One week ago, Antonio “The Magic Man” Tarver shocked the world with a devastating one punch knockout win over Roy Jones, JR., heretofore thought unbeatable by most. Having just appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and given time to reflect on his victory, Antonio was more than willing to answer a few questions for Doghouse Boxing. As always, he had plenty to say, including calling out the best heavyweights in the world.
DB: How does it feel one week removed from knocking out Roy Jones, JR.?
It feels real good. I’ve put a lot of hard work into what I do, I’ve invested my entire life trying to get to the top of the game. A lot of times I feel slighted by the media, the purists and the so-called experts. What happened last Saturday was a good thing, it was just the icing on the cake. I’ve been trying to tell these people for the longest, but no one wanted to listen, even though my record speaks for itself. Being as dominant as I was in the amateurs, favored to win gold, and I won the Bronze Medal, these people wanted to sweep me under the rug and disregard my natural God-given talent and ability. That’s why I worked so hard and refused to be denied. I was confident in my ability, but no one wanted to hear it. They thought it was all pre-fight hype bullshit. My whole thing is that the proof is in the pudding, the cream rises to the top. We did what we had to do, I saw it coming, I visualized the moment and I captured it.
DB: What was your first appearance on the Tonight Show like?
It was great. It showed me that I’ve finally arrived. Anybody and everybody just can’t get on the Tonight Show. It showed me that the mainstream has accepted me, and I just want to continue to promote Antonio Tarver as the great champion that I am.
DB: Did it take you by surprise when Leno wanted to play you in re-enacting the knockout of Jones?
No, (laughs), I’m sure Jay didn’t want to be the one getting knocked out. I wouldn’t have wanted to play Roy Jones that night, either!! (laughs) Jay is a smart guy, with a lot of personality and character and I just had a blast. I’m just happy that they invited me and I was able to get on and show the world more of Antonio Tarver.
DB: What was the first thought that went through your mind when you connected with the left, and then when you saw him drop to the canvas?
I knew I had landed that shot. I stepped in with it with some serious force, and the velocity on that punch was tremendous. It was the perfect punch, and the results speak for themselves. I knocked out one of the greatest fighters of his time, of our time, Roy Jones, JR. That punch was just an example of all the hard work, late nights, early mornings, sacrifices, dedication and the commitment that I’ve made to myself. That punch just didn’t happen by mistake. It was a lot of work building up to this fight, years and year, preparing myself for that very moment.
DB: Did you think he was getting up?
I knew he was going to try. This is Roy Jones, JR. If I got dropped like that, I’m going to try and get up. Why lay there unless you’re completely unconscious? The man has a heart of a lion, he’s been a champion for years and years, he’s a proven winner, and he’s a great fighter. I take nothing away from Roy, I’ve never tried to take anything away from Roy. But I definitely wanted the people to see me. I wasn’t going to be overshadowed by anyone, because I’m too great of a fighter. Roy Jones just happened to be the guy in my way. It could have been anyone. It just so happened that we are from the same state and we have a history together. That’s just the way God makes it sometimes, it’s just in His plan. If it had been Michael Spinks in my way, I would have approached it the same wayhe got to go. Because he’s stopping me from doing what I want to do, and in the grand scheme of things, I, Antonio Tarver, am more important than anybody. So I’m not going to sit here and idolize and pay homage to no one because he had a great record, because he had a great career…he hadn’t beat me.
That was the point I was making…until the man beats me, I’m not going to be defeated. That’s why I fought with the intensity and determination that I fought with, because I feel that I am the best fighter in the world today. Until somebody beats me and proves me wrong, then that’s the way I’m going to feel about it. I’m not going to change my mind, and that’s the kind of mentality that I have. They’re going to have to prove to me, and the only way they can prove to me is to beat me in the ring. I could not feel Roy Jones beating me on November 8, and I proved that he wasn’t going to beat me on May 15th. So, people may say, well, look in the record books….but look at my two losses, how I avenged my two losses, in dramatic, knockout fashion. That’s the sign of a true champion.
DB: Was the counter left hand something you had worked on in training and been prepared to use?
Man, I’ve been using my counter left for my entire career. My whole thing was to try and work on everything. I wanted to strengthen my strengths and improve my weaknesses. That’s what you do, you don’t focus on one thing. How can you predict what’s going to happen in a fight? How was I going to prepare for him to throw the right hand when he threw it and for him to be in a perfect position when I threw my counter left? You have to take advantages of the opportunity, to seize it, in the matter of a second. You have to be able to react and make changes throughout the fight. I was in great shape, so I was able to see, to react, and to take advantage of the circumstances. All that goes along with preparation, I’m not trying to think in the ring, I want to get in the zone where I react to every action. If you’re in there thinking, you’re a thought too late, a step too slow. Everything is reflexes to me, I react to whatever the guy in front of me is doing. I don’t know what is going to happen from one round to the next, but I want to be in shape to take advantage of every opportunity. There was a golden opportunity, and I seized the moment.
DB: Did Roy have anything to say to you personally after the fight?
Roy was hurt, and I’m sure he was devastated and there were a lot of things going on in his mind at the moment. The man really didn’t say much, but he gave me a hug and I told him ‘thanks, Champ, for setting the bar so high, for giving me something to reach for.’ Roy Jones is the pinnacle, and that’s what everybody reaches for, in my weight class and in the pound for pound rankings. I’m just glad he was there, and that I was able to look at him as a measuring stick, and to not only meet the man, but surpass the man. I’m not trying to compare my legacy with Roy Jones’ legacy, he has a legacy of his own. But now, Antonio Tarver’s legacy begins.
DB: Do you feel that you now deserve to be considered the number one pound for pound fighter in the world?
Yes I do! In order to be the man, you got to beat the man. I not only beat the man, but I beat him in devastating fashion. You could arguably say that I’m 2-0 against Roy Jones, JR. I gave the man a beating on November 8, maybe the judges didn’t see it that way. I used as motivation, I came back, I told the people what was going to go on, I told them to expect the unexpected. I felt I would stop him between six and eight, but I underestimated myself. That just goes to show how sharp, how prepared, how conditioned I was for the fight. Now, everybody is going to take notice, when I speak, people will listen.
DB: What’s next for Antonio Tarver?
I want to let the world know that Antonio Tarver has a world of options. I can take Bernard Hopkins, Felix Trinidad, James Toney, Mike Tyson, and any one of the heavyweight champions. Antonio Tarver has a million and one options. So what Antonio Tarver does depends on the business, where the people want to see me. Roy Jones, if there’s still any doubt, I’m a man, I’m a champion, it wouldn’t be beneath me to give the man a rematch. A lot of things have to happen for that. They have to respect me as the champion that I am, at the negotiating table. He’s going to have to understand that he’s no longer the man. I’ve been hearing about 50-50 in the paper, it’s ridiculous. They need to understand and recognize where he’s at. I don’t need Roy Jones, JR. All I’m saying is that if they want the fight, put the money on the table and show me that they want it and respect me as the champion that I am, and maybe we can give the fans a trilogy. Obviously, Roy has a lot of fans that believe in him. The man deserves, for all that he’s done for the boxing business, an opportunity at vindication, but it’s going to come at a hefty price!
DB: Some have said that you finally exposed Roy Jones as an ordinary fighter who has dominated hand-picked opposition. Do you agree with that assessment of Jones, or do you think he is the special fighter that everyone considered him before you destroyed him with one punch?
No, I disagree. He’s still the gifted, talented fighter that he’s always been. He’s just met a man who has just as much talent and ability. We two are the best fighters in the world, bar none. I can’t understand why people don’t understand where I am in my game, where I’ve always been in my game. That goes to show that these so-called purists and experts don’t know their ass from a hole in the ground. They wouldn’t know talent if it shot them in the face. And they continue to doubt my ability as a champion. There hasn’t been a fighter with this much dynamism, this much charisma, since Muhammad Ali, and they’re afraid to bow down and understand that they’ve been wrong about me.
DB: Antonio, I know things have been very hectic for you, and I would like to thank you for your time.
You’re very welcome.