Lem Satterfield

Q&A: Tarver talks Hopkins, Jones, Klitschko and his legacy

Antonio Tarver, who turns 43 in November, recently reflected on his ninth-round stoppage of cruiserweight Danny Green on July 20 in Australia in a Q&A with RingTV.com

Tarver (29-6, 20 knockouts) broke down the mechanics of the second-round left hand that dropped Green (31-4, 27 KOs) and led to the first knockout loss of the Aussie’s career.

In addition, Tarver addressed his desire to face RING light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins in a rematch if Hopkins gets past Chad Dawson on Oct. 15 and his willingness to face heavyweight titlist Wladimir Klitschko. Tarver also reflected on his own legacy, which includes two victories in three fights against Roy Jones.

The win over Green was Tarver’s second straight, following his unanimous-decision triumph over heavyweight Nagy Aguilera last October. That followed consecutive losses to Dawson.

Tarver will return to his role as a Showtime analyst on Saturday night, when Kelly Pavlik meets Darryl Cunningham.

RingTV.com: At this point, how do you see your legacy?

Antonio Tarver: You know, Roy Jones went the distance and beat James Toney. He beat Bernard Hopkins. But when the torch was passed, man, somebody got knocked out, and there’s no doubt about that. They can say what they want about Roy Jones, but I knocked him out. Until he met me, he was the pound-for-pound king.

Roy Jones’ career is defined in two ways: Prior to me and after me. So they can say what they want, it doesn’t matter, but if Roy Jones goes into the Hall of Fame, then there’s got to be a seat for me. When they judge who is the best light heavyweight, they can’t put him over me.

Whether his overall career and what he did at super middleweight and all of those bums he fought puts him over me or not, so be it. But when he stepped up and fought me, he knew that I was a threat from Day One. He ducked me for a long time. But when he finally fought me, I thought that I beat him the first time, I knocked him out  the second time, and I beat him the third time.

You can’t put Roy Jones above me as a light heavyweight. Yes, maybe as a super middleweight. Okay. He was young, did some things that were never seen before. If I get an opportunity to fight Wladimir Klitschko, there’s a chance that I could become heavyweight champ.

My book is not done being written, but when you look at Roy Jones, he’s been knocked out by everybody since he’s fought me. So, I ain’t never been knocked out or been close to being knocked out. Hopefully, when it’s all said and done, I can say that I never has been knocked out. I’ll know when to hang it up. I love me too much to let myself get punched out, even at 42 years old.

RingTV.com: Do you want to face the Hopkins-Dawson winner?

AT: Those are the two people who have beaten me, Dawson because he was 14 years younger, and Hopkins, because I lost 50 pounds going into that fight after having played that movie role in Rocky Balboa. I was 203 pounds two months before that fight, and I still feel like there was something wrong with me other than just the weight loss, because I didn’t feel right and couldn’t get emotional about the fight.

That doesn’t happen unless something else is wrong with me. Everybody else can say what they want. Of course, if Bernard wins, then that bodes well for me, because we can go back to the drawing board. We can get that rematch. Bernard’s calling out Joe Calzaghe, a guy who is in retirement for three years. But he’s not trying to honor my rematch?

I gave Bernard Hopkins a chance of a lifetime. He was coming off of two losses. Jermain Taylor had beaten him twice, yet I gave him an opportunity of a lifetime to fight the man at the light heavyweight division. The rematch should have been honored. But Bernard is a businessman.

He knew that it was dangerous to give me a rematch. Period. The same thing that happened to me that day, in a rematch, that wouldn’t happen. He would be fighting a lively, focused man. He would be facing an Antonio Tarver with power and he would have to step up to the plate. That rematch would silence my critics for years to come.

RingTV.com: Any other opportunities?

AT: David Haye would be a big possibility for me. Wladimir Klitschko is a possibility. There are much bigger fish to fry. Steven Cunningham is a possibility. I’ve got a lot of options, so we’ll sit back and we’ll make the right decision, but trust me, Bernard Hopkins is one of the guys on my list. He’s mentioned that he would love to come up and fight me at cruiser weight.

He mentioned my name first, so we’re going to have to get that taste out of his mouth. I’m excited about that opportunity to finally fight Bernard Hopkins and to send him into retirement.

RingTV.com: Being that you are a southpaw, can you reflect on that second-round left uppercut or left cross or whatever you call it that floored Green?

AT: That punch that I dropped Danny with, I was aiming for the solar plexus, but it was just that I had come up with it, and I was able to catch  him on the chin. It was a punch that he never saw.

It was a punch that caught him by surprise, and it was a punch that literally lifted him off of his feet. It was just a very, very powerful punch, and it really hurt him. And it really set the tone for the rest of the night.

RingTV.com: How long did you work on that punch?

AT: Well, you know it was one of those punches that we really wanted to work on. In training camp, it was one of the most devastating punches that I was able to land. I was hitting my sparring partners with it every time they advanced and tried to close in.

But instead of throwing that straight left all of the time, I was throwing it right to the body. And I’m hitting them to the solar plexus. Man, it was landing with force. It was a hard shot that was paralyzing them.

RingTV.com: So was that a perfect translation of that blow from training to the fight?

AT: Well, if you go back and if you look at the fight, right before I knocked Danny Green out, I had hurt him with a body shot. That body shot froze him. I caught him with that punch four or five times in the fight. It was like I couldn’t miss him. That was a solar plexus punch.

It was one of those punches that I really love right now, man. Because you’re throwing it with so much power, and it comes out a crouch. So it’s unknown to the fighter that it’s coming, because he don’t see it. It’s coming out low.

RingTV.com: Was it more of a counter than an initiated punch?

AT: Well, it’s sort of a reflex punch. I had blocked his jab with my right hand, and I came right up from underneath. It was sort of like a bolo shot. It was like one of those bolos from back in the day. But the way that I’m throwing it is I’m throwing it straight.

From that standpoint, it just becomes a very, very powerful shot. It’s like you’re whipping it. You just whip it. You just let it go. It really worked against Danny Green, and it served me well in that fight.

RingTV.com: Are you satisfied with your overall performance and your execution in the fight?

AT: I am very satisfied with the way that I fought the fight. I didn’t go outside of myself and go all out. I believe that I fought like a real pro, man, and that’s because of my experience. With experience comes patience. With experience comes poise. I didn’t really go all out until I knew that I had my victim hurt and ready to go and that I could really take advantage of that opportunity.

It was a calculated performance on my part. But I wasn’t going to over-extend myself until I knew that I could go all out. And when I went all out, I must have hit him with about 15 unanswered punches to the body. I hit him with a straight shot to the chin and I hurt him. And I did the knockout, because he couldn’t go on after that ninth round.

They stopped it in his corner. Whether or not you’re knocking people unconcious, you know, that doesn’t matter so much as you’re stopping them inside the distance. A TKO is still the same thing.

RingTV.com: What did it mean to you to be the first man to score a knockout against Green?

AT: That meant a lot. Danny Green had never been stopped inside of the distance. He has only lost three of four fights. He has fought champions. He’s knocked Roy Jones out in one round and I end up knocking him out. Look, man, that was a big win for me, to go in there into hostile territory and in his home town.

We had 10 members of Team Tarver, yet we went in there like we owned it. Every time I had an interview, I had the same confidence in myself that they could not shake me, no matter what they tried. It was still the same thing. I’m a strong guy, he’s got the wrong guy, and I can’t wait until July 20.

That’s what it was all about, and nothing that they could do could change my mind. It didn’t mater how many fans showed up booing. The crowd was not a factor. All that I saw was the guy in front of me, and it was my mission to render him helpless and to get him out of there. Credit to myself, I did what I set out to do. I wasn’t going to be denied of the chance to be the cruiser weight champion of the world.

RingTV.com: Was there any concern on your part about the local commission and Green’s hand wraps, two things that Roy Jones had issues with?

AT: Well, there was a problem with the gloves. Danny Green wanted to use these gloves that were altered from the Grant gloves. We made a fuss about it initially. But at the end of the day, I said, ‘You know what, he ain’t going to be able to hit me with then no way.’ I was like, ‘Put ’em on, it don’t matter.’

So there was an initial concern, but credit goes to the IBO. They really went out of their way to make sure that everything was okay. Even the local commissioner of the Australian boxing community went out of his way to make sure that everything was okay.

I used the same tape that Danny Green used. I used the same wraps that Danny Green used. That’s all that my concern was. If he’s coming in with brass knuckles, just give me a set.

RingTV.com: Did you ever feel Green’s power?

AT: Yeah, Danny caught me with a good hook one time, but if you look back at that shot, I caught him with a devastating uppercut. We both landed at the same time, but he had a little bit more of an affect on his. He caught me right on the button, but I can take a shot. And that was his best shot. It was like — BOOM! — and it snapped my neck back. It was right on the chin.

But I sat right there and took it. I stayed right in the pocket and I took it. And then, I was the one throwing the punches after his had landed. They kept trying to say that I was hurt, but I had my awareness and everything. I knew exactly where I was at. Now, it was a hell of a shot, but it was a credit to me that I was able to take it. I have longevity.

I have a solid chin, man. I can take a crack. I knock on wood. You can be as old as you want, but if you haven’t been abused in the game, then you still have youth and you still have life. These young fighters, they take all of this punishment. They’re the ones who won’t have longevity.

It’s like a dog that gets hit by a car. He ain’t going to ever walk the same. He’s going to have a limp. Same thing for boxers. Too many shots in the head. Too many knockouts. Too many knockdowns. It takes a toll.

RingTV.com: So what’s next for Antonio Tarver?

AT: Right now, we have a selection of guys who are calling me out, from heavyweight, to cruiserweight to even some light heavyweights who want to move up and challenge me and to get a piece of this. It makes me feel good that we’re back in the saddle, and that this time around, we’re going to make every decision the right decision, moving forward.

We’re going to build on this. It was a great accomplishment, because there were people who thought that with me going over there to Australia, they were going to see another Roy Jones performance. But I’m not Roy Jones, and I proved that years ago, man. I’m a great fighter, and I’ve been at this game a long time.

There’s not too many people outside of Bernard Hopkins who are doing the things that I’m doing at this age, and Bernard ain’t doing it like me.

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