tampabay.com

Tarver stakes his claim

The Tampa resident, looking to cement his legacy, again defeats Roy Jones.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published October 2, 2005


TAMPA - They say that every great fighter has one great fight left in him, and Saturday night Roy Jones proved that was probably true.

Unfortunately for the Pensacola native, that fight was against John Ruiz in 2003.

In front of 20,895 at the St. Pete Times Forum, the new star in the light heavyweight division cemented his hold on his throne, and one of the greats was shown the door.

Hello, Antonio Tarver.

Goodbye, Roy Jones.

Tarver scored an easy 12-round unanimous decision, winning 116-112 on two cards and 117-111 on the other.

The Times scored it 116-112, giving Tarver every round but the last from the sixth on.

"Give a man his credit," Tarver said. "He was beaten by a better fighter tonight."

Tarver, 36, successfully defended his IBO title, but more important retained his status as the undisputed Ring magazine champ.

The fighters earned in excess of $4-million apiece plus a share of pay-per-view revenues, which were expected to generate close to $20-million from 400,000 sales.

Despite being booed by the hometown crowd, Tampa resident Tarver stalked Jones all fight in their third meeting and patiently waited for openings. Jones, the fan favorite, clowned around, stuck out his tongue and tried to show up his opponent.

A big 11th round by Tarver (24-3, 18 knockouts) sealed his victory. He almost knocked Jones down on a number of occasions, and nearly fell over the top rope while chasing Jones and staggering him in the center of the ring.

Jones (49-4, 38 KOs) seemed visibly hurt and wobbly, staying on his feet but wincing after the exchanges.

"Roy was sharp," Tarver said. "It was like playing chess. It was a chess game, and one mistake and I'm checkmated.

"The guy had resilience. You all (media) thought I was one-punch happy, but I passed my test tonight. I did my homework."

By the final round, all Tarver had to do was stay away and endure one final rally.

"It's hard to go out like I did (with two knockouts), and I'm satisfied with my performance and realize I lost the fight," Jones said. "Tarver could give me a hard time even in my best days at light heavyweight."

After complaining vigorously about a lack of respect last week, Tarver might have finally achieved that and more. The crowd seemed to turn in his favor late, recognizing he was the better fighter.

Tarver was never in trouble. Jones was his old self, dancing around the ring and playing to the crowd.

But after some impressive exchanges in the fourth and fifth rounds, which all three judges scored for Jones, he failed to let his hands go the rest of the fight.

Tarver landed 158 punches to 85 for Jones. Tarver threw almost twice as many punches (620-320) and landed 51 jabs to 11 for Jones.

"I'm not the kind of fighter that's going to go in and rumble with him like (Glen) Johnson did," Jones said. "That's just not the kind of fighter I am."

Jones, 36, said he wasn't sure if it was his last fight, but adviser Brad Jacobs said last week that the fighter would walk away if he lost and likely return to his role as an HBO commentator.

Once regarded as the finest pound-for-pound fighter in the world and the Boxing Writers Association of America's fighter of the decade in the 1990s, Jones will ride off into the sunset after salvaging some of his legacy. He won world titles at middleweight, super-middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight to ensure his place as a Hall of Famer.

Tarver might now escape Jones' expansive shadow after toiling as one of boxing's most underrated and underappreciated fighters. He has long wondered what it would take.

It took Saturday.