Thursday, Nov. 14, 1996 | 11:59 a.m.
When Fabrice Tiozzo surrendered his World Boxing Council light-heavyweight championship recently because he could no longer make weight, No. 1 contender Mike McCallum knew he would get a shot at the vacant title.
He just didn't know his opponent would be Roy Jones.
McCallum, a three-time world champion based in Las Vegas, takes on Jones -- the man generally regarded as boxing's pound-for-pound champion -- Nov. 22 in Tampa, Fla. Jones is relinquishing his IBF super middleweight belt to move up to 175 pounds and challenge McCallum for the championship left open by Tiozzo.
"I'm going to have to utilize everything I have if I'm going to win," McCallum said Wednesday before working out at the Golden Gloves Gym. "I'll have to use my experience, my ability to go to the body, the head, everything. Whatever I've got, I've got to use."
The Body Snatcher, as McCallum is called, is a gifted fighter of considerable skill. He's 49-3-1 with 36 knockouts in a lengthy career with numerous highlights, including a KO-2 win over Julian Jackson in 1986 and impressive decision wins over Donald Curry (in '87) and Jeff Harding (in '94) with championships at stake. He also fought to a draw with James Toney, although he lost a decision to Tiozzo last year in his most recent title fight.
"I was surprised that it was Jones I would be fighting, but I was happy to get him," McCallum said. "It'll be a tough fight because there's nothing easy about him."
Jones, 33-0 with 29 knockouts, wields an especially dangerous left hook that McCallum has to find a way to defend. "I've got to offset that somehow," he said, and when the follow-up question was "how?" he replied "I've just got to stay away from it, whether it's on the ropes or in the center of the ring."
It turns out Jones and McCallum are friends of sorts and their fight won't have any of the usual animosity that can detract from the competitors.
"He's a good guy," McCallum said. "We're cool. We're two pros and I'm glad to have the privilege of fighting him. I wish it would have been sooner, though."
But just as those words came from his mouth, he caught himself. McCallum, who will turn 40 years old in December, decided on second thought that there's no time like the present to be fighting a Roy Jones.
"The right time is now," was his amended view. "If I win, it will really put me over the top."
He recognizes, however, that the average boxing fan expects him to lose.
"Most people think I'll get knocked out," he admitted. "But I think Roy knows what to expect from me. He's no fool."
Their fight headlines an HBO-televised card that will also include World Boxing Organization super bantamweight champion Marco Antonio Barrera (43-0) against Junior Jones (42-2).
"I'm looking forward to my fight with great anticipation," McCallum said. "It's always good to have experience. How well I use mine, we'll just have to wait and see."
He'll leave Monday for Florida for a fight that he realizes won't be easy to win.
"I'll have to pull out all my tricks," he said, knowing it's time to dig down deep into a bag that has served him well for the better part of two decades.