You know, say what you wish about Antonio Tarver and his belief of his own standing in the sport of boxing (and I will say what I will about that in a moment), but this is a ballsy move. In order to prove he's worthy of a fight with Wladimir Klitschko, which is what Tarver ultimately wants, the 43-year-old part-time fighter and Showtime boxing analyst wants to fight David Haye in a matchup that would be far from any kind of slam dunk, and frankly would probably see Tarver as a pretty heavy underdog.
From The Sun:
"I believe Haye should fight me because of what I'm bringing to the table — a real giant reputation in the sport of boxing. ... If Haye can't beat me he doesn't deserve Vitali and if I can't beat him then I don't deserve Wladimir. Let's see who really belongs in the ring with the Klitschko brothers. A fight between Haye and me will be a giant springboard for the winner, with the Klitschkos waiting."
Seriously, this takes real grapefuits for a 43-year-old guy who is absolutely not a full-time fighter anymore and hasn't been in a good while.
Now as far as Tarver's "giant reputation" goes, well -- look, Tarver is still a pretty good fighter, but his one bout as a heavyweight was butt ugly, to put it scientifically, defeating Nagy Aguilera via drowsy decision in October 2010. But Tarver came back as a cruiserweight last year to surprise a lot of people by not just beating, but thoroughly dominating Danny Green in Australia. But while Tarver may still have "reputation," he does not have an American fanbase. His fights in Vegas with Chad Dawson were abominations at the gate. He went to Australia to fight Green for more reasons than just picking up some fringe belt.
Could he turn back the clock yet again against David Haye?
Personally, I have my doubts, as Haye is a 6'3", always fit, very quick and strong heavyweight who despite a "retirement," is still in his prime athletic years. Tarver is crafty and I believe would command Haye's respect, but David Haye is not Danny Green. He's bigger, and simply put, he's better at everything.
But that's why I find the request and the challenge so gutsy, so admirable. Tarver would not be favored to win this fight. And really, Antonio could very easily sit back and wait to see if he can just land Wladimir anyway. It's not like Wladimir is fighting anyone better when he gets back in the ring on March 3 against Jean Marc Mormeck, and there aren't exactly a ton of serious contenders banging down his door, either.
And that leads me to the ultimate, deflating reality: Tarver vs Haye is, frankly, not going to happen, unless Haye were to see Tarver as such a certain victory that he fought him in a tune-up to get back in fighting shape before facing Vitali, and I don't know that Haye has that sort of confidence anymore.
The biggest reason? Vitali Klitschko already wants to fight David Haye. He definitely, seriously, absolutely wants that fight. All Haye has to do is agree to terms, basically, and they'll get it on this summer, should Klitschko defeat Dereck Chisora on February 18. Haye doesn't need to do anything to "prove" anything to anyone, which is pretty much how boxing works overall. As long as someone wants to do it, it can happen, and that someone doesn't have to be the audience (or lack thereof).
Antonio Tarver's talking about "deserve," as if that has anything to do with why fights are made in boxing.