By Jake Donovan
It’s still open to debate as to which event on Friday was more shocking – that Antonio Tarver tested positive for a banned substance, or at the normally vocal fighter/commentator was immediately speechless upon hearing the news.
The industry was abuzz the moment BoxingScene’s Ryan Maquinana broke the news of Tarver’s most recent drug test coming back positive for drostranolone – an anabolic steroid – in connection with his June 2 12-round draw with Lateef Kayode. The bout aired live on Showtime and was an entertaining affair which became best known for Kayode’s post-fight rant against Tarver and the network.
Not much was thought of the fight beyond the immediate aftermath, and the show itself only made the news in reporting the ridiculous combined purses handed out compared to what was generated at the gate.
Tarver was reportedly paid $1 milllion for his night, though was slapped with a $2,500 fine by the California State Athletic Commission for his A-sample coming back dirty.
The lingering question is whether or not Tarver will be a part of Showtime’s broadcast team on Saturday night. The former light heavyweight champ was slated to join Gus Johnson and Al Bernstein to call the televised doubleheader at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, headlined by Victor Ortiz and Josesito Lopez in a 12-round welterweight bout.
Tarver was even on hand for Friday’s weigh-in, taking note of Ortiz and Lopez getting in each other’s face during the obligatory stare down photo-op.
Little did he – or anyone else on hand – realize at the time was that his name was being linked to the latest steroid scandal that has rapidly plagued the sport.
“Today’s news of a false positive caught me as well as my family and supporters by surprise,” Tarver said in a statement on his verified Twitter account. “I apologize for the embarrassment it caused.”
“I have always been a proponent of a clean sport and an advocate for the most rigorous drug testing in boxing. The positive test results came as a complete surprise to me today. I will be examining every potential cause and ultimately, I am confident that my fans will see that I was not at anytime attempting to gain an unfair or illegal advantage in my performance.”
The embarrassment has spread to his bosses at Showtime, who aired the June 2 bout that has now been declared a no-contest. When prompted for a response on whether or not the network would still retain Tarver’s services for the evening, they stated the following:
"We were made aware of the California State Athletic Commission's report regarding Antonio Tarver's positive drug test following his last fight on June 2 this afternoon. Out of respect for the fighters competing on Saturday night, Antonio and the network have mutually agreed that he will not serve as color analyst for the June 23rd boxing telecast."
Naturally, Tarver believes himself to be innocent and the victim of an erroneous test result. An appeal is plan and the fighter has every intention of cooperating with the commission in his greatest efforts to clear his name.
“I’ll appeal and submit to the California Commission everything that I’ve consume(d) prior to June 2 that (could have) caused this honest mistake,” Tarver stated in a follow-up statement.
Tarver (29-6-1, 20KO) earned his success the hard way during 16 years in the sport. His first run at championship fell one fight short of actually receiving a title shot, dropping a decision to Eric Harding. Tarver gained revenge two years later, scoring a televised knockout to move into position as mandatory challenger to Roy Jones Jr.
The title fight would finally come, just not against Jones, who instead pursued a heavyweight belt. Tarver was instead forced to settle for two vacant titles after soundly outpointing Montell Griffin in Apr. ’03. Even that wasn’t good enough as Tarver chased around Jones until finally landing a fight.
That moment came in Nov ’03, with Tarver pushing Jones to the limit but falling just short on the cards. Tarver left no doubt in the rematch, first offering the memorable pre-fight question, “You got any excuses tonight, Roy?” and then proceeding to score a one-punch 2nd round knockout.
Tarver’s career was erratic from that point onward, but managed three title reigns overall at light heavyweight before back-to-back losses to Chad Dawson ended his run near the top of the division.
An 18-month break followed before Tarver came back as a flabby heavyweight, scoring a points win over Nagy Aguilera in Oct. ’10. Tarver, 43, was in far better shape after dropping to cruiserweight, dominating Danny Green en route to a 9th round knockout of Danny Green last summer in Australia.
Against Kayode, Tarver gave away most of the early rounds before coming on strong in the 2nd half. Naturally, both fighters believed they deserve to win the fight, but instead were forced to settle for a split decision draw.
For now, the bout remains a no-contest and Tarver will undoubtedly be suspended from the sport pending a future hearing.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]