Antonio Tarver: ‘I Am Here To Shock The World’

By Francis Walker
Updated: June 6, 2007

NEW YORK — Antonio Tarver (24-4, 18 KOs) returns to face Elvir Muriqi (34-3, 21 KOs) in a co-featured 12-round light heavyweight attraction on Saturday night at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford.

WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson (23-0, 15 KOs with 1 No-Contest) makes the first defense of his title against Jesus Ruiz (19-4, 17 KOs) in the main event.

Both bouts will be televised live on Showtime beginning at 10 p.m. ET.

Tarver will be fighting for the first time since he lost a one-sided 12-round decision loss to former undisputed world middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins in June 2006.

Tarver, who reportedly reached as much as 240 pounds for his role in “Rocky 6″ with Sylvester Stallone, had to comedown to make the 175-pound light-heavy limit. Tarver appeared to be focused and in great spirits during the week of the fight, but apparently phased out and was target practice for Hopkins.

“Fortunately, I did not receive any serious injuries that night, but I was a dead man walking,” recalled Tarver during a recent conference call. “I do not know what happened and there are a lot of things that have come up lately that I am questioning.”

“I just know at the press conference, the electricity was there. At the weigh-in, the electricity was there. The night of the fight, I was a dead man walking, just a shell of myself.”

Tarver also added that his sister believes that he was poisoned the night before he fought Hopkins .

“I went to bed and woke up that day, I was a zombie and I do not know what happened,” Tarver explained. “My sister thought that maybe I could have been poisoned; maybe somebody tampered with some food and took something away from me.”

“But I can go and walk off the street and spar and fight eight or nine rounds with no problem. That is just my nature. For me not to fight and get hit with straight right hands all night (is mystifying).”

“My reflexes were not there, my counter punching ability was not there. Something went terribly wrong. So I put it behind me. That is what I did. I forgot about it and now it is time to move on.”

Tarver’s current opponent Muriqi is looking to make a statement that could spread throughout the boxing world.

“Not just to the boxing world, but to the whole world,” Muriqi said. “I live in the United States and I am Albanian. I grew up in Kosovo and then I came here when I was 17. But this fight will put me on the map and make history for me and for Albanians all over the world.”

Tarver is the only person to have knocked out former four-division champion, and ex-WBA heavyweight titlist Roy Jones, Jr. and defeat him twice. The former world light heavyweight champion also has victories against former champions Glen Johnson and Montell Griffin (both coincidentally have victories over Jones). Tarver has a successful career going for, but he is not content.

“Until I stamp my ticket to the Hall of Fame, I will not be satisfied,” Tarver said. “Until I am revered as the best light heavyweight ever, I will not be satisfied. Unfortunately, Elvir, you are next and after I dispose of you then it is whoever.”

“I am taking names. I am back. I am hungry. I am rededicated and the whole light heavyweight division is in trouble.”

Tarver vs. Dawson In The Works?

Should Tarver and Dawson emerge victorious, there is a possibility that both fighters could meet for Dawson’s WBC light heavyweight championship. Dawson maybe the champion, but Tarver is the bigger name and that Dawson’s promoter Gary Shaw is simply making promises to his fighter that he cannot keep.

“I respect Chad because he seems like a very sophisticated and intelligent young brother coming up that obviously knows the business,” Tarver said. “But he needs to slap his manager and his promoter in the mouth because every time they open their mouth, the line gets longer.

“The man just won the fight with his last opponent and got knocked down winning the fight. Everybody is talking trash but Chad. It is no competition with me and Chad .”

Tarver was referring to the fact that Dawson survived a knockdown in the later rounds to defeat previously unbeaten Tomasz Adamek in February to win the WBC title. Dawson, who also floored Adamek, was the winner of a 12-round unanimous decision.

“I have never ducked anyone. I beat them all. I am the people’s champ and they all got to come through me if they want to get paid and if they want to get rich and famous. They have to come through me. So they can have all the belts, but I got the tickets. It is just like poker.”

“If you got bad cards, fold, do not keep trying to bluff because you are not bluffing anybody. We are not going to fight unless I want to fight because they do not have enough money to pay me to fight the guy. So if they keep their mouth shut, I might give them a break after June 9. That is only up to me.”

Tarver recognized Muriqi as a very hungry and dangerous fighter, whose will not be enough to win.

“I have a hungry lion in front of me, but he is not going to come and get any meat” Tarver added. “I am here to tell the world, I am putting them on notice. There is not going to be any more nice (guy).”

“I am here to shock the world. I will be at my best. The speed, the quickness, the agility, the defense, (and) the punching power. All of that will be on display come June 9.”