Before he gets a world title shot against fellow 1996 Olympian Wladimir Klitschko, the universally recognized world heavyweight champion, Tarver realizes that he has to get past former two-time IBF champion Steve “USS” Cunningham (28-7, 13 KOs) in their 12-round heavyweight showdown August 14 at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey.
WBA #9 Tarver vs. IBF #6/WBC #14 Cunningham is the main event on a Premier Boxing Champions series show airing live on Spike TV, the same network Tarver serves as its boxing color commentator.
“I know my purpose will set me apart from some great champions,” Tarver remarked. “I am supposed to be world heavyweight champion. I don’t know how but I will be world heavyweight champion. I truly believe that it is my destiny. Cunningham can’t stop me and neither can (Deontay) Wilder; he can’t learn enough to beat me. I’ll knock him out and get the one guy I really want to fight, Klitschko. When I beat him it’ll be the greatest story in boxing history. All the disbelievers will have to believe in ‘Magic Man!’
“Three years ago, I was buried six-feet under but they forgot to put dirt on me. Champions have to have resolve. I could have quit a lot of times. My resolve will make me world champion once again. No fighter has ever struggled like me and overcoming those struggles will make me world champion again.”
The ever popular Tarver realizes that, at 46, he isn’t the same fighter he as was in his early to mid-thirties, especially during a four-year, nine-fight murderous stretch between 2002-2006. As one of the world’s top pound-for-pound fighters, he shocked nearly invincible Roy Jones, Jr. in two of three fights, split a pair with Glen Johnson, defeated Montell Griffin, Eric Harding and Reggie Johnson, and lost to Bernard Hopkins.
“I know I’m getting older because the calendar flips over once a year,” Tarver said, “but I don’t look at it as me getting old. I’m not saying I don’t wake up in pain during training camp without minor injuries, but nothing can stop me.
“It’s not an accident that I still have my speed and quickness. I am better today in many respects because I’m smarter from all of my experience.”
Known as one of the greatest defensive fighters ever, Tarver is fighting for his legacy and rightful place in the Hall of Fame after he finally retires. And now comes news that he will become a grandfather in September. “When I do decide to retire,” Tarver concluded, “I’ll hand the torch to my son, (undefeated middleweight prospect), Antonio Tarver, Jr.”
Not only does Antonio Tarver believe he’s destined to become the oldest world heavyweight champion, he will become the first to do so as a grandfather.