Michael Spinks did it. So did Michael Moorer several years later. Most recently -- a decade ago -- Roy Jones Jr. did it. All of these great fighters were, at one time, the light heavyweight world champion who eventually became a heavyweight titlist. Longtime veteran Antonio Tarver wants to join that list but as daunting a task it is, the 46-year “Magic Man” is convinced he can achieve that dream.
If he does one day snatch the world heavyweight crown from Wladimir Klitschko, Deontay Wilder or whoever might possess the throne when he’s ready, Tarver would break George Foreman’s record as the oldest man in history to capture sport’s greatest prize. When “Big George” flattened Moorer in the 10th round to capture the heavyweight crown in 1994, he did so at age 45. If Tarver follows through on his dream, he’ll be at least 46.
What’s working against Tarver, though, is not just age. Several great light heavyweight champions have been unable to capture the world’s most coveted title, some of them regarded among the greatest in history. Bob Foster and Joey Maxim couldn’t wrest the crown from defending heavyweight champs, and Archie Moore, arguably the greatest fighter to ever lace up a pair of gloves, failed in bids against both Rocky Marciano and Floyd Patterson.
“I know my purpose will set me apart from some great champions,” Tarver said in a recent statement. “I am supposed to be world heavyweight champion. I don’t know how, but I will be world heavyweight champion. I truly believe that it is my destiny.”
In order to fulfill his destiny, the Floridian has to first get past sturdy veteran Steve Cunningham. A two-time IBF cruiserweight champion whose had an up-and-down career as of late, Cunningham (28-7, 13 KOs) poses the biggest threat Tarver will have faced since he dropped a 12-round decision to former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson in 2009.
“Cunningham can’t stop me and neither can Wilder; he can’t learn enough to beat me,” Tarver said. “I’ll knock him out and get the one guy I really want to fight, Klitschko. When I beat him, it’ll be the greatest story in boxing history.”
Tarver (31-6, 22 KOs) has had a storied career. He was the first man to truly defeat Jones as a pro when he flattened him in the second round in 2004 and proceeded to score a huge wins over Glenn Johnson in a rematch after losing their first encounter. But Tarver’s ultimate success was short-lived as Bernard Hopkins toppled him over 12 rounds before eventually twice in a row to Dawson. Tarver has won two in a row and four of five overall.
“Three years ago, I was buried six feet under, but they forgot to put dirt on me,” he stated. “Champions have to have resolve. I could have quit a lot of times. My resolve will make me world champion once again. No fighter has ever struggled like me and overcoming those struggles will make me world champion again.”
Tarver will fight Cunningham in the main event of Premier Boxing Champions’ PBC on Spike card on August 14 from Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The event will be televised live starting at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.
« Previous PBC on ESPN Open Workout Pictures Next Gennady Golovkin to fight David Lemieux Oct. 17 at Madison Square Garden »