Antonio Tarver-Glen Johnson II Preview

18.06.05 - By Matt Hurley: It all began with Roy Jones for Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson. Both men ascended boxing heights they’d only dreamed of before by knocking out the former claimant to the mythical pound for pound boxing throne. Then, as they scanned the wasteland that is the light heavyweight division they realized all that was left was to face each other. So they did and on that night the unheralded and underappreciated Johnson edged the loquacious braggart Tarver for the undisputed crown.. Although there was some dispute as many boxing writers thought Tarver won or that it should have at least been ruled a draw. But Johnson, he of the unrelenting face-forward style, got the nod and deserved it in the end because he just seemed to want it a bit more. He traveled so far and so long for his moment and Tarver, he of the quick quip and cocky grin, simply felt anointed and above it all – and he paid for it. It cost him his title and he swears he won’t make the same mistake again.

Tarver knocked Jones out first and he seems to feel that his accomplishment should elevate him above Johnson despite his loss to Roy’s second conqueror. “I think he got too much credit for that controversial decision over me,” he says, nodding in agreement with himself. “I won that fight and I wasn’t at my best. I was fat as a cow when they shoved that fight down my throat. I wasn’t properly prepared for that fight. I have to live with that.”

Indeed he does because the quiet, unassuming Johnson’s victory over him catapulted the aging road warrior to a near unanimous vote for 2004’s fighter of the year. And it was a vote this writer submitted as well not simply because of the outstanding year he had but also because it was a vote that made you smile. Glen Johnson not only deserved it in the fading light of all the bad decisions he endured and all the frequent flier miles he accrued in traveling to his opponent’s back yard but also because it’s just enjoyable to see a nice guy win in the end. And Johnson is a nice guy. He’s also a tough as nails professional who never takes anything for granted which is exactly what Tarver did in their first bout.

It’s a mistake the former champion, a nice fellow himself, vows not to let happen again. “I got caught up in the hoopla after I beat Roy and was traveling and doing a lot of interviews. This time I’ve had two months to train and Glen Johnson will see me at my best. And when I’m at my best I can’t be stopped.”

The oddest thing about this rematch is that Tarver, despite his youthful braggadocio and boyish charm is 36 and has only 25 professional fights. He’s actually now one of the old guard in boxing and none of them have been doing to well lately. But there isn’t all that much wear and tear on Tarver’s lithe body. Johnson, on the other hand, is also 36 but has the visage of a seasoned veteran and his 53 bouts, including nine losses (several of them dubious and one to current middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins) belie his non-stop offensive approach to his craft. Johnson is a fistic windmill and it’s that very aggressive approach to his profession that eked out the decision in the last fight. But Tarver says his game plan will off set that this time around.

“When I let my hands go in the first fight, I scored with beautiful combinations and we neutralized everything Johnson was trying to do,” he says, overstating it more than a bit. “He was seen as the aggressor, but just because a guy is aggressive, it doesn’t mean he won the fight. The guy missed a lot of punches.”

But he got the decision because he was punching. Something Tarver neglected to do for long periods of time and because of that Johnson won over the crowd and the judges. Tarver cannot be complacent this time around, at any time, because Johnson will be throwing punches even if he’s going down. It’s his nature and it’s the only ace he holds over his more naturally talented adversary.

The fight should turn out to be just as good as the first and if the odds on a fight were predicted by who talked a better game Antonio Tarver would be a shoe-in. But in spite of all his hooting and hollering there is a real sense of purpose in Tarver this time around. He understands what he’s up against and he’s determined to prove that he’s as good as he says he is. All he has to do is beat Glen Johnson, a fighter who doesn’t say much, just fights hard and who beat him the last time around.

Article posted on 18.06.2005

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