Antonio Tarver will be right at home tonight.
The 46-year-old former 175-pound champion will be ringside in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, when Antonio Tarver Jr. (2-0, 2 KOs) takes on Julian Valerio (2-3, 1 KO) in a 154-pound bout at the USF Sun Dome.
“I’m going to be nervous because that’s my son in there, and he doesn’t have that experience of these young Olympians and national champions,” says Tarver, a 1996 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist who made his pro debut at the age of 28, two years older than did his son.
“It would have been great had he gone and experienced the amateurs and competed internationally, but not everybody that became a world champion went through the amateurs. He’s never had an amateur style anyway. He had a prototypical pro style, so everything happens for a reason.”
A southpaw like his father, Tarver Jr. served as the primary sparring partner for Keith Thurman (25-0, 21 KOs), who will defend his 147-pound title against Luis Collazo (36-6, 19 KOs) in the main event in the debut of PBC on ESPN (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“He’s learned a lot being the chief sparring partner for the world champion, Keith Thurman, and I’m telling you, he’s surprised everybody,” Tarver said. “You can’t hit him with a handful of rice. He sparred six rounds at a time with Keith, and they've all said that it was hard to tell that he didn’t have any amateur experience.”
Tarver (31-6, 22 KOs) will end an eight-month ring absence on August 14 when he faces Steve Cunningham (28-7, 13 KOs) at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
Coming off a seventh-round stoppage of Johnathon Banks in Temecula, California, in December, Tarver will face Cunningham on Spike TV, taking a break from his role as a ringside analyst for the network.
“I worked hard and made the sacrifices to get here. Everything, in its due time, has come to fruition,” Tarver said. “I’ve got the opportunity that I want against a credible opponent, but I’ve got to close the show now.”
Tarver is a grandfather-to-be, with his son’s girlfriend due to give birth to a boy in September.
"What I'm going to give my grandson is probably something that I should have given my son," Tarver said. "That's a pair of boxing gloves."