Antonio Tarver (31-6, 22 KO’s) still has grand plans for his career even at the ripe old age of 46.
The former light-heavyweight champion is over a decade removed from his finest hour -when he knocked Roy Jones Jr out cold in their second meeting at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas- and has managed just two appearances since 2013; winning efforts over Mike Sheppard and Johnathon Banks.
He will now be taking on Steve Cunningham (28-7, 13 KO’s) in his third appearance as a heavyweight in a 12-round contest set for August 14th in Newark. New Jersey.
Cunningham’s record over the last few years has been chequered with losses to respectable operators like Joan Pablo Hernandez down at cruiserweight, and Tyson Fury and Tomasz Adamek in his first real challenges with the big boys.
He lost to the Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glazkov in a dire affair last time out, but the decision was a debatable one. He is a good solid pro whose record belies his ability, and Tarver is hoping a win here will be enough to catapult him to the front of the queue to make a grab for the big prize.
Speaking with Boxing News Online Tarver spoke about what he thinks of Cunningham and how he feels the man will be overmatched when they meet.
“I respect Steve Cunningham,” Tarver said.
“I am sure Cunningham may have prepared for a physical war but has he prepare for the mental part of our fight? He’ll be fighting in a ring full of mine fields, one wrong step and, Kaboom!”
And if that detonation goes off as planned Tarver will be gunning for the guy who holds three of the four main belts in the division, Mr Wladimir Klitschko.
“I’m getting that world heavyweight title and when I defeat Klitschko, it’ll be the biggest story in sports. But I know that I won’t get my title shot unless I get by Cunningham.”
Tarver is wise to pay rapt attention to a dogged competitor like Cunningham who is always waiting to set upon a moment of complacency, as when he floored Tyson Fury in the second round of their fight as soon as an opening appeared.
But let’s just assume Tarver manages to get through Cunnningham in impressive fashion. Then what? Will that result really have earned him the opportunity to fight for three-quarters of the heavyweight treasure chest? Probably not.
He would need to string together a few good wins against some recognisable names to be even in the conversation of taking up one of Klitschko’s voluntary defences. He hasn’t done that since 2005 with consecutive wins over Jones Jr. again (in their third fight) and Glen Johnson. Hopefully, he doesn’t start taking pointers from Shannon Briggs on how to generate publicity.