How Good Is Antonio Tarver?

By Tom Donelson
Updated: April 16, 2008

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Antonio Tarver is one of those fighters whose place in history is hard to discern. As a light heavyweight, he has beaten some of the best light heavyweights over the past four years including Roy Jones twice, Glen Johnson and recently Clint Woods. The one fight that distract from his legacy was his defeat at the hand of Bernard Hopkins.

Tarver’s goal is to recapture his place at the top of the light heavyweight and his last victory over Clint Woods saw him using all his weapons. His jab and straight left controlled Woods throughout the fight.

Woods was the taller, stronger fighter but Tarver guile along with his skills won the fight. Woods never seem to get his momentum going and Tarver more accurate punching kept the Brit off guard.

Tarver won an easy victory but now he faces a more daunting task. To win the recognized championship back, he has two very big obstacles. First is Chad Dawson and the second is the winner of the Joe Calzaghe-Bernard Hopkins fight. (Tarver has only a piece of light heavyweight champion but the world recognized champ is Bernard Hopkins.)

Chad Dawson survived a tough 12-rounder against the “Road Warrior” Glen Johnson. He pressured Dawson over those 12 rounds and nearly stopped him in the 10th round with a right hand that nailed Dawson perfect, but he showed heart to survive.

Dawson’s advantage against Tarver is his youth and he is more effective body puncher. A mirror image of Tarver, Dawson may have a quickness advantage but Tarver has one thing going for him, experience.

A Dawson-Tarver would be a more tactical fight than Johnson-Dawson was. In just a fight, experience could play a decisive role. Then there is the winner of Calzaghe-Hopkins.

Hopkins has already defeated Tarver and Calzaghe. Interesting enough, being a senior citizen is a tradition in the light heavyweight. Archie Moore became a champion at 39 and dominated the light heavyweight in the 50’s.

Today, many of best light heavyweights are 35 and greater. Glen Johnson showed in his fight with Dawson that he is still one of the best. Tarver at 39 has demonstrated that he still has the skills to reign with the other light heavyweight elites.

Tarver’s place in boxing history will be decided over the next twelve months. Tarver has many significant defining moments but yet, he started his professional career and those defining moment came after he turned 30 and he has only 31 fights.

In many ways, his career is similar to the great Middleweight Billy Soose, who retired with only 40 fights in a career interrupted by World War II. Soose owned a victory over Hall of fame fighters Tony Zale as well as two victories over Ken Overlin and was classified as Ring Magazine unofficial Middleweight champion in 1940.

Soose defeated Overlin and Zale in two over the weight fights that did not qualify as championship bouts. Zale refused to fight Soose for his portion of the title and Soose won a close decision over Overlin in their rematch at Madision Square Garden the following year.

Tarver is fighting for his place in boxing history and his next target is the youthful Chad Dawson. For Tarver, the time is now for that final push for boxing immortality.