Boxing

Tyson - Tarver: Does Mike Have Enough Left To Destroy Antonio?

21.11.05 - By Dan Mocci: Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight Champion Antonio Tarver’s foray into the heavyweight division may go beyond his headlining performance in Rocky VI. Tarver, cast as Rocky Balboa opponent “Mason Dixon”, is reportedly entertaining a real heavyweight clash with former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Tyson himself has reportedly alerted the British media that he has contacted Tarver regarding the potential match-up. The bout could take place at the end of 2006—provided the former heavyweight champion turned public speaker/ vodka pitchman wraps up his world tour that has taken him to the former USSR, the UK, and a Brazilian police station.

As of now, the bout is pure speculation. However, considering Tyson’s debt to Uncle Sam and Tarver’s age (36) the need for both fighters to cash in makes this story worth keeping an eye on.

It may be smart to stuff $50 in an envelope, label it “Tyson-Tarver Pay- Per-View”, and put it away for a cold Saturday night in the winter of 2006…

…or if you don’t want to wait a year you can just buy yourself a ticket to the circus. Take a moment and imagine the freak show that could lie ahead. Imagine Tyson, coming off back-to- back losses, and the somewhat slowing loud-mouthed Tarver in the same press conference. At least the “Magic Man” won’t be able to use the same Roy Jones banter that we’ve had crammed down our throats and become accustomed to over the past two years. Tyson, much calmer these days unless photographed while dancing in a Brazilian nightclub, would probably realize the need to revert to the dark days of his press conferences that featured an average of three to five death threats—not mention the promise to snack on one of his opponents kids. Clips of Tyson’s recent outings, minus the first round of the Danny Williams fight, won’t prove to be much use in promoting this one as legitimate competition. Somehow, I don’t think vintage footage of the once unstoppable “Kid Dynamite” clobbering Frank Bruno or Michael Spinks will provide an accurate depiction of the fighter Mike currently is. Throw in the fact that Tarver looked aged in final round in his win over Glen Johnson and in spots against a very reluctant Roy Jones, and the fight itself is a recipe for disaster.

Nonetheless, one shouldn’t blame Tyson for taking the fight. He needs the cash and he doesn’t need to be knocked out in the process of collecting it. Tarver would most likely stay at arms length and try to win a decision, without tasting Tyson’s famous power. Therefore, Tyson probably wouldn’t taste the canvas in this one. (He may even catch up to Tarver late if he paces himself correctly.) Plus, the legion of individuals that “will never pay for another Tyson fight” will most likely open the wallets for one more…and one more…and one more Tyson fight after that. The trademark of his recent decline has been his inability to withstand the power of today’s super-sized heavyweights after the second or third round. His world class power and is in tact, but his head movement and stamina is gone. Pushing 40, the ex-champ is a mere undersized heavyweight with little defensive reflexes and no desire to fight for any reason other than money. He hasn’t had a good training camp in years and the degenerative foot condition he has developed mixed with a bad back (and lack of the “stomach to do this anymore” ) ensure that another camp wouldn’t be anything different. Nonetheless, Tyson has all the right reasons to take this match. He needs the money, it’s a safe bout as far as getting knocked out, and he knows that we’ll cough up the dough for at least one more freak show.

If Tyson can’t be blamed for taking the fight, than Tarver certainly can. Like Tyson, who lost over $300 million of his earned money, Tarver has had financial woes and just climbed out of bankruptcy in recent years. The sport is prizefighting and the 36 year old champ deserves a big payday. He should and could certainly get a few nice paydays…by fighting a rubber match with Glen Johnson or the winner of Jeff Lacy versus Joe Calzaghe for the unified 168-lb. title. Tarver could stop at 190 and fight cruiserweight Jean-Marc Mormeck. If he wants to go the Roy Jones route and win a piece of the Heavyweight title, he can fight the feather fisted but extremely crafty IBF Champion Chris Byrd. A bout with the brash James Toney would feature two highly skilled fighters and charismatic superstars. The problem with those fights is that Tarver may possibly lose to each one of those guys. He’s shown signs of late round slippage, and each of the above named gentlemen is known for providing pressure down the stretch. With Tyson, Tarver most likely feels he can follow Roy Jones’ blueprint used to outpoint heavyweight John Ruiz. Though, Tarver’s speed and reflexes are a fraction of those still found in the Jones arsenal back when he fought Ruiz.

If this fight moves beyond speculation and come to fruition Tarver will embracing everything he despised about the boxing business. Tarver criticized Jones for not facing him when he was the deserved and legitimate number one contender to Roy’s throne. Meanwhile, Glen Johnson has earned himself a rematch and even Eric Harding’s recent performances indicate that a rubber match is worth watching. Paul Briggs would prove to be a legitimate challenge as well. A battle with fellow Floridian Jeff Lacy would be great for the sport of boxing.

Right now his fight is just a lot of talk, hype, and speculation. Still, one of the potential combatants has little choice. Tyson, for all of his faults, seems sincere in his desire to repay his debts. He knows that it it’ll take a lot of paid speeches or companies willing to take on an ex-con as a pitchman to equal the money he can generate from another comeback fight. Tarver does have choices and, as rarely seen in boxing, can actually control his legacy. The Hollywood actor/Mike Tyson route may net him more money. Yet, fighting any of the above mentioned names would still be nice for the bank account and will allow Tarver to be seen as a man who beat some of the best and fought all of the best.

Tyson and Tarver should meet face-to-face…in Canastota as members of the Hall of Fame. If the Mike Tyson is going to roll on than that is his business and we’ll probably keep watching. At this stage, Antonio Tarver is still a real fighter, as Tyson once was, and should fight real fighters. He should cement his legacy as more that the man who beat a faded Roy Jones.

Lets hope Tyson versus Tarver remains a rumor and follows the course that most rumors to take. Like all rumors we can talk about it for a while, debate the outcome of the match, then let the rumor die a slow rumor-like death.

Article posted on 21.11.2005



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