Cash The Ticket Antonio!
By Martin Wade (August 20, 2004) 
Photo © German Villasenor
In the wake of the recent press announcement of Bernard Hopkins receiving a 1.79 million dollar judgment from a former promoter, I can't help but wonder about his loquacious pound-for-pound brethren Antonio Tarver. It wasn’t long ago that Antonio amused us, engaging in a war of words with Hopkins that ultimately ended in a blank contract. Much to my entertainment, Antonio’s best moments in boxing's cyber version of the 'dozens' were rooted in his criticism of Hopkins as a businessman. The Florida native even penned a nickname worthy of Ali when he started referring to his verbal nemesis as 'the Extortionist' for his insistence on overpricing himself to fight smaller men. I laughed, and why not; few can match the Magic Man's combination of intimate backroom insight and schoolyard trash. Oh, how things have changed. Fast forward to May 15th 2004 when Tarver promised and delivered a crushing one punch knockout to boxing's pound-for-pound monarch Roy Jones Jr. Since that date Tarver's life has been forever transformed, yet he is finding it not so easy to cash that lottery ticket he teased Hopkins for losing.

Fresh off of his defeat of Jones, Tarver went on a dizzying media blitz, demonstrating to fighters everywhere the true definition of 'Big Pimpin'. No fighter in recent memory (not named Tyson or De La Hoya) received such mainstream exposure, and as a fan of boxing I found his effort inspiring. The options appeared to be countless; Tarver's name seemed on the tongue of some of the biggest names in boxing. But the industry of boxing is a tumultuous beast and as Tarver basked in the limelight, deals that did not include him were being made.

First off, Roy Jones Jr. – who some say balked at the 'numbers' Tarver demanded for a third go round – moved on to face rugged IBF titlest Glengoffe Johnson. Many scoffed at the move (including myself), but if Tarver is left without a dance partner this Fall it can make Roy Jones the more active fighter in a proposed winter bout with Tarver. James Toney, fresh off of Achilles surgery, is returning to action two days prior against Detroiter Rydell Booker in a unique broadcast from Fox Sports hit series Best Damn Sports Show Period. Imagining how Tarver and 'Lights Out' couldn’t make the "fight boxing needs" (see my archive) is beyond this boxing junkie. On July 30th not only was Mike Tyson KO’d/injured, rendering him to boxing's B-list/injured reserve, but his conqueror Danny Williams moved quickly to Oleg Maskaev seemingly moments after blitzing Mike. Meanwhile, the Magic Man was in the process of asking for 'Roy Jones/HBO' money to face Welshman Joe Calzaghe on Showtime. Frank Warren flatly dismissed Tarver's asking price, but not without a parting chuckle.

Mixed signals

With Jermain Taylor signing a deal with HBO and the 'old guard' of De La Hoya and Jones on the way out, you’d think HBO would be all over the self-proclaimed “new face of boxing”. Unfortunately, I’ve never believed in a 35-year-old “new" anything, especially in athletics. Not to mention Tarvers brazen criticism of the suits at the network leading up to his second bout with Jones. Don’t get me wrong, HBO will be there for Tarver-Jones III, but don’t expect Tarver to make mandatory defenses for super fight money anytime soon. Antonio at this point seems to be in a duel existence, reveling in 'free agency' yet complaining about (and thus coveting) the stability a network contract can provide. With a 3-year plan in place Antonio also seems to be looking forward to an aging process similar to the man he so openly mocks, which may not be a certainty. With a fall season closing in that will include two super fights, two reality shows and the anticipated return of a human Jones Jr., fans may be missing one of the sports brightest personalities. Hopefully, team Tarver can find a way to pull a reputable opponent out of the magician’s hat and cash in on that lottery ticket.

Young Guns

If Tarver is true to his credo to be a fighting champion he should keep a close eye on his WBC mandatory Paul Briggs and Detroit’s Rico Hoye. First Hoye has to get by Chicago trial horse Montell Griffin, but at nearly 6’4" that should be no problem. It would be a shame to see either one of these hungry guys relegated to bystander while Tarver chooses to rest on his laurels.

Until The Next 'Jones'
The Boxing Junkie
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