Boxing

Tarver-Johnson 2 - Tarver Now Has A Perfect 3-0 Record

20.06.05 - By Wray Edwards: What have we learned? It is now safe to say "Defeat Antonio Tarver at your own Peril." Not many boxers can claim to have avenged every single defeat in their career the very next time they fought him. Some boxers show great adaptability during their fights. They adjust quickly and either meet fire with fire, or they adopt an effective defense on the spot. Other boxers go home, sit down and make a plan. Yours truly coined a phrase - perhaps - and it is that "One rarely learns anything from victory other than arrogance, for it is mostly through defeat that we come to know our limitations and study a way around them."

The reason this writer was not impressed by all the hoopla regarding Glen Johnson's Fighter of the Year accolades in '04 was that he showed no improvement to speak of. It seemed, rather that his competition, including Tarver, lost its potential to deal with his style.

Glen appeared to be trying harder, but had not added much to his slugger's repertoire. We spoke with Tarver after his victory over Roy Jones, and found an attitude which did not seem cognizant of the necessity for constant vigilance in order to keep the stack of belts he yanked out of Roy's lap. The result was an SD loss in his next fight.

Due to sanction dynamics it turned out that Antonio and Glen found the mere possession of belts was not nearly as important an eventual rematch. For Johnson the outcome of their first fight was made iffy, tainted and controversial by the SD. For Tarver it was a bummer after all the bright promise from his Jones victory momentum was soiled at the Staples Center last December, not to mention his celebrity boxer appearance on "The Contender". Again Tarver had to mope around having lost another close one as he had against Roy Jones thirteen months earlier.

So with all that stinky, old leather out of the way Tony and Glen decided to fight for the IBO Lightweight title. Many predicted that Johnson would win again. It appears that they had not considered two things. First Tarver and McGirt had carefully reviewed their first fight, bit-by-bit, in order to craft a carefully planned answer to Johnson's style. This meant that Tarver was going to have to change, to adjust; to show flexibility. This meant discipline would be the order of the day. Second, McGirt upped his game in the corner and matched Johnson's trainer pep-talk for pep-talk this time.

Buddy McGirt occasionally works with fighters who can win, but are so far into their careers that they are not able to make any major adjustments either in attitude or style. So he concentrates on making sure that workout and sparring goals are carefully met. You might say, "But hey, Tarver's thirty-six years old!" True, but he's a young 36, and thinks young. What does that mean? It means that he takes to heart his trainer's advice in an almost boyish way. That's good. He actually listens, and makes every attempt to apply and comply. Johnson is an old thirty-six.

If one runs the tapes of both fights at the same time, there is very little difference between Glen in Tarver-Johnson I and Tarver-Johnson II. Glen just plods forward like a bulldozer pushing soil. Tarver also had a young career at 22-2-0. Johnson was old, career-wise at a whopping 41-9-2, with almost twice as many wars and three times as many defeats.

Since he was able to squeak by Tarver last time with his bulldog, slugger routine, why not return with more of the same? Because Tarver might have a new fight plan informed by the hindsight of his loss. That is exactly what happened. Having lost, Tony was forced to change. Having won, Glen was complacent. Roy Jones fell to the same thought process. Winners must ask themselves, "What must I do to be prepared for this guy next time. What is he likely to do to counter the advantage I had, and what must I do to neutralize even that and beat him again?

THE FIGHT:

Round One: for Tarver as both fighters were checking each other out, with a slight edge to Tony who tried a few combinations. 10/9 Tarver.

Rounds Two and Three: Tarver really opens up with superior speed, reach and combinations. Johnson's slugger approach ineffective: 30/27 Tarver.

Rounds Four and Five: Johnson bulls in and starts to move Tarver back consistently for the first time scoring well with body shots but missing Tarver's head as he was adeptly sweeping low, rolling out and picking off most of Glen's head shots, Tarver eschewed the jab which allowed Glen inside more than before: 48/47 Tarver.

Rounds Six, Seven and Eight: went to Tarver as he threw endless four, five and six punch combinations to the point that he got a bit punched out, allowing Glen in again for more heavy body shots. Johnson ripped his best shots, but Tarver doubled over only once or twice showing excellent conditioning: 78/75 Tarver.

Round Nine had Tarver backing up as Johnson came forward as his corner implored him to do: 87/84 Tarver.

Round Ten saw Tarver get back on pretty good combinations as Johnson showed signs of slowing down: 97/93 Tarver.

Round Eleven started with proof of that as Tarver sprung off of his stool, while Glen stayed on his and seemed to have trouble getting up. Johnson made a couple of really serious charges and flurries which appeared to have Tarver in real trouble a couple of times. From about eight on Tony was sucking wind a bit from throwing all of those combinations: 106/103 Tarver.

The Final Frame featured Tarver doing his very best Ruiz impersonation as he pretty much did one-two combos to get himself close enough to tie up Johnson, and give Referee Bill Clancy a chance to get in on the action. Roy Jones narrated this action with observations that Tarver was being smart and truly professional by protecting his lead in this way. Why take any chances if the other guy's only chance is to knock you out?: 116/112 Tarver.

Post-fight interviews and ring meetings were cordial. Due to the dearth of talent in the division, Larry Merchant was reduced to inquiring about a rematch which Tarver happily agreed would be great, while Jim Lampley made lame attempts to interest Roy Jones in putting on the gloves once again to fight Tony or Glen.

The LH division is pretty weak and Tarver is too lanky to go down to Lacey or Calzaghe at Middleweight. He might try to bulk up a bit to the no-man's land of Cruiser, but what would be the point of facing Mormeck who is pretty dangerous right now? It seems that Tarver is too light a puncher for Cruiser or Heavyweight for sure. He has already defeated Glen and Roy. Why jeopardize his perfect revenge record? Besides, who would be there to correct Lampley's gaffs and (in my opinion) occasional bias, if Roy went back to the ring?

This was a really entertaining fight with Tony too elusive for Glen to do his KO slugger act, and Johnson so tough that Tarver's best shots were ok for scoring points, but of little use in trying to drop him. Johnson is a true gentleman, if a bit dull at the party.then again the mouthy Tarver makes up for that.

Speaking of being mouthy - how about Floyd M's trash talk against Gatti between fights? He seemed to be interested in personal attacks. Arturo, for the most part, kept his cool and was respectable. That fight should be a corker. More about that Wednesday.

Article posted on 20.06.2005



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