ANTONIO TARVER is 46 years old but has an unflinching belief that he will replicate his light-heavy success at heavyweight to become the oldest king of the big men in the sport’s history.
The “Magic Man” has been in the public eye since the 1996 Olympics, when he won a bronze, and a starring role opposite Sylvester Stallone in Rocky Balboa saw him reach new levels of fame. Now, however, he aims to top it all with a win over Wladimir Klitschko in 2015.
You defeated Wladimir Klitschko’s trainer Johnathon Banks in your last fight. What has that done for you?
I think when you look at my last fight you’ve got to go away thinking, ‘This guy doesn’t look that small compared to those guys. It sounds like he’s got a lot of power behind his shots and his defence was really good, he didn’t get hit with anything that much and he can really crack at heavyweight.’ I just had a credible win over a bona fide heavyweight. I beat a solid heavyweight so that automatically makes me a player in the division. I’m one fight away from having the opportunity to fight for the heavyweight championship and again shake the boxing world up one more time before I retire.
You’ve always maintained you want a fight with David Haye?
Yeah, if he’s serious about fighting again. You never know where his head is at but that’s the fight I want because we’ve got a bunch of new-age heavyweights and when I say that I mean they just came on the scene, they weren’t on the scene five years ago. I think David Haye is one of those guys who’s been around about the same as me and he’s the second biggest name in the heavyweight division and it would be a legitimate eliminator with two big names; with the credibility we both have, it would make a humongous fight before one of us steps out and I think the winner of that fight can’t be denied that opportunity.
But the dream fight is with Wladimir Klitschko?
Of course, and that is the only way I can claim to be the heavyweight champion of the world – that is to beat the man that’s considered the very best and that’s Wladimir Klitschko. And he’s from my era. He’s the only one who has the type of experience that I have. He came from the same Olympics that I did. I’ve been here almost 20 years just like him so let’s see who’s the best. On any given night I have proved I can beat anybody. When I knocked Roy Jones out in two rounds, he was Superman, he was the Floyd Mayweather of my time. Bar none. He was the pound-for-pound king at the time I knocked him out. So what people are hoping happens to Floyd Mayweather one day, I did to Roy Jones. That means on any given night I can beat anybody – including Wladimir Klitschko.
Do you miss commentating on Showtime? [Tarver was relieved of his duties for the network after testing positive for steroids following his fight with Lateef Kayode in 2012]
I miss commentating altogether. It was a great time for me. I think I was a natural at it and I would love to get back in it. Right now, I’m focused on becoming heavyweight champion and if God blessed me with that opportunity to get back in it I would. Hopefully I can find myself behind the mic commentating on the sport I love because I definitely miss it.
Do you feel your reputation has been hurt by the positive test? [Tarver appealed, claiming it was a false positive]
I personally don’t because I’m going to be me anyway. People are going to respect the man that I am and they’re not going to be tripping on something like that. We see that in our sport today. A lot of things happen unforeseen. Only the strong survive. You’ve got to be able to bounce back no matter what you’re thrown in life. The bottom line is I’m going to be judged at the end of my career, not by the hiccups along the way. Nobody said that anyone was perfect but I’m still here. I still have the opportunity to do something great before I retire and that motivates me, not anything else that has happened. I can’t take back what happened yesterday. All I can do is make it a better day, and that’s what I’m focused on.
Do you have regrets about that incident?
I mean, of course you regret anytime anything negative happens in your life. Like I said, you can’t take it back and I think the reason it happened was to really slow me down and to see what’s in front of me in these precious last few years that I may have in boxing, so it gives me a focused mind to write the final chapter in my book and hopefully when it’s said and done they can appreciate everything I brought to the sport of boxing.
The victory over Jones, will that always be the pinnacle?
Of course, I would say that. But also I would say watching myself on the big screen in Rocky Balboa would probably be another pinnacle, receiving my medal during the Olympics was another pinnacle, the birth of my kids… But as far as my boxing career I am known for knocking out Roy Jones and if that’s the pinnacle, s*** man, I’ll take it. But chopping down Wladimir Klitschko will also be a big feather in my cap and I think it may trump that night in Vegas when I knocked Roy Jones out.