'm not making any excuses," Jones said. "It's just the way it happens sometimes."
Tarver had landed only a handful of punches and seemed slow in starting when Jones threw a right hand that missed that caused him to crouch down. Tarver came out of the crouch with an overhand left hand that caught Jones flush on the side of his face.
Jones was knocked under the ropes in Tarver's corner, and was badly hurt even though he managed to get up at about the count of seven. But he stumbled across the ring as Nady waved it to a close.
Ringside punch stats showed Jones landed 12 of 42 punches, while Tarver landed seven of 54. It was the last of those seven punches, though, that shocked the boxing world.
Tarver, who had vowed to settle a score from his loss to Jones in November, jumped around the ring in celebration as Jones was examined by the ring doctor.
It was only the second loss of Jones' 15-year pro career, and only the second time he had ever been knocked down. Tarver had given him a competitive fight when they first met, but never showed the power that caught Jones off guard.
"I never gave up on my dream so here we are," Tarver said.
Tarver had talked a good fight right up until the two fighters touched gloves. In the center of the ring, Nady gave them their final instructions and Tarver asked Jones: "What excuse are you going to use tonight?"
Tarver was tight from the opening bell, warily circling Jones while his corner urged him to throw punches. Jones began landing his right hand lead midway through the first round, and it looked as if Jones was going to be the faster and stronger fighter.
In the corner after the first round, Tarver said to trainer James "Buddy" McGirt: "He doesn't respect me."
"Go out and get yours," McGirt replied.
Tarver did just that, bringing the fight to a stunning end almost before it began.
Both fighters were the same age - 35 - but there was a wide difference in experience. Jones was in his 25th world title fight, while Tarver was fighting for a title for only the third time.
But it was Tarver who seemed to have an idea how to handle this fight, much like the first fight in which he lost a majority decision to Jones that he thought he won.
Jones blamed that close win on having to lose 25 pounds after moving up to heavyweight to win the WBA title from John Ruiz, but there was nothing to blame this time.
Jones had won the first round on all three scorecards, and seemed well on his way to winning the second round with lead right hands. But he left himself open after throwing one midway through the second round when Tarver launched the left hand that ended it.
Jones tried to get up right after going down, getting to one knee before sinking back to the canvas. He finally got up, but Nady waved the fight off and he staggered along the ropes into a neutral corner.
"I was hit with a good shot, a very good shot," Jones said.
Jones was a 4-1 favorite going into the fight, and he seemed determined to show his fans that his disputed win in the first fight was largely due to being out of shape and having to lose too much weight.
He admitted though that Tarver, a tall southpaw, caused him problems with his style. It showed when he had to take a chance to get inside against Tarver and got hit with the left.
"What basically happens is I probably got bored with this guy," Jones said.
Before the fight, Tarver had said Jones' legacy was on the line, and he may have proved correct.
Jones said he would not fight Tarver again, and said he might move back to heavyweight for possible fights against Mike Tyson or Vitali Klitschko.
After being stopped on one punch by a light heavyweight, though, Jones' might have trouble convincing boxing fans he can slug with heavyweights, regardless of what happened in his win last year against Ruiz.
"I would rather fight heavyweights," Jones said.
Jones earned $6 million for a fight he seemed to take personally. Though Jones is widely regarded as perhaps the best pound-for-pound fighter of his era, he has been criticized for taking relatively easy opponents throughout his career.
For Tarver (22-2, 18 knockouts), who recently filed for bankruptcy, the $2 million purse was his biggest payday of a pro career that began after he won a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics.
"It takes a great fighter to beat a great fighter," Tarver said, "and I am a great fighter."
On the undercard, former 140-pound champion Zab Judah won a split decision in a welterweight fight against former champion Rafael Pineda. Judah was fighting for the second time in five weeks, after losing a decision to welterweight champion Cory Spinks on April 10.
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