By Jake Donovan
Don’t let the cruiserweight frame fool you; Antonio Tarver doesn’t plan on sticking around below 200 lb. for very long.
The 1996 Olympic Bronze medalist and former light heavyweight king firmly believes in his future lies a win over a Klitschko to capture any portion of the heavyweight crown. Any fight that comes along between now and then is just another stop along his chosen path.
Such a road leads to the June 2 cruiserweight collision with unbeaten contender Lateef Kayode. The two square off at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif, with Showtime to televise.
Plenty has been said between the two camps leading up to the fight, some of it striking a personal chord. Tarver is no stranger to a war of words, but believes his actions to be reactionary for this go-round. Regardless of who started what, the southpaw isn’t in the mood to hear about the plight of his opponent, when his own career has been anything but smooth sailing.
“I respect you because you’re a brother from another. But you’ve had five years in America. I’ve been here struggling all my life,” Tarver states (29-6, 20KO), dismissing Kayode’s cries of having it rough. “I didn’t have a promoter when I started professional and I was an Olympic bronze medalist.”
Despite being a man without a country in his first few years as a pro, Tarver (29-6, 20KO) has managed to forge a hell of a career for himself. An early loss to Eric Harding was thought to be a major setback, but Tarver gained revenge two years later to position himself for a title shot.
The title fight came, but where his career soared to new heights was when he was able to shame fellow Floridian resident Roy Jones into a fight in Nov. ’03. Tarver came up short, but gained newfound respect with his strong showing. The rematch made his career, scoring a one-punch knockout to regain the light heavyweight crown.
Plenty of ups and downs have followed, including losses to Glen Johnson (later avenged), Bernard Hopkins and a pair to Chad Dawson before stepping away from the ring in mid ’09. He is 2-0 since returning in 2010, including last year’s knockout win over Danny Green.
Next up is Kayode, which Tarver sees as the next step towards his heavyweight title run.
“I’m going for the heavyweight title and you’re in my way. This man has threatened me. Telling me if he see me in the streets what he’s gonna do. Fair enough. Be ready to back it up. I’m going to defend my title and be ready for anything Lateef going to be bring. If he’s going to get fired up and get emotional – like he’s been this whole promotion – then he’s going to fall right into my hands.”
Of course, should the opposite prove to be true then it’s possibly back to the broadcast booth full time for the 43-year old.
“I want to win the heavyweight title and bring it back to America. That’s my goal. I know none of that is possible if I don’t get past Lateef Kayode on June 2.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com