Forget the big boys: Can Tarver handle Lacy’s ‘Left Hook’ ?
By Chris Robinson (November 8, 2005)
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This past Saturday night on Showtime it was business as usual for IBF Super Middleweight champion Jeff ‘Left Hook’ Lacy, as he stuck to the script, demolishing Scott Pemberton in two rounds. The win from Lacy was expected as was his display of power and tenacity. Everything seemed to go according to plan, but I was pleasantly thrown for a loop with Lacy’s actions after the bout when he called out Antonio ‘Magic Man’ Tarver. I had always loved the possibility of a Tarver-Lacy fight taking place, and with Jeff’s recent willingness to meet his fellow Florida champion we can only hope this becomes a reality.

On May 15th, 2004 Antonio Tarver’s career hit its highest note to date when the slick southpaw iced Roy Jones Jr. in the second round with a beautiful left hand shot. That win put the ‘Magic Man’ on a new plateau as he seemed to finally reach the light at the end of his winding tunnel in the fight game. Since then Tarver has talked himself up better than any fighter around, split a few fights with Glen Johnson, and bested Jones yet again, this time by decision.

Tarver has told me in the past that he is ‘drinking from the fountain of youth’ but even he seems to acknowledge that his career is coming to a close. Antonio has let it be known to anyone who will listen that he wants his last three fights to be against some of the biggest names in the Heavyweight division in Mike Tyson, James Toney, and Vitali Klitschko. I’m always a fan first and I would watch Tarver against any of those guys because a fight is a fight, but I also feel that none of those bouts could match the excitement and suspense that a Tarver-Lacy showdown would bring.

Mike Tyson seems to be all but finished and seeing him inside a boxing ring is one of the last places I would like to find him. Tarver could have a great payday with an ‘Iron Mike’ showdown but it simply isn’t a realistic fight. Vitali Klitschko would also seem to be out of the question at the moment, as the older Klitschko brother has been having a hell of time as it is stepping into the ring with Hasim Rahman. Besides, if you believe half of what some people are saying, Klitschko himself really has no intentions of facing Rahman and appears to be quite the head case at the present time for various reasons. I must admit a fight between Tarver and James Toney is one that I would also love to see, but James seems to have his eyes set solely on the champions of the division, not a Light Heavyweight on his way up.

Wondering if I was the only one with an itch to see Lacy and Tarver mix it up, I decided to give another Florida boy a call to see what he had to say. Nate ‘The Galaxxy Warrior’ Campbell is a current Lightweight contender, he has known both Jeff and Antonio personally for years, and he also feels that ‘Left Hook’ and the ‘Magic Man’ would serve up some great drama.

‘It’s a great fight,’ Campbell says. ‘You have a classic boxer-puncher in Tarver and a classic puncher with Jeff. They are both Olympians too. Antonio was on the '96 team and Jeff came on four years later.’

I asked Campbell what the fight would mean to Florida boxing and how it would compare to say, Tarver-Jones III.

‘This fight would be the biggest fight in Florida history. The reason being is that both guys are from the same area and Florida has never had a fight like this where both guys are so close to each other. I could see this fight selling 25,000 tickets if they had it at the St. Pete Times Forum. So many people from nearby would make it that you have to wonder if people from out of town could even get a seat.’

Campbell is a passionate man and asides from being a damn good fighter in his own right, he is one of the biggest fans of the sweet science that you will find. When I asked him what his last thoughts were on this fight he didn’t skip a beat.

‘I’m praying this fight gets made.’

Final Thoughts

As you may or may not know by now, some words are being said by both parties regarding a possible match up. Tarver seems to think that Lacy and his camp are in over their head, while Team Lacy simply is chomping at the bit to get this one going.

I remember Tarver for years calling out Roy Jones Jr. when RJ was on top, almost as if it was his obsession to get the Pensacola native one on one. Now the tables have turned and it is Lacy issuing a challenge to Tarver, the man on top of the mountain at the moment.

It’s youth vs. experience. It’s a match up of Lacy’s power vs. Tarver’s skills. It’s one of the biggest fights in Florida history if it ever comes off. And most importantly, it’s a fight I’m dying to see.

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