Antonio Tarver (1968-) is an American professional heavyweight boxer, and boxing commentator. He is most famous for playing Mason Dixon in the boxing movie Rocky Balboa acting alongside Sylvester Stallone.
Tarver is known as the Magic Man because in a short four year period, he has helped take a sport in the doldrums to the next level, exciting mainstream, sports fans as well as hardcore fight followers, a task many believed was impossible. He held WBC, IBF and WBA titles, and IBO title of Cruiserweight and Light Heavyweight champion.
Tarver was born in 1968, and fell in love with boxing at an early age. During his first five years in the sport which began at the age of ten, he happened to fight a young man who would play a major role in his career later on – Roy Jones, Jr.
Following Tarver’s second-round TKO of Joaquin Garcia in his professional debut in 1997, he moved up the ranks without the media spotlight that was shining on some of his fellow Olympians. Tarver came up the hard way, fighting in front of demanding crowds in such boxing hotspots as the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. But these fights steeled Tarver’s resolve and helped make him the fighter he is today.
In June 2000, was when the 16-0 Tarver suffered the first defeat of his professional career to Eric Harding. In a hard fought 12-round title eliminator, Tarver dominated the first half of the bout, but after having his jaw broken in the ninth round, it became an uphill battle, and Harding finished strong, knocking Tarver down in the 11th round en route to the decision win. Looking to erase the mistakes of the past to become a complete fighting machine from bell to bell, Tarver enlisted the services of former world champion, Buddy McGirt and conditioning coach, Dudley Pierce to help him reach those goals.
In July 2002, Antonio Tarver put his guaranteed title shot on the line against the only man to ever beat him, Eric Harding. It was a risky move, but one that only true champions will make. In just five rounds, Tarver avenged his defeat via TKO.
Nine months later in April 2003, Tarver finally got his world title shot and made the most of it, shutting out former world champion, Montell Griffin over 12 rounds to win the vacant WBC and IBF titles.
Jones vs Tarver
In November 2003, Tarver finally pushed Jones into a title fight, and what a fight it was, a 12-round battle that saw the pound for pound king punished by Tarver like he had never been before. Yet when the decision was announced, Jones had regained his championship belts via a highly controversial majority decision.
A rematch came in May 2004, two rounds later, a single left hand that knocked Jones out for the first time in his magnificent career, and after years the world found out what Antonio Tarver already knew. He was a star. Antonio was boxing’s talk of the town after defeating Jones, and he fulfilled numerous television, radio, and print media obligations after his amazing victory. And while some fighters would have been content with a couple of easy title defenses against unknown opponents, for Tarver’s first fight back in December 2004, he would face the second man to send Jones crashing to the canvas, Glen Johnson.
It was a bout that was an early Christmas present to fight fans, as both warriors – unquestionably the two best 175-pounders in the world – battled it out for 12 hard-fought rounds. Unfortunately, Tarver would lose a highly controversial split decision that night, a verdict many at ringside felt was unjust.
To many fight fans, Tarver’s win just reinforced what they always believed – that “The Magic Man” is one of boxing’s best, pound for pound. But the man Tarver took that crown from – Roy Jones, Jr. – was still not convinced, and on October 1, 2005, these two rivals fought for a third time in a match that the boxing world was eagerly anticipating. It was no surprise to the Magic Man’s fans that night when he nabbed both the title and the belt.
Record and Statistics
Name: Antonio Tarver
Nicknames: The Magic Man
Weight: Light Heavy/Cruiser/Heavyweight
Wins by KO: 22
No contests: 1