Boxing

Q & A With Antonio Tarver: I'm Gonna Close The Book On This Guy!

12.09.05 - By Scoop Malinowski - Antonio Tarver solidified his status as an all-time legend of the ring with that unforgettable one-punch destruction of Roy Jones Jr. on May 14, 2004 in Las Vegas. Yes, sometimes just one night of genius does make a great fighter. Now Tarver, 36, will have to do it again. Roy Jones hungers for redemption. Roy Jones believes he can solve the mystery of The Magic Man. Roy Jones is willing to lay it all on the line one more time - at the risk of getting himself knocked into dreamland for all the world to see again. The always eloquent IBO Light Heavyweight champion spoke recently about this upcoming Superfight trilogy with Roy Jones which will take place in Tampa, FL on October 1 on HBO pay-per-view:

Are you a little surprised that Roy Jones is taking this fight? Almost everyone in boxing was surprised he did, they think he could possibly get seriously hurt.

Antonio Tarver: "Surprised? I think they should commend the guy. I mean, in his career, you look back, you say that he never stepped up to the plate, he's always avoided his toughest challengers.. That's what the word was on Michalczewski, he didn't give James Toney or Bernard Hopkins a rematch. So we need to take our hats off to Roy Jones Jr. He don't want to come back and pad his record. He don't want to steal from the fans. He wants to come back and really have that opportunity to capture that moment. So that he can always be revered as one of the best that ever did it. And the only way that he can do that is through Antonio Tarver. This gives him vindication, this gives him redemption. And I'm the only man that can give that to him. So why not take this fight?

Is there any way he can beat you? He must be confident about something to take this fight, are you a little concerned that maybe he knows something?

Antonio Tarver: "I'm not...you know what? I'm not gonna say that the guy can't win. I mean, I don't know what he's doing in preparation. But I will make sure that I do everything in my power to make sure that victory escapes him. So that's my responsibility in this fight. I didn't come this far right now to take a back step. So that's my motivation and my determination. I'm gonna close the book on this guy. So get your tickets early because this will be your last RJ sighting and I'm determined to get rid of the guy once and for all."

When did you realize you were going to knockout Roy Jones in the last fight?

Antonio Tarver: "I had to train hard, man, because I didn't want the politics to interfere with an injust decision. When you go to the scorecards, it's the possibility there that you can get jerked. So that's why I was so determined to stop the guy. And I knew I would have to lay my butt on the line to take the risk and it was a gamble. And it paid off."

Do you think you broke him down psychologically and then it just took the one punch to do it physically?

Antonio Tarver: "I don't know where his psyche is but if I had a guy beating down on my door like that, a thorn in my ass for so long and then the way things turned out, I think that you could say I broke his psyche, yes. Because I never looked at him as the great Roy Jones Jr., the immortal champion, the guy that was unbeatable, unstoppable. I never looked at him like that. I always looked at him outta my eyes. And when I looked at him I saw him as a regular person. Just a man. And that's why I was able to go in there and have the confidence - and to know if I got the opportunity - I would be revered as the best fight he's ever faced. He was coming off of winning the heavyweight championship of the world when he faced Antonio Tarver. So I know, excuses aside, he hadn't faced a real fighter until he faced me."

Do you think your confidence heading into both fights spooked him a little bit, didn't it?

Antonio Tarver: "I don't know about that. But like I said, I always felt in my hear that I was a great fighter. And it just took the world a long time to recognize that. But when you go back and look at my amateur caeer - how can you not know? That's what's so confusing to me. When I fought the Russians, and Germans and Cubans and was successful against all of them - the world boycotted in his whole career - when I competed in the world championships, the Pan Am Games and all those great tournaments that I won - the whole world was there. And I beat the best. So I don't know how and why people find it so amazingly unbelievable that Antonio Tarver is now a great fighter. I've always been a great fighter. My amateur record proves it."

How has your life changed since the KO and the now world famous, What excuses are you gonna use tonight Roy? quote? You out-Ali'd Ali with that one.

Antonio Tarver: "It changed my life. Because, you know, that's why God is so powerful. He lives. I couldn't have wrote that script. That was bigger than mankind [smiles]. When things happen like that, you know that God is involved. I'm jus thankful He allowed me the courage to really feel in my heart and to really believe in what I said. And then to go out there and knock this guy out two rounds later, oh my God, and I told the world at the Ruiz press conference, I told the world, I want your legacy to be intact when I knock you out. When am I gonna get my shot at history Roy? You have to really go back and recognize the power, the power of the mind, and a vision. I had that vision. And I never let it go. I didn't care what the politics said, what the sportswriters wrote, I never lost my vision and that's why I went in there and did my thing."

What is the greatest moment of your career?

Antonio Tarver: "Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Do you have any excuses tonight Roy Jones? And seven punches later - seven is the number of completion - seven punches later is Roy Jones no more. So you have to look back, it's a powerful, powerful statement. I told Roy Jones when he was the heavyweight champion, You're not even the best fighter in Florida. And I got to prove it. So it's a spiritual thing when you think about it, man. And I'm just so thankful. Going through the transition from amateur to the pros - they can't deny me no more. I refuse to be denied. And I told the world that it will recognize, before it's all over, they will recognize. And now they do."

Are you expecting this to be a very challenging fight on October 1?

Antonio Tarver: "It's going to be a challenge. I will be the best Antonio Tarver ever. You're gonna see the speed, you're gonna see the determination, you're gonna see the power. I have to. Because if this fight goes the distance, you never know. I gotta be at my best. I'm gonna train hard. I'm gonna take this fight as if I'm coming to fight the best Roy Jones ever. Because this is what it means. It means everything. He will only be judged by October 1st."

Closing comments: As you can see Tarver has a tremendously articulate gift of gab. He is not only a great champion but a remarkably adept ambassador and representative for what is good about the sport. At the initial New York press conference to announce the fight at Copacabana last month, you could see the HBO executives listening intently and admiringly as Tarver spoke. As if maybe, just maybe they were wondering or considering, Hey, maybe Antonio Tarver would make a splended HBO color commentator someday.

When it became apparent Roy Jones would fail to show up to the press conference, HBO President of Sports Ross Greenburg, seemed more than a little peeved when he stepped to the podium and said, "I'd like to credit Antonio Tarver for being the class champion that he is. And I'd like to admonish Roy Jones for not being here. I hope he'll get his little rear-end through the ropes in Tampa on the night of the fight."

Are the HBO decision-makers tiring of the primadonna ways of the former pound-for-pound king? And are they in appreciation of the wonderfully polite and endearing qualities of the always affable Antonio Tarver? We shall see.

Article posted on 12.09.2005



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