The two light heavyweight champions have met in the ring twice before, and the score is even at one win apiece. Who will conquer in their third meeting at Tarver vs. Jones III? For these two warriors this is bigger than a fight, it's bigger than the IBO title: it's about who is the better fighter. The highly anticipated match between two of the best fighters in the world is a trilogy which may go down in history. You don't want to miss a single punch.
Tarver and Jones first met in the ring as thirteen-year-olds at the Sunshine State Games in Gainesville, FL.; both went on to become Olympic Medalists.
But Fate stepped in from there. Jones became one of the most celebrated professional champions in boxing history, out-counterpunching and out-feinting boxers like Bernard Hopkins and James Toney, while Tarver had to claw his way to the WBC World Light Heavyweight Championship. But recognition seemed to simply escape Tarver. For him to be seen as the champ by many, he had to beat none other than Roy Jones, Jr., his old amateur rival.
Antonio Tarver has always been driven by Jones. The tall southpaw with quick hands and long reach had earned his shot by driving his way up the ranks to capture Jones' vacated titles, but first made himself known to many by hounding Jones at press conferences shortly before their first match, telling anyone who would listen that he would thrash Jones.
UFC/MMA NEWS states succinctly:
"[That] first fight wasn't particularly pleasing to watch. There was none of the great moves, stunning blows or quirky defensive moves often associated with the marquee fighter. It had lulls in action, with the main attraction appearing drained early and choosing to lie up on the ropes open to attack."
But unlike others who had met Jones in the past, Tarver showed up to the fight confident, ready to win and clearly not intimidated by the man before him. Tarver dominated Jones in the early rounds, surprising many. He landed crushing blows against Jones, while slipping Roy's counters. Jones would end up with a badly swollen eye, on top of nearly being handed his first legitimate loss. Being the champ he is, Jones stepped up in the final two rounds to pull out the November 8, 2003 match by decision.
The boxing world was stunned. Some were openly wondering if "the Don King-labeled 'Black Superman' had finally met his 'Bizzaro Superman'" in Antonio Tarver.
And then came the second fight, where the boxing world changed for good.
Tarver shocked everyone during the May 15, 2004 rematch when he knocked out Roy Jones, Jr. in round 2. To add insult to injury was Tarver's now-famous question to Jones just before the knockout, "What excuses you gonna use tonight, Roy?"
Tarver has personally called that statement, and the following knockout of Jones, "the greatest moment" of his career. "And seven punches later - seven is the number of completion - seven punches later Roy Jones is no more."
Did I mention there's no love lost between these two?
At a Sept. 12th interview with Boxing Insider, Tarver showed himself to be a man on a very single-minded mission:
"At the Ruiz press conference [before the second match], I told the world, I want your legacy to be intact when I knock you out...I told Roy Jones when he was the heavyweight champion, 'You're not even the best fighter in Florida'. And I got to prove it. So it's a spiritual thing when you think about it, man. And I'm just so thankful. Going through the transition from amateur to the pros - they can't deny me no more. I refuse to be denied. And I told the world that it will recognize, before it's all over, they will recognize. And now they do."
It's not really hatred, but more of a mutual envy. Tarver naturally envies Ray Jones for his outstanding success, and Jones envies his old childhood rival Tarver for hitting his real stride as a pro boxing champion while he may soon be coming to the end of his stellar career.
Jones and Tarver have fought twice in Las Vegas for the World Light Heavyweight Championship. On Saturday, October 1, at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa, FL, the final episode of this great trilogy will take place. On October 1, 2005, Tarver and Jones will settle the score, and this time there will be "No Excuses," presented by Joe DeGuardia's Star Boxing and Square Ring, Inc. and broadcast live on pay-per-view.
Sizzling ticket sales have been the norm since the box office windows opened for Tarver vs. Jones 3. The St. Pete Times Forum box office has seen lightening-fast business with no decline, leading the St. Pete Times Forum to expand capacity. What was once labeled as the "Fastest selling boxing event in Tampa history" has turned into a giant event which is sure to become one of the biggest boxing events in Florida history.
"We can't print tickets fast enough," said Sean Henry, Executive Vice President of the St. Pete Times Forum and the Tampa Bay Lightning. "Almost 12,000 are sold and backorders are in the thousands. This is the biggest boxing event in Central Florida history."
Said Square Ring's Brad Jacobs, "The legendary Roy Jones vs. World Champion Antonio Tarver in his backyard...there's not too much else you could ask for."
Tarver vs. Jones 3 will indeed take place in Tarver's backyard. It's a short drive from Orlando, where he was born and where he's been living since turning pro. Jones' own hometown of Pensacola is itself a seven-hour drive away, still close enough for his fans to attend. Tarver may feel he has the home field advantage, but Jones feels otherwise.
"You won the last time," Jones told Tarver. "Your hometown is Tampa so if I'm as really good as I say I am or really as good as I think I am I should be able to come to your town and get mine back."
"Yes I won the last fight and I won it in grand fashion," replied Tarver. "But in the last fight I predicted I would knock him out and I did. He now says he should win and that does not sound like a man talking with a lot of confidence. If he wants to impress me, make a prediction. Will you win or will you lose?"
Tickets, priced at $25, $50, $100, $200, $350, $600 and $1,000 are available at the St. Pete Times Forum box office, by calling Ticketmaster at 813.287.8844 or 727.898.2100 or by logging onto Ticket Master Tarver vs. Jones 3 Ticket prices do not include applicable surcharges.
The Tarver vs. Jones 3 pay-per-view telecast, beginning at 9pm ET/6pm PT on October 1, has a suggested retail price of $49.95, will be distributed by HBO Pay-Per-View and will be available to over 50 million pay-per-view homes. The telecast will be available in HD-TV for those viewers who can receive HD. HBO Pay-Per-View is "the leading supplier of event programming to the pay-per-view industry."
For your daily Tarver vs. Jones 3 updates, log onto HBO Pay Per View Tarver vs. Jones 3
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