Former light-heavyweight king Antonio Tarver, now campaigning as a heavyweight, will face former cruiserweight ruler and fellow heavyweight contender Steve Cunningham on August 14th in Newark, New Jersey. And Tarver, now aged 46 and sporting a 31-6 (22) record, believes he will use a win over Cunningham to propel himself into a world heavyweight title shot.
“The Magic Man” is convinced he has the beating of Wladimir Klitschko and he says he is aiming to get his chance to prove it early next year.
Here Tarver speaks exclusively with Boxing News:
Q: How has training been going?
Antonio Tarver: “I’m so focused, man. I’m working hard. Steve Cunningham is a tough opponent for me, he’s a hard working guy, always in shape. This fight is a big opportunity for him. He will be looking to rejuvenate his career. Whatever anybody says about me, whenever anyone fights me, they know they’ve gotta bring it to have a chance of beating me. So I know he’ll come ready and I’m training for the very best Steve Cunningham.”
Q: The two of you have plenty of mutual respect?
A.T: “Definitely. It’s just business and unfortunately someone has got to lose. But yeah, I have great respect for him and his trainer (Nazim Richardson). He [Richardson] has beaten me before, with Bernard [Hopkins] so maybe they feel they know me well. But all I know is how to win. I’m a five-time world champion and I’ve defied the odds five times. Now I’m going to defy Father Time. I’m on a mission. My goal is to become the oldest man to win the heavyweight championship of the world, surpassing the great George Foreman’s record.”
Q: Wladimir Klitschko will fight Tyson Fury in October and Deontay Wilder will fight a TBA in September. Are you looking at maybe waiting until next summer for your heavyweight title shot?
A.T: “No! I’m not gonna wait until next summer. I’m already 46-years-old – shit! I want my date with history. Who else is out there apart from me? Klitschko has to fight someone who knows how to fight. No disrespect to these guys, but we were in the same Olympics in 1996; we walked the same road. He has to fight me. I know that with my caginess, my craftiness and with my speed, skill and power, I will find a way to win. Klitschko’s giving Tyson Fury a payday, but come on, who has he [Fury] fought! He’s just big, a brute. But once Klitschko chops that tree down, that’s it. He don’t have no punch and he don’t have no skills, I don’t think. He can’t beat Klitschko, as soon as he [Klitschko] hits that chin, it’s a wrap.”
Q: You want Klitschko, not Wilder?
A.T: “I want my date with history, period. That fight [against Klitschko] will be two worlds colliding. I’m one of the biggest boxing names of the last ten years and he’s one of the biggest heavyweight champions of the last ten or twenty years. But the guy who fought in New York [against Bryant Jennings], no way does he beat me. No way does he beat me with his one/two, hold and grab tactics. No way. And he [Jennings] was a late bloomer, he’d only been fighting for five years and he didn’t have no experience. It’s gotta be me next. I’m not looking past Steve Cunningham, but I’m looking right through his ass! He’s my go-through guy to get one step closer to my dream.”
Q: Do you see a distance fight with Cunningham?
A.T: “No! I’m too old to be going 12-round distance fights [laughs]. Naturally, we’ll have our feel-out rounds, but this fight will come down to who wants it the most. I mean, Steve Cunningham might prove to be too tough for his own good in this fight. This fight might well end on one punch. All it takes is for my opponent to make one mistake, just one, and that’s it. I’m one of the best finishers in the game. I know I can’t allow Steve Cunningham to hang around, because as long as he’s on his feet, he’s dangerous. I’ll be sharp, I’ll be electric and I’ll be focused. This is a big fight for me, the first time in a long time I’ve had a big fight like this. I will put on a performance that will have the world clamouring for me to challenge for the world heavyweight title. This will be a fight people talk about for a long time. This fight will propel me to the world heavyweight title.”