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Last Updated: Monday, 17 May, 2004, 12:31 GMT 13:31 UK
Tarver upsets boxing balance
By Alex Trickett

Antonio Tarver
Antonio Tarver's left hand has sparked a seismic shift in boxing's top order.

With it, he felled Roy Jones Jr, the best fighter of his generation and a former champion at four weights.

Do not be too quick to believe the sport's cognoscenti, who have played down their shock at Jones' first undisputed loss.

Despite a slip in the American's standards of late, this was a monumental upset.

Jones, 35, had only previously lost by dubious disqualification to Montell Griffin, a reverse that he brutally avenged with a first-round knockout in the rematch.

And he had won 49 contests, among them victories over elite boxers James Toney, Mike McCallum, Virgil Hill and Bernard Hopkins, to put himself at the top of world boxing's tree.

That is not to say that Jones was without his critics.

His fight selection was often driven by money and his reluctance to over-extend is borne out by the catalogue of journeyman that litter his professional record

Jones was pampered and babied up in the ranks - he's been sleeping on silk sheets as long as he can remember
Antonio Tarver

But, when his reputation was on the line, Jones always had an emphatic answer. That is, until last Saturday's light heavyweight contest in Las Vegas.

Tarver, who many observers deemed unlucky to lose a first fight with Jones by majority decision, caught his rival with a "beautiful punch" in round two.

And for once, the great Jones had no answer, not even a rationale for the shock result.

"I got no excuses," he said. "It happens like that sometimes."

So what of Tarver, the man who beat the best fighter on the planet?

An ongoing target for beefed up super middleweight Joe Calzaghe, Tarver has long been considered a dangerous foe for champions.

Roy Jones Jr
Who would have thought Jones would ever get stopped?

But, unless the "Magic Man" defends his WBC title in style - possibly by way of a third bout with Jones - many will attribute his success to the powerful illusion of one lucky punch.

That would perhaps be unfair.

At 35, Tarver is hardly the future of boxing.

But his 6ft 2in frame and southpaw stance make him a hard target to hit and his record is acceptable, with 22 wins (18 of them KOs) coming from 24 pro fights with losses to Jones and Eric Harding.

Above all, it is Tarver's quick tongue - he accused Jones of being "babied up in the ranks" and of "sleeping on silk sheets" - which suggests he could play a central role in interesting and well hyped showdowns over the next couple of years.

Welshman Calzaghe's June fight with Glen Johnson now takes on added importance.

The winner of that IBF title showdown will be in pole position to take on Tarver. That is, providing the "Magic Man" does not disappear into the heavyweight division, in search of rich pickings and more recognition.


SEE ALSO
Calzaghe targets Tarver
16 May 04  |  Boxing


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