Tarver-Jones a hot ticket

Published August 23, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Say this about Antonio Tarver - he knows his audience.

When his fight against Roy Jones on Oct.1 was announced, he promised it would sell. He promised he would fill the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa by himself if he had to. He promised the Tampa Bay area would go crazy for him and Jones.

Tarver was more on target than even he could have imagined. As of Monday morning, four-day ticket sales were over the 7,000 mark.

"That's a legit number," Times Forum spokesman Bill Wickett said. "And the gate is already over $1-million."

Boxing selling well in Tampa Bay is no surprise, coming on the heels of the Jeff Lacy - Robin Reid fight this month that attracted 15,000. That it is selling so quickly, however, is.

"We've already surpassed the gross that was there on the Lacy fight, and in one weekend," Tarver's promoter, Joe DeGuardia , said. "That's a great thing. The Lacy fight certainly opened the doors, and we've blasted them down."

Tarver may eclipse the attendance record set by Lacy, but not without the help of Jones, a future Hall of Famer and arguably the greatest light heavyweight in history.

That puts Lacy's accomplishment, and that of his promotional team, in perspective. Against a no-name that no one had seen, with only one previous fight in the United States, the St. Petersburg native pulled 15,000 into the Times Forum although it could be viewed on Showtime.

ONE-MAN SHOW?: Jones skipped last week's news conference and wasn't planning to attend the one scheduled for Wednesday at the Times Forum. So Tarver asked that it be canceled until both fighters (meaning Jones) commit to attending.

The sides are negotiating a date.

NOT SO FEROCIOUS: Fernando Vargas beat Javier Castillejo Saturday on HBO, but he looks like a fighter on the decline instead of a 27-year-old in his prime.

Vargas put Castillejo, well past his prime, down in the third round but showed none of the power that made him a hot commodity in 2000. Castillejo went the 10-round distance, even injuring Vargas' jaw as he lost a unanimous decision.

Winky Wright won't consider giving Vargas a fight after he wasn't granted rematch in 1999, but maybe he should reconsider. It's called easy money.

NEW STABLEMATE: Lacy and Wright have a boxing teammate, with Gary Shaw announcing the signing of three-time world champion Manny Pacquiao .

Pacquiao (39-3-2, 31 KOs), a former WBC flyweight and IBF super-junior featherweight champ, is scheduled to meet Hector Velazquez (42-10-2, 31 KOs) in a 12-round super-featherweight bout Sept.10 in Los Angeles.

RING ASIDES: David Tua , who was training at the 4th Street Boxing Club in St. Petersburg, pulled out of Friday's Heavyweight Heat card at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., after having a wisdom tooth pulled. ... Women's star Ann Wolfe (22-1, 15 KOs) beat Valerie Mahfood in Biloxi, Miss., and apparently will fight male boxer Bo Skipper (11-3-2, 7 KOs) next. ... NBA star Kendall Gill (2-0) beat Jason Medina (0-2) in a four-round cruiserweight fight Saturday.