Jones vs. Tarver II...a Fight for the Ages (Homer’s Iliad Revisited)?

15.05.04 – By Vincent van der Steen: On the 8th of November 2003 Antonio ‘the Magic Man’ Tarver – 21- 2 (17) – finally got his long awaited shot to challenge Roy Jones Jr. – 49 - 1 (3 – for the world light heavyweight title. Jones Jr. had just performed a monumental feat by becoming the first ex-middleweight champion in a hundred years to capture ‘a portion of’ the heavyweight crown by winning an unanimous decision over the reigning WBA heavyweight champion John ‘the Quiet Man’ Ruiz – 40 - 5 - 1.

In the meanwhile Antonio Tarver fulfilled his own personal dream by winning an unanimous decision over an old Jones foe and conqueror (albeit controversially) in Montell ‘Ice’ Griffin – 44 - 4 (2 for the WBC and IBF portions of the light heavyweight title. By that time, like so many others, Antonio Tarver had been screaming from the top of his lungs for his opportunity to fight the great Roy Jones Jr. Tarver had already come very close to challenging Jones Jr. in 2000 when he was the mandatory challenger for Jones’ undisputed light heavyweight title.

But like a ‘true’ fighter, Tarver declined to wait his turn and decided to fight another undefeated fighter in Eric Harding – 21 - 3 (7). Tarver lost to Harding by unanimous decision, thus effectively losing his mandatory slot and his chance at the man that supposedly ‘got him into boxing’. Jones actually had to break some sweat to beat Harding, but only added injury to insult by repeatedly stating that he only fights mandatory challengers to his title. This was much to Tarver’s frustration, especially considering Jones’ opposition during that period of time: Harmon, Gonzalez and Kelly hardly bring shivers up the boxing public’s spine.

So Tarver was forced to pay his dues yet again if he was ever to get Jones in the ring with him. But once he had acquired the coveted mandatory slot for the second time, he again decided he wanted a crack at Harding. After Harding ‘schooled’ the lacklustre Tarver for most of the first four rounds, Tarver dispatched himself of his old nemesis and insured that he was now the rightful challenger to Jones’ crown in the general public’s eyes.

By now it was ‘personal’ and it got worse when Jones challenged for the WBA heavyweight title. Tarver belittled and antagonised Jones to the extent that even ‘reluctant’ Roy decided that Tarver was really soliciting for a ‘butt whooping’. Much to the public’s regret, Jones decided to move back down to light heavyweight and teach that brash kid some manners. Losing the weight would however prove to be too much, Jones looked lethargic at times and did not muster much more than single shots to the body and occasionally the head.

Tarver on the other hand, was doing something that some of us held for impossible. He was actually getting the better of Jones, landing the harder punches, and arguably had Jones troubled at times. This author’s initial opinion was that Tarver had narrowly managed to win the fight, though in retrospect I have to agree with most that by the tenth round the score was more or less tied, with Jones taking the fight to Tarver in the final rounds. The decision was fair, although Jones face obviously told a different story.

So now we fast forward another six months, and the issues surrounding the initial fight have somewhat settled. Most pundits agree that Jones did not look his nimble and elusive self in their first fight, something that can in part be credited to Tarver’s performance I am sure. Jones Jr. stated that the weight he had to lose to make 175 pound limit took too much out of him, something his performance that night more or less subscribed. Tarver simply feels he has Jones’ number, so what will it be this time around?

Like Achilles Jones Jr. has long distinguished himself as an undefeatable warrior who can tear down any house when engaged in combat. Like Achilles, his armour has looked impregnable in the past, as if it had been made by the hands of patron of all craftsman, Hephaestus. To much of our surprise, that armour was nowhere to be found on the night of 8 November 2003. His speed and strength seemed to have dissipated, especially when cornered against the ropes.

Whether this turns out to be a serious crack in the armour of an unparalleled and skilled modern day ring general, or whether the fight on november 8th of last year was just an anomaly in Jones’ illustrious career remains to be seen. Like all great fighters, Jones’ best friend seems to be his huge ego. If his hordes of fans are right, the guy that fought on November 8th wasn’t the ‘real’ Jones Jr., but a mere shadow of the ‘real’ fighter? During the Trojan war, Achilles refused to fight because of strife, he sent his friend Proclactus in his armour into the battlefield instead.

His thick-headedness got his best friend killed. Hector took his armour, under the presumption he had just pulled a number on the great Achilles himself. But it is not inconceivable that like Hector, Tarver had actually been wrong. If that was not the real Roy Jones Jr. and his alter ego ‘Roy’ rears its ugly head, it would suggest that like Achilles Jones’ now seethingly mad and will be looking to avenge that loss (of character). In that case, like Hector, Tarver might not see the end of this epic battle.

The other end of the spectrum would be that Jones Jr., the victor of Jones vs. Tarver I, already took all the hate and despair he could muster out on Tarver. Jones himself states that ‘he could not even beat me on my worst day’. Tarver however is now under the tutelage of a master of the sweet science. Achilles would not have been beaten, if the patron of intellectual inquiry, herds and flocks had not guided Paris’ arch into Achilles’ heel. The revered and renowned Buddy McGirt arguably has that skill to nurture the best in his charge and pinpoint the weaknesses of the opponent.

In this author’s opinion, the fight is a pick-em fight, with Jones being the slight favourite. If Tarver plays the role of Hector, his opportunity has flown, and Jones Jr. will ruthlessly dispatch the source of his current grievance. If Tarver turns out to be more like Paris, and McGirt is his Apollo, an unforeseen ‘tragedy’ might still occur. In my opinion, especially judging the last fight, Jones should be susceptible to a strong, stiff jab and physical strength. Judging Tarver’s length and skill, the right ‘guidance’ might lead to the unfathomable…a Jones loss…but don’t count on it, even Hermes cannot keep Jones’ tracks!

Enjoy the fight!

Article posted on 15.05.2004

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