Saturday night on HBO we get to see the two best light heavyweights in the world square off a second time as Glen Johnson meets Antonio Tarver in a rematch of their December 2004 bout. The acronym rulers of the sport tell us that Tomasz Adamek (WBC), Fabrice Tiozzo (WBA), Clinton Woods (IBF) and Zsolt Erei (WBO) are the best 175-pound fighters right now . . . but we know better.
Johnson emerged victorious from the first bout as Tarver did more than enough to win many rounds in decisive fashion, but then was far too inactive in others. Along the “punches-in-bunches” line, “Magic Man” went all out in many rounds, and then did little in other 180-second spurts. If the fight had been scored based on 36-minutes of boxing, Antonio likely would have won. Unfortunately for the Florida resident, boxing matches are scored in three-minute intervals, and he lost.
According to CompuBox numbers where “Every Punch Counts,” Antonio Tarver out-landed Johnson 296 to 217 in total punches and enjoyed a 220-140 edge in power shots. Tarver was more accurate throughout the night, was the busier fighter, and still lost.
The problem on that night was that Tarver was very busy in certain rounds, winning them by a clear margin, yet didn’t throw enough in many others, allowing Glen Johnson to escape with the win. The “Gentleman,” as Johnson now calls himself, took 115-113 scores from two judges while Tarver won 116-112 on the third card.
Generally regarded as a career overachiever, Glen Johnson is now 3-0-1 for his past four fights with victories over Clinton Woods for the IBF title (UD 12), a ninth round knockout over Roy Jones, and the most recent split decision win against Tarver that leads us to the rematch. I say that Johnson is an overachiever due to his recent record of 10-9-2 going back to his TKO 11 loss to Bernard Hopkins.
Formerly known as the “Road Warrior,” the Jamaican-born Johnson has made a habit of going into his opponents’ hometowns and leaving with decisions. Many fighters refuse to fight in Europe due to the fear of home-cooked decisions – but Johnson came, saw and conquered. From the Cayman Islands, Netherlands, The Bahamas, Aruba, Germany, Italy, England and all parts of the United States, Johnson has been there and done that.
Johnson is a 53-fight veteran and surely must be nearing the end of a solid, yet not spectacular, career. Tarver should be the “fresher” of the two, with just 25 fights in a career that started late, and both men are 36 years of age. At 6’2” Tarver enjoys a three inch height advantage over Johnson. He also fights from a southpaw stance.
Antonio Tarver, 22-3-0 with 18 KOs, is the harder puncher and we already saw he was the more effective fighter the first time around. While being the bigger hitter is often thought of as a recipe for knockouts, it also plays a huge role in wearing down the opposition and works to discourage them from opening up their own attack. Sometimes the best defense in fact is a good offense. When facing a durable fighter like Johnson, 42-9-2 (28 KOs), scoring a knockout should be left off the blueprint. Other than the TKO loss to Hopkins – in the eleventh round mind you – Johnson has never been stopped. That fight, back in 1997 for Bernard’s IBF middleweight title, was also the last time Johnson dropped down to 160-pounds to wage war in the ring.
The view from here is that Tarver will fight at a more measured pace than the first bout when he let his hands go in spurts. Most observers felt the “Magic Man” pulled it off the first time, and I think he will actually do it the second go-round. In his two prior rematches Tarver won both bouts by knockout (Eric Harding TKO 5 and then Roy Jones Jr. KO 2), although Johnson looks to be as tough a nut to crack the second time around as he was the first.
Betting prices vary in the -170 to -200 range for a play on Antonio Tarver, a notable step down from the -300 to -350 range the first bout went off at when he was a heavy favorite. Based on the feeling that Tarver won, or at least should have won, the first fight, the current price is rather attractive.
Official call here is to play it and lay it – Tarver over Johnson.
(All information is presented for entertainment purposes only.)