Quest for greatness drives Antonio Tarver as he pursues heavyweight history

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Antonio Tarver expects the arrival of a grandson next month. But Friday night, the 46-year-old southpaw continues his quest to become the oldest man to win a heavyweight championship.

Antonio Tarver and Steve Cunningham

Antonio Tarver, left, weighed in at 217 pounds and Steve Cunningham hit the scale at 204 for their heavyweight showdown in Newark, New Jersey, on Friday night. (Lucas Noonan/Premier Boxing Champions)

Antonio Tarver is taking a break from his role as an analyst for Spike TV to fight on the network (9 p.m. ET/PT) against Steve Cunningham (28-7, 13 KOs) at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.

Tarver (31-6, 22 KOs) hopes to eclipse the milestone achieved in November 1994 by George Foreman, who knocked out Michael Moorer in the 10th round in Las Vegas to win a heavyweight title at the age of 45.

“I’m striving for greatness and I want to be considered great,” said Tarver, a three-time 175-pound world champion. “It’s my belief that God has a promise on my life that I’m able to walk through obstacles.”

Tarver hit the scale at 217 pounds at Thursday’s weigh-in, while Cunningham came in at 204. For the co-main event, 200-pound world champion Marco Huck made the cut at 199 pounds, and undefeated Polish challenger Krzysztof Glowacki was 198.

Tarver is 3-0 with two knockouts as a heavyweight. He’s hopeful that an impressive victory over Cunningham would put him in contention for a shot at division rulers Wladimir Klitschko or Deontay Wilder.

“I’ll be happy with a win, but I try to knock everybody out. That’s the only way that you can secure a title shot,” Tarver said. “When I go to a decision, it’s hardly ever in my favor, even when I’ve felt that I clearly won. I try to stop every man I get into the ring with.”

A 1996 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist who turned pro at the age of 28, Tarver is best known for winning two of three fights with Roy Jones Jr., including a second-round knockout in May 2004.

“They told me I was too old when I started, even with my pedigree from the Olympics,” Tarver said. “I was never ‘the guy,’ but I always beat ‘the guy.’

“That’s what drives me is my naysayers and my doubters and my haters. But it’s my faith in God that allows me the confidence and reassurance that I can be anything I believe I can be.”

That includes being a father who was ringside in his hometown of Tampa, Florida, last month when son Antonio Tarver Jr. (3-0, 2 KOs) won a four-round unanimous decision over Oscar Gonzalez in a 154-pound bout.

Tarver Jr.’s girlfriend is due to give birth to a boy in September, which will add “grandfather” to the myriad of titles Tarver already possesses.

Tarver added “Spike TV analyst” to that list this year, starting with the Premier Boxing Champions card in Ontario, California, on March 13.

“Being in front of the camera comes naturally to me. It’s another gift that God gave me. It’s an honor to be a representative of the sport, make that connection and reach the fans,” Tarver said.

“I get to see the hard work young fighters put in. I can relate to what they’re going through because I’ve walked in their shoes. Before I’m done, though, I’m going to achieve this one last gigantic goal to truly become one of the best in the sport.”

For complete coverage of Tarver vs Cunningham, visit our fight page.

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