By Chris Robinson
Throughout his years as a prizefighter, five-time world champion and Orlando, Fl. native Antonio Tarver has left a mark in the boxing world as not only a high-level talent but one of the more vocal and outspoken figures in recent years.
Last year in Carson, Calif., Tarver suffered a setback of another kind following his no-decision with Lateef Kayode inside of the Home Depot Center, known now as the StubHub Center.
After the fight, it was reported that Tarver had tested positive for the anabolic steroid drostanolone, with a subsequent one-year suspension by the California State Athletic Commission being issued. It was later revealed that Tarver, who had been moonlighting as a ringside commentator for Showtime, had been temporarily suspended from the network.
And while very little has been heard from the man nicknamed “Magic Man” over the past year, you just had to figure that there would be a time when Tarver came forward to open up on everything.
That time was on Sunday night, as I had a lengthy dialogue with Tarver, who touched on several lingering issues that have been on his mind.
More than anything, Tarver simply wants to fight at this point and seems puzzled why no viable champions from the cruiserweight class have expressed any kind of interest.
“Basically just trying to get back man,” Tarver expressed. “Surprisingly, it’s been very tough. With all of the controversy of my last fight, and me doing my time quietly, but at the same time, I felt that when that time was up I would have an opportunity to resume my career. It seems like now I’ve been met with all different type of roadblocks. It’s just been frustrating to me.
“Everybody knows that I’ve been back since June 2,” Tarver added. “I put the cruiserweight division on notice. No comers, no takers, nobody is even responding to me saying ‘I’m ready, I’m willing to fight’. I don’t understand these guys acting like they don’t want to fight nobody. They can’t say that I’m not worthy. My last fight, I didn’t lose no fight. That fight was a draw.”
Tarver admittedly wasn’t at his sharpest against Kayode, who he was favored heavily to beat. Still, he seems baffled by any suggestions that his championship days may be behind him.
“I’m hearing whispers where people say I’m done or I’m over it,” Tarver stated. “Show me in one fight where you can say I’m over it or I’m done. Other than I lost to [Bernard] Hopkins. Aint nobody whopped my ass in no boxing ring. I’m determined to prove a point; to finish my career off like it’s supposed to be, in great fashion.”
Any professional who goes through the ranks in the boxing game will surely have to deal some kind of serious adversity. Tarver, for as frustrated as he is over his current situation, seems to be fueled by the thought of turning things around.
“They know that with me, my attitude is, I’m going to prove these mother*ckers wrong about that last fight,” Tarver continued. “I’m determined. You can quote that. I want all these mother*ckers. I’ve been there five times in my career, where people are trying to write me off. I’m still alive and kicking bro.”
The pursuit of trying to find the right opponent, or any worthy foe for that matter, is something that Tarver is accustomed to dealing with. For years he called out the great Roy Jones Jr. before landing a pair of memorable bouts with him, and he again finds himself in a similar role.
“I had to bust down press conferences,” Tarver reflected. “I had to follow guys where they were going. I’m a dying breed. There’s only one Antonio Tarver. They want to sweep me under the rug like I can't still fight. That’s the bottom line; I can still fight and I can still win championships and that’s what I want to prove to these guys.”
With no legitimate options seeming to be available in the cruiserweight class, Tarver was asked if a return to the heavyweight ranks could be in store.
“I would definitely look at the heavyweight division," Tarver said. "But I’m not looking to fight none of them other cats. What would I look like fighting somebody with no credibility, no championship? I’ll fight Wladimir, I’ll fight Vitali. I’ll definitely fight David Haye. And Tomasz Adamek too."
“Because those are the type of fights I can make a statement on,” Tarver would add. “I can make a hell of statement. Put my statement on this game of boxing. That’s the type of fight I want. And anybody else with a legitimate championship belt, I would like to fight them tomorrow.”
Tarver even revealed that he had ran across Haye in Las Vegas a few years back at one of Floyd Mayweather's fights.
"I think it may have been the Mosley fight," said Tarver. "I asked him about fighting me and he basically said I was too dangerous, had too many skills. He's a good fighter but with his brittle chin, if I land this left, it's going to be playing chin music, baby."
Due to the fallout following the Kayode fight, Tarver realizes some suspicions may still be hovering over him. He still is looking for answers himself yet is adamant that he will one day set the record straight.
“Anytime you got something like that that happens to you and you don’t know how and why, and you’ve got all these questions, of course there’s a black cloud over your head,” said Tarver. “Because now, people can say what they want to say. They have their opinion about who I am as a professional fighter, as a sportsman, and everything else.
“I’m not fitting to retire or walk away for the game,” Tarver continued. “Not with that stigma hanging over my head. Hell no. I’d be doing an injustice if I did. We’re going to clear it up and we’re going to fight. They can take whatever test they want to take and I’m going to kick
somebody’s ass. I’ll prove to them that I don’t have to do none of that sh*t to become champion.”
Tarver continued to express himself, with his legacy very much on his mind.
“Is [there] going to be an asterisk over my name?” asked Tarver. “No. They’re going to say ‘That was one hell of a bad mother*cker right there. Antonio Tarver, he kicked ass and he took names.’ That’s what they’re going to say. It aint never going to be no steroid or no illegal substance or anything hanging over my head when I retire. No, I’m not going to have that.”
During his run on Showtime, Tarver was given a platform that he used to showcase his insight and passion on the sport. You can tell there is a small part of him that misses his commentating days, but more than anything he’s dying to just get back in the ring and compete as a professional.
"It's something I would love to do again," Tarver stated. "I thought I brought a lot to the network; intelligence and intellect. Right now I feel I want to focus on one thing and that's getting inside of the ring. I'm training right now. I want to fight and that's where my focus is."
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