by Kelsey McCarson
Antonio Tarver doesn’t believe he’s gotten a fair shake in boxing. “My whole thing is this: the game has never really been fair to me,” said Tarver. “I’ve never gotten the fights I wanted.”
Tarver is a former light heavyweight and cruiserweight champion. He started his professional boxing career in 1997 and has captured various titles along the way. Moreover, he defeated the preeminent fighter of his era, Roy Jones, Jr., two of the three times they fought, including once by knockout in the second round.
But Tarver said he’s never been able to get the kinds of fights he believes he deserves.
“Could you imagine Antonio Tarver versus Joe Calzaghe at the height of his career? Why would he fight Roy Jones after I had already showed the world who was the best fighter? I beat the man three times! But he fights Roy instead of me? He fights Bernard Hopkins instead of me?”
While the judges awarded Jones a majority decision in the first fight, Tarver believes he beat him in that one, too.
However, Tarver seems most offended by Hopkins never giving him a rematch after he defeated Tarver in June 2006 for Tarver’s IBO light heavyweight crown. Tarver was a huge favorite in the bout, but was dominated by Hopkins from the opening bell. All three judges at ringside scored the fight for Hopkins 118-109. Moreover, Tarver lost a $250,000 side bet with Hopkins when he failed to stop him in less than five rounds. The money went to charity.
After the fight, Tarver claimed he may have been drugged. When we talked over the weekend, though, Tarver said it was probably the 40 pounds he had to lose after playing fictitious heavyweight champion Mason Dixon in the sixth Rocky movie, Rocky Balboa.
Regardless, Tarver said all he ever wanted was a rematch with Hopkins, and that he feels slighted because it never happened.
“They want to say Hopkins beat me on my best day which everybody knows that’s not true. But guess what? I bounced back. That’s the difference. I won the title twice after that fight.”
Tarver picked up the IBO and IBF light heavyweight straps soon after the Hopkins loss. Still, Tarver could never get a rematch.
“Hopkins never wanted to award me a rematch…I gave the man a lifeline coming off two losses. I was fair with the man at the negotiating table with the money. I didn’t harp over nothing. I fought because I’m a fighter. And the man never gave me a rematch, but he chased Roy Jones after I destroyed Roy. He chased Roy Jones down ten years later for the same rematch that he wanted for all those years.”
Tarver said he believes he’s never been able to get the bouts he wanted because he’s always posed too great a danger.
“I never got the fights I deserved to get because I was a total risk.”
Last year, Tarver, age 45, won his second bout at heavyweight, a TKO 4 in a stay-busy bout against Mike Sheppard. Tarver said he plans to continue his boxing career in the sport’s glamour division and hopes to earn a world title opportunity against Wladimir Klitschko.
“I’ve been the best in my division in boxing for as long as I can remember, from the amateurs to the pros… I mean I can go on and on about my resume. But I want to know, why when I call out Klitschko, why is everybody so surprised?”
For Tarver, it’s Klitschko or bust. Tarver believes he can and will become heavyweight champion of the world, so long as he’s afforded the opportunity.
“I’ve been the best in my division in boxing for as long as I can remember, from the amateurs to the pros…Why can’t I ever get the fight that I want so I can prove my greatness? That’s all I want to do. Period. And I’m willing to fight a top five heavyweight to do it. What else more can you ask for from a fighter?”
Tarver said he remains unimpressed with the giant heavyweight who hasn’t lost a prizefight since 2004.
“His record’s got Calvin Brock on it – a whole lot of people that never even came close to having the success that I had in boxing… Ain’t nobody just gonna walk over me in a boxing ring. It’s never been done before, and it never will happen. I’ve been boxing since I was ten years old. I do this in my sleep!”Tags: Antonio Tarver