Can Antonio Tarver Make It As A Heavyweight?

by James Slater - Antonio "Magic Man" Tarver, the former light-heavyweight champion and a current co-commentator on T.V network ShowTime, announced yesterday how he will be coming back to the ring soon - as a heavyweight. Not having boxed since suffering back-to-back points losses to "Bad" Chad Dawson, in 2008/2009, the 41-year-old said he will pack on some muscle and make a run for the elite big men of the sport such as the Klitschkos and David Haye.

"The champ is going heavyweight," Tarver said yesterday. "I feel if I'm going to stay in the game of boxing and give it my all, I've gotta set big goals for myself. So the Klitschkos, David Haye, be on the lookout because I'm coming.."

Having been unable to get the fights he wanted at cruiserweight, Tarver will now abandon plans to fight at 200-pounds, but can he possibly make a dent against guys as big as Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, let alone the relatively "small" David Haye?

To my way of thinking, Tarver, 27-6(19), has at least two factors against him in terms of being able to climb the heavyweight mountain. Number-one, Tarver's age of 41, and number-two, his inactivity. Yes, Tarver still looked as though he had his speed and reflexes against fellow southpaw Dawson last year, and he is far from a shot, damaged fighter; but even considering the 75" reach the 6'2" boxer with the still-considerable skills has, can he really be expected to be able to rumble with, or outclass, the best of the heavyweight division?

A ring-rusty Tarver, who has never fought above 179-pounds before (this being back in 2000), would certainly be wise to engage in at least one tune-up bout at heavyweight before tackling the big guns. We don't know how Tarver's chin will hold up to a heavyweight's shot, and also we don't know how his own punching power will affect a big man. Tarver had real power as a 175-pounder (see his 2004 KO of Roy Jones Junior for proof of how much dynamite he packs in his left hand), but he and his fans would surely feel confidence if Tarver were able to take out a decent journeyman/trial horse heavyweight in his next fight.

However, from the way he is talking, it seems Tarver is anxious to go straight in and test himself against the best the heavyweight division has to offer. It's unlikely, though, that either of the Klitschkos, or Haye will be wiling to grant him a title shot this year. All three guys seem to have other, more immediate plans, and by the time Tarver does get his big fight he will be another year older and even more rusty; unless he does go ahead with a "testing of the waters" fight at heavyweight while waiting for the big one.

And, as much as Tarver seemingly wants to go in with the belt holders right away, there are a number of high quality, fan-friendly and attractive match-ups that could be made involving "The Magic Man" first.

Fans everywhere were cynical when both James Toney and Roy Jones Junior announced their plans to invade the heavyweight ranks, but guess what? - both men had great success in their quest to win heavyweight glory. Both guys - like Tarver, also well into their forties - continue to fight on, and wouldn't it be intriguing if either legend opted to welcome Tarver to the heavyweight division? A Tarver-Toney fight has been discussed before, and what a fascinating clash this would be. And would Jones relish the idea of getting revenge, at heavyweight, over the man who stopped him inside two sensational rounds six years ago?

Tarver's planned move to heavyweight will certainly attract attention, both good and bad, and with his skills, his experience and his mental fortitude, the veteran boxer may well prove himself in yet another weight class. But before he even thinks about taking on the heavyweight champions, shouldn't the Floridian opt to rumble with a fellow 40-something?

Let's see if either Tarver-Jones or Tarver-Toney takes place in the coming months.

Article posted on 20.06.2010

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