'Call Em Out Fridays': Antonio Tarver - Is The Magic Man Out Of Tricks?

10.10.08 - By Vivek Wallace: In this week's 'Call Em Out Fridays' installment we analyze the worth of a man whose mere name alone has been known to open a dialogue filled with everything from extreme niceties, to less-than-vague vulgarities. Despite vast accomplishments in the sport, the only act many want to see from this 'Magic Man' is one that requires him to disappear. It's a bit hard to decipher how it is that such emotions can be evoked from what most would have to agree is a very talented source, but that hasn't seemed to stop the wave of words that often flow in his direction. Like any of my other 'Call Em Out Friday' segments, we take a look at three perspectives to keep non-biased vibe. The 'Supportive' perspective, the 'Critics' Perspective, and after I toss in mine (which is more neutral), we open the debate for you, the reader to chime in as well. So with no further ado, we break down the man simply known as Antonio 'Magic Man' Tarver.......

ANTONIO TARVER - (SUPPORTIVE PERSPECTIVE): Few in the sport truly understand the dynamics behind a figure such as Antonio Tarver. I use the word "dynamic" specifically, because it's meaning - as it relates to Tarver - is the driving force, or propensity to overcome. When you consider the things that he's had to overcome, things ranging from a fatherless childhood to rampant drug addiction, to media biases, there's no doubt the one thing you can't question in Antonio Tarver is his drive to succeed. Despite those obstacles in his way, Tarver was still somehow able to land him a slot on the USA Olympic squad back in '96 where he was awarded a bronze medal. Perhaps one of his biggest career milestones was the fact that in '96, he became the only amateur boxer to win not only the U.S. Nationals Championship, but also the Pan-American Games and the World Championship in a single year. His professional career would open up with much of the same as he went 16-0, with 14KO's during that stretch before falling on the short end of the stick against Eric Harding in a lost he would later avenge in a KO fashion. Tarver's biggest moment in his professional career came in a way that nobody ever expected. After a 12 round slug-fest where many thought Tarver did enough to win against the superbly talented Roy Jones Jr., Tarver would roll the dice again in a rematch only 6 months later. This time around, Tarver came poised for a victory, even going as far as boldly asking Jones in the pre-fight period of instructions from referee Jay Nady, "Do you have any excuses tonight Roy"? That ominous moment would set the tone, as Tarver would shock the world and not only defeat Jones, but defeat him decisively via TKO in only the 2nd round of the fight. That victory not only took Tarver's career to new heights, but firmly established him as one of the perennial figures in the sport. Legend has it that what goes up must come down, and riding on an emotional high, Tarver would later learn the text book definition of that very saying. After going on such an emotional high by doing what few thought was possible, Tarver would learn that it often takes more dedication to maintain, than is required in the actual act of achieving. This key point is also where the critics perspective comes in as it relates to Antonio Tarver.......

ANTONIO TARVER - (CRITICS PERSPECTIVE): Two of the major things that come to mind with critics where Tarver is concerned were on high display after his victory over Jones. His mouth, and what some view as his personal bout with inconsistency. From the moment Tarver earned his triumphant victory over Jones, he was clicking on all cylinders, spouting off to anyone who cared to listen, referring to how great he was, and how he planned to ruin any contender who dared to challenge him. 7 months later it would all come to a bitter end, as Tarver and his mouth that some felt would never stop suddenly crossed paths with a scenario that required exactly that. Journeyman turned Cinderlla-man Glen Johnson found a way to eek out a tough fought decision against Tarver, bringing his act to a temporary halt. Quick to rebound, only 6 months later, Tarver and Johnson would do it all over again, as Tarver would this time reverse the decision, earning himself a points victory over Johnson. Tarver's next move was a rubber match with Roy Jones Jr. where he once again found the chemistry to add more accolades to his career by permanently subtracting a key figure from his path. This time the victory came by a fairly decent margin on points. But as quick as Tarver found himself on a roll, winning what now was two fights in a row, suddenly his forward progress was again stunted by another old school villain. One who needs no introduction. Bernard 'The Executioner' Hopkins would make his position as the bully very clear, very early, as he took it to Tarver from the first bell, even knocking the crafty southpaw down briefly. Once again, the questions and speculation would begin to mount around Tarver. Everything from the flamboyant personality, to the flashy ego, to the movie scripts were spewed out by critics who loudly boasted that Tarver once again proved that he doesn't have the mettle to withstand the sports true elite. Somehow, despite the great talent, a steady mix of his mouth along with a perceived inconsistency had suddenly placed a label on Tarver that in the minds of many to this day still sticks. A string of three recent victories have cured some of his ills, but for Tarver, his biggest test at this stage in his career awaits.

ANTONIO TARVER - (THIS WRITERS PERSPECTIVE): As I analyze the past of Antonio Tarver, from a personal standpoint, I think it's safe to say that as skilled as he is, he's has probably created a few enemies for himself by broadcasting such a braggadocios side of his personality. To take that a step further, it's totally understandable why some people have found themselves turned off. Categorically, this same attribute left talented fighters like Mike Tyson, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and at one point, even the once immortal Roy Jones Jr. in that same boat. Unfortunately, times have changed and many fighters don't always realize this, but Muhammad Ali will go down as the only fighter in history who was able to talk uncontrollably and actually win over the masses. He had the gift to gab, he was revolutionary, and he was in an era that supported a revolutionist. Today, in an era of entertainment where fans feel they have to personally 'ordain' you as a bad boy before they actually accept your macho-ism's, these type of antics have made many talented figures less appreciated. The reason I touch on this is because with Tarver, it all comes down to a personal viewpoint. The only reason people out there have found Tarver controversial or not as adept is because they don't like him as a person, not because he lacks talent. Granted, he has had a consistency issue to address lately, and Saturday night that could all change, but aside from that, the various accolades and the victory over Jones - regardless of what some feel contributed to it happening - all demonstrate a certain skill level that resides above many others on the pro level. I think that with Tarver, (like many others), there are still questions to be answered, but aside from Hopkins, he's avenged every loss he ever suffered and he's always bounced back strong. Every great fighter faces adversity, and the fact that he has returned to level the score with all of his is pretty telling. Bottomline, is Tarver a credible fighter in the sport? Undoubtedly. Is the jury still out on him from a legacy standpoint? Undoubtedly. If it seems as if that bottomline scenario wasn't answered decisively, lets just say in a unique parallel, for him to solidify his position in the sport, in the end Tarver will have to also do more to convince. His journey officially reconvenes on Saturday night.

(Got Questions Or Feedback?): Contact ESB's Vivek Wallace at and 954-292-7346, or show him some love at

Article posted on 10.10.2008

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