You've got to like a guy with the in-your-face bravado of Antonio Tarver. He actually believes he can win this fight the second time around, that he won it the first time. He believes he's the real, true-blue, honest-to- God, authentic, light-heavyweight champ of the world. All he's missing is the title.
He was robbed of it last November.
Now, getting his second chance, he even believes he can win this fight early, that there are no special secrets to Roy Jones, Jr., that their first fight wasn't an aberration as much as a fact- finding tour. And Tarver found all the little answers he was looking for.
When you listen to Tarver talk about his fight with Jones on Saturday at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the WBC light-heavyweight title, (HBO pay-per-view), it's easy to forget you're listening to a prizefighter. His predictions and his promises and his slams against Jones all sound smooth and easy, a slick insurance salesman quietly telling you why you need to buy whole life.
You listen and you nod your head and you remember back to that first fight and pretty soon, you find yourself believing the guy. Or at least you find yourself believing in him.
After all, he almost won that one. A lot of fight people say he did win it. And maybe Jones really is a used fighter. Maybe Tarver is the one guy who knows how to beat Jones.
And then for a weak moment, you think Tarver can actually win this fight. Nah.
Tarver is like a guy who is about to go over Niagara falls in a tiny row boat. Somehow, he's convinced himself that he's not going to get wet, and now he's trying to convince you. And that's what's easy to like about Tarver. He's anxious to get in the boat and start rowing. He wants to prove he can stay dry. Deep down, you hope he doesn't drown, but you know he's going to get soaked.
Jones, meanwhile, has taken a different approach to the fight. He's like a hungry lion resting quietly in the corner of his cage, waiting patiently for his lamb chop to be tossed to him. He's not saying much, but you don't want to disturb him. You don't want to tweak his tail or pull his whiskers, or sneak up behind him and suddenly clap your hands.
As for getting into a name-calling match with Tarver, Jones does it in a subtle way.
“Why would Michael Jordan come out and get mad at a player that would come out and say how he would undo Michael Jordan?” Jones said on a conference call last week. “If you're coming off the bench, how can you say you're better than Michael Jordan? You can't get mad because the dude wants to run his mouth. I want to see what he's going to do. I want to see if he can back up all that he's saying.”
Maybe he can't, but he sure sounds pretty good saying it.