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Tarver Gets a Second Chance
By Orlando Rios, Jr. (May 14, 2004) 
Antonio Tarver
Orlando Battista once said, “Temptations, unlike opportunities, will always give you many second chances.” This Saturday night Antonio Tarver gets a second shot at Roy Jones, JR. for the Light Heavyweight title, but the question goes, might have Tarver already blown his shot at RJJ? In November 2003, Tarver squared off with Jones, JR. and did something that no other fighter had ever done to him, made him look human. By fights end, Tarver looked like the fresher fighter, unscathed, and like the new light heavyweight champ, while RJJ looked like a beaten man. Their first battle was a back and forth tussle, with Tarver seizing early control, then completely falling asleep through the middle rounds of the fight, and then back and forth action between the two the last third of the fight. Although RJJ won by majority decision many thought Tarver had done enough to win, including many in the stands who chanted BS at the decision.

Tarver, who had called out Jones, JR. after his March defeat of John Ruiz, entered the ring as the hungrier fighter, and it was Tarver who clearly dictated their first fight. Tarver on several occasions backed RJJ into a corner and let his fists fly, only problem was that Tarver not only hesitated and thought too much, but Tarver never did much in the middle of the ring. After the fight he mentioned that used great caution because he feared that Jones, JR. was playing possum and Tarver also was very much aware of the great hand speed by Roy.

Tarver, who looked dominant in the early part of the fight simply “gave away” the next couple of rounds, and by the last third of the fight, Jones, who hadn’t really done anything, was up on all the scorecards. Tarver did battle back late, but apparently hadn’t done enough to even muster out a close decision. Only Judge Jerry Roth scored the bout dead even at 114-114, while the other two judges, Glen Hamada and Dave Harris scored for RJJ, 117-111 and 116-112. Without any question, Roy did pull out a couple of rounds simply because he is well, Roy Jones, JR. Throughout the entire fight, Tarver kept the pressure on RJJ, never backing off, and playing mind games with him, nodding on several occasions that he couldn’t hurt him. And to me, he never did. If anything, Jones, JR. took the beating, and Tarver did the boxing, but in the end, I favored with Roy simply because Tarver didn’t do much until he backed RJJ into the corner. Most of the hard punches that Jones threw hit glove, and Tarver made mention of that in his recent interview on HBO. I got the feeling at fights end, that Tarver had the fight in his hand. It was all, but wrapped up for him, all he had to do was take it. Instead Tarver boxed to cautiously and it cost him the fight.


So now the rematch is set, and one thing hopefully is very clear, neither fighter will make the same mistake twice. Tarver will box in the middle of the ring, and RJJ won’t allow himself to get caught up in the corner and allow himself to get beaten down by Tarver. Roy to me allowed himself to be cornered and absorb the punishment as more of a pride factor, showing Tarver that even though he was allowing himself to get hit, Tarver couldn’t hurt him, it was machismo at its worst. Although he did look tired in the ring, RJJ to me overused the excuse of being tired because of him having to make weight. What if any excuses will Jones have in the rematch?

Tarver on the other hand knows that to beat Roy Jones, JR. you don’t have to knock him out, but you do have to outwork him, and you can’t simply wait until you back him into a corner. Tarver was too conservative in his first fight showing to much respect for Jones’ hand speed and in essence, gave away most of the fight. Although I don’t think Tarver will do the same in the second fight, will it be enough? Did Tarver in fact, blow his shot by fighting to cautiously the first time around? Of all the boxing predictions I have done so far, this is by far the toughest. I know RJJ will be 100% ready, and won’t allow himself to take the kind of punishment that he took in the first fight, and I wish I could say the same for Tarver, only that the punishment Tarver got, wasn’t from Roy, but from fighting to cautiously. RJJ is the clear favorite, and I’m siding with him the more I think about the fight. He’s got all the stats leading towards him and the only thing that could stop Roy in the ring, is his ego. I really think Tarver may have blown his shot at RJJ, and now in the rematch, he’ll have to work twice as hard. I think we’ll see another very close back and forth, cat and mouse, crowd-pleasing fight, with Tarver eventually pulling out a win.

Orly’s pick:

Tarver by split decision.
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