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Finally, Antonio Tarver speaks

Scott Christ is the managing editor of Bad Left Hook and has been covering boxing for SB Nation since 2006.

I mean, what's he been waiting for? You never hear a peep out of this guy!

"Everyone was mentioned as Calzaghe's potential next opponent but me, the true light-heavyweight world champion. I am the real 'legend killer'. I beat Roy Jones not once but twice. I have also beaten Glen Johnson, Clinton Woods and many more top fighters in the light-heavyweight division. I am the only light-heavyweight champion who currently holds two belts and on my way to unifying the belts this year. I will fight Calzaghe in the US, in the UK or wherever he wants to fight."

I know fighters have to hype themselves, have to at least give lip service to wanting every fight out there unless they have one of those big grudges where they say, essentially, "No. Piss on that guy." And I know Antonio Tarver is Antonio Tarver and I should probably just take him with fifteen grains of salt, the same as I've learned to do with contemporary rivals like Roy and Bernard.

But I can't do it. When Roy talked and talked and talked, he was the best fighter in the world. When Bernard talks, I'm listening to Bernard Hopkins, no matter what he's saying.

Antonio Tarver makes claims to being a Hall of Famer, and is now back to insisting he is the real light heavyweight champion.

Let's be short about this (of course, I won't be -- I like to hype, too!):

  1. He's nowhere close.
  2. No he's not. Calzaghe is the real light heavyweight champion. Calzaghe or Zsolt Erdei. But in no way is it Antonio Tarver.
He's 39 years old and holds a 27-4 record. It's a fairly strong 27-4 record, to be sure. None of his losses are anything to be ashamed of. He avenged his loss to Eric Harding, twice avenged his loss to Jones, avenged his loss to Johnson, and was uncharacteristically humble (briefly) about his loss to Hopkins, saying Bernard could have knocked him out if he'd felt like it.

Then he claimed that he thought he'd been drugged. So much for uncharacteristically humble.

His wins over Jones were solid, one of them absolutely emphatic, and Tarver knocking Jones flat the hell out on a perfect left hand shot will always be one of my favorite moments in my boxing watching life. Here he was, Roy Jones, the man, and BAM. Tarver knocks him out. I was not a Tarver fan then, the same as I'm not now. I was a huge Jones fan. Doesn't matter. It was something very special, and the moment that Tarver can always go back to and say, "I did that."

He has several of those, in fact. He was THE light heavyweight champion. He did a good job in Rocky Balboa, and helped Sylvester Stallone continue to think he's actually a professional boxer.

But since he was made to look like a chump against Bernard Hopkins -- something not unique to Tarver by any stretch, and I think that movie role had plenty to do with it -- he has done very little.

Elvir Muriqi is a tough guy, but Tarver should've wasted him. He didn't come close to doing so. Danny Santiago is an even lesser fighter than Muriqi, and Tarver breezed past him in ugly fashion, throwing soft, slow punches. And that fight came about after he ducked out of one with Danny Green. Some people use the word "ducked" too much in regard to fights, but when Showtime is running ads for a fight and then it turns out you never signed the contract and you take a far less accomplished fighter, yeah, that's a duck.

Believe it or not I'd like to give Tarver more credit than I do for rather easily beating Clinton Woods, because I like Clinton Woods as a person and as a gutsy fighter. But Clinton Woods did not show up for that fight. To be sure, Tarver more or less dominated a legit titleholder, a good fighter. But that good fighter wasn't in the ring opposing him. Woods was not mentally in that fight, for whatever reason.

If Tarver had beaten a game Woods the way he did, I'd say sure, let him be in the Calzaghe discussion. But as it is, I'd honestly rather see Calzaghe-Jones. I think the style matchup is more interesting, I actually think it means more right now (and I count Tarver as Jones' superior in an x versus y way, because Tarver had Roy's number when they met, and you can't change that), and I'd rather see Tarver actually fight Chad Dawson instead of continuing to avoid him. I bet Showtime probably agrees with all of that, since they've been trying to build Tarver-Dawson ever since Dawson beat Tomasz Adamek.

The light heavyweight division, despite the age of the top guys past Dawson, is quite interesting. It's a level playing field. It's old on old violence. But if Tarver actually wound up fighting Calzaghe, it wouldn't be close. Tarver doesn't have the speed, his power has eroded, and he's just not the fighter he was during his short peak.

But he can still talk. Lord, can that man talk.

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