The Legacy of Antonio Tarver

By Jason Peck - Five years ago Antonio Tarver stood over the fallen Roy Jones Jr., and doubtless imagined a brilliant career like Archie Moore or Dick Tiger. Four years later his career looks more Tommy Morrison, sans AIIDS Ė complete with a career-high victory over a Hall of Famer, sporadic title reigns and a Rocky film. Most retire with less.

His rematch with Chad Dawson fast approaches, although one must wonder what Tarver hopes for. Their first fight had no controversies, no close calls for the victor and no avenue through which Tarver can cry robbery.. Odds are the rematch will follow much as the first, but two losses in a row would mean the end of Tarver.

Personally, I was never a fan of Jones, and was ecstatic to see Tarver ending his light heavyweight reign with a terrific punch back in í04. But it didnít take long to realize that the Tarver Era wouldnít match the Jones Dynasty. Nor would it really put forward much of an effort.

Rather than actually challenge legitimate light heavies, Tarver immediately called out heavyweight champions from Vitali Klitschko to Mike Tyson, although Kid Dynamite was largely a circus show by then. Glen Johnsonís subsequent knockout of Jones left Tarver with an opponent he couldnít possibly ignore; otherwise, itís doubtful that Tarver would have ever bothered with an unknown but worthy opponent like Johnson.

The Ring Magazine got doe-eyed when he vacated every belt but theirs, arguing that he shouldnít be sullied by fighting contenders that the Sports Center crowd hadnít heard of. But just because a fighter never headlined a PPV card doesnít mean he canít beat an A-list fighter. Johnson made this quite clear.

In my opinion, Tarver fought too little, and against a limited stable of fighters. For several years his opponents consisted of none but Johnson and Jones. In the process, supremacy at light heavyweight began to slip. Many champions have come and gone in the time that Tarver supposedly stood on top.

Perhaps Tarver could have held on, but only a fool can believe he would have done so with ease. If anything, Tarverís hit-or-miss record since the Jones fight suggests that his reign was never very secure.

Tomasz Adamek had a solid chin, considerable strength and never stopped moving forward. Tarver lacked the boxing skills and athleticism to school him like Dawson did, and lacked the power to put Adamek down like he did against Jones. The same holds for blood-and-guts fighters like Paul Briggs, who most certainly would not have hesitated to pressure. Stipe Drew, with his unusual height, probably would have given Tarver some problems as well. Zsolt Erdei may be least of the title-holders, but he has boxing skills, and the Hopkins fight proved that Tarver doesnít like those. And suffice to say that Danny Greenís power would have posed a serious threat. Thatís probably why a planned meeting between Tarver and Green never panned out.

I suppose thatís why Tarverís legacy wonít shine as brightly as he would have thought. Rather than fight the top dogs in the division, Tarver held that the most popular fighters were obviously the best ones.

Itís the same philosophy that Chad Dawson follows today when he shamelessly ducks someone like Adrian Diaconu and blames the sanctioning bodies, despite the Romanianís considerable ring accomplishments (and ironically, his standing in the Ring Magazine rankings). Itís what keeps quality fighters from getting their shot. And in the end, maybe thatís Tarverís legacy after all.

Overall, the light heavyweight division needs a shot in the arm after years of having Tarver standing atop of it. Win or lose, Saturdayís fight will hopefully clear the way for some closure at 175 pounds.

Article posted on 08.05.2009

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