Tarver - Johnson: A Look Back
By Chris Robinson (December 18, 2004) 
Photo © Mr.Will HoganPhotos.com
Taking a look back a few years can be unreal. Things change so often that it can be hard to fathom the paths of life that take place. It’s well known that Roy Jones has recently suffered back to back knockout losses to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, but very few could have foreseen it happening a few years prior. For those three Light heavyweight fighters tied together, a look back to the summer of 2000 offers up a much different picture than today’s portrait.

On May 13, 2000 Roy Jones would be quite dominant, punishing Richard Hall over the course of eleven one-sided rounds before the contest was called to a stop. Jones was as sharp as ever and unleashed a nasty barrage on Hall in the corner, forcing the ref to step in. Less than a month later Glen Johnson would find himself tangling with young lion Omar Sheika at the Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. Johnson fought Sheika on even terms in a decent action fight, but found himself the loser of a split decision. In losing Johnson gave a good account of himself, but he remained simply a journeyman in the eyes of many.

Exactly three weeks later it would be Antonio Tarver stepping to the plate, squaring off against fellow undefeated southpaw Eric Harding. The bout appeared to be even through the first six rounds but Tarver seemed to become a bit overwhelmed down the stretch. Harding took command of the contest, dropped Tarver in the 11th, and captured a unanimous decision. Tarver looked solid early but appeared to crumble under the pressure late, and was written off by many in the fight game.

If you had told me then that Tarver and Johnson would go on to knock out Roy Jones back to back just years later, I would have laughed. At that point Roy Jones seemed at the top of his game while Tarver and Johnson appeared to be headed towards careers that didn’t involve belts around their waist. But how times change!

Antonio Tarver would get back on the saddle and enlist the services of Buddy McGirt as his new trainer. Tarver seemed to be a new fighter under the tutelage of the former champion and solid wins over Lincoln Carter, Chris Johnson, and Reggie Johnson would follow. Tarver knocked out Eric Harding in their rematch, followed that up with a clear win over Montell Griffin, and found himself knocking on Jones’ door. By now everyone knows how the two Tarver-Jones dramas played out, with Tarver losing a close decision the first time and icing Jones in the rematch. Tarver had backed up all of his talk and now finds himself in the driver’s seat.

For his part, Johnson continued riding his rugged road as a world traveling journeyman, both winning and losing but staying focused and determined every step of the way. Eventually he would win the IBF Light heavyweight belt over Clinton Woods in England in February of this year. His next fight would be his Memphis melee with Jones. Johnson came out aggressively against Roy and built up a huge lead. Jones appeared to be a different fighter that night and was sent crashing to the canvas in the 9th round courtesy of a Johnson right hand. Jones was out cold and Johnson’s hard work had lead to his biggest win as a pro. After the fight Johnson stated that he never claimed to be the best, only that his intentions were to continue fighting the best. He will have his wish when he locks horns with Tarver tomorrow night.

Both Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson have taken different paths to get where they are at today. Johnson has been globetrotting under the shadows while Tarver appeared to gain more recognition with each win under McGirt’s tutelage. Somewhere along their paths both men have found themselves knocking the stuffing out of Roy Jones, which only adds fuel and intrigue to their contest. The final result of the Tarver-Johnson match is still up in the air, but both guys are surely championships for what they have had to go through to get where they are at today. At the end of the day I think Tarver is simply the better fighter, and I expect that to prevail despite Johnson's great work ethic and determination.
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