Antonio Tarver is determined not to become Roy Jones Jr. in his quest to win a heavyweight title.
Tarver and Jones engaged in an exciting trilogy of fights at 175 pounds, the first bout coming in November 2003 and the finale in October 2005, with Tarver winning the final two contests.
Since then, however, Jones has gone from being regarded as one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in history to a fighter with a tarnished legacy as he continues to compete at 200 pounds.
After losing a majority decision in their first fight, Tarver gained a second-round technical knockout in the rematch and won a unanimous decision in the rubber match.
Jones was 48-1 entering the first fight with Tarver, but since the fighters completed their trilogy, Jones has gone 12-4 and been knocked out twice, putting his overall record at 61-8 with 44 KOs.
“I took a lot out of Roy Jones. I gave him a massive beating in our first fight, which enabled me to knock him out the second time,” Tarver said. “Roy was courageous and made it through the first fight. But since I beat him, he’s been a shell of his former self.”
Like Jones, Antonio Tarver (31-6, 22 KOs) is 46 years old, but the southpaw insists he’s “at the top of my game” entering his heavyweight clash with Steve Cunningham (28-7, 13 KOs) at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Friday night (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
“There’s nothing that I could do physically 20 years ago that I can’t do right now. I have more knowledge of the ring than anybody in the heavyweight division,” said Tarver, who will be ending an eight-month ring absence.
“I’m the fastest heavyweight out there. No one can match my speed, my skills, my reflexes and my punching accuracy. I’m really hard to hit, I know how to fight and I know how to win. The only way Cunningham wins is if he gets lucky and knocks me out, and that's not gonna happen.”
Tarver, a U.S. Olympic bronze medalist in 1996, dominated his last fight in December against Johnathon Banks, scoring a seventh-round knockout that ran his record to 3-0 as a heavyweight.
“If people didn’t expect me to lose to Banks, they definitely expected me to struggle,” said Tarver, whose last loss came against Chad Dawson in May 2009. “But I was so zoned in that the man didn’t lay a glove on me all night. I’m knocking out everything that stands in my way, including Steve Cunningham.”
Tarver, who is taking a break from his role as ringside analyst for Spike to fight Cunningham, says he might return to the mic full time if he comes up short Friday night.
“If I lose again without becoming the heavyweight champion, then at my age, I actually have to consider hanging it up and retiring,” Tarver said. “But I know that God has preserved me for something great, and you haven’t seen my greatness yet.”
For complete coverage of Tarver vs Cunningham, visit our fight page.