Everybody recognizes Antonio Tarver as the best light heavyweight in the world, even if he doesn’t have a belt of the four major sanctioning organizations. His reputation comes from his recent victories over Roy Jones, but his success started a decade ago. When he competed among amateurs, The Magic Man was also recognized as the best light heavyweight around: in 1995, he won the Pan-Am Games, the U.S. and the World Championship (being, probably, the only man to win three major tournaments in the same year); in 1996, he won the bronze medal at the Olympics. Back in those days, only one of his wins can be described as controversial: the one against Pietro Aurino.
Today, the Italian has become one of the most respected fighters in the light heavyweight and cruiserweight divisions. His record is comprised of 34 wins (16 KOs) and only 2 losses, both in world title matches. He has been Italian and European cruiserweight champion. He recently won the WBC International light heavyweight belt (he just relinquished it). Technically, he is the most gifted Italian boxer, pound-for-pound, fighting today. He is ranked number 3 by the WBC, number 7 by the WBA and number 9 by the IBF. For some unknown reason, at least to me, the WBO doesn’t rank him even in the top 15. So much for uniformity in boxing rankings! In the near future, Aurino, should face WBC king Thomasz Adamek, but he would like to get the opportunity against Antonio Tarver. Let’s discover why.
Pietro, why do you want so badly a match against Tarver?
Because I’m still mad at him! I never forgot our match at the amateur world championships, in Germany. It was 1995. We were fighting in the third round of the tournament. The referee deducted me one point, on two occasions, for hitting Tarver after he (the ref) separated us. How many times does that happen, in both amateur and professional boxing? Have you ever heard of a referee deducting 2 points in a major event? Most refs understand that, in the heat of the game, one or two punches can be thrown after the stop. Anyway, the match ended 7-7 and the judges awarded the victory to Antonio because he threw more punches than me. That was the rule: it didn’t matter the number of punches landed, you had just to throw more than your opponent. I don’t consider that loss a real one, and I don’t think he was (or is) better than me.
But now he is the top man in the light heavyweight division. You recognize that?
Of course, I do. Antonio is a great fighter, better than the alphabet champions of the major organizations. I think that he always deserved a lot of credit, even before his two wins over Roy Jones. Honestly, I consider those two wins overrated because Roy was at the end of his career. In fact, so many journalists wrote that he should retire. I don’t think that Antonio, or anybody else, could have beaten Roy Jones in his prime. Roy Jones has always been my idol.
The rumors about your match against Adamek are true?
Yes, they are. My manager, Salvatore Cherchi, has been talking with the WBC. I should be the official contender after Adamek faces Thomas Ulrich (next October 15, in Germany).
Before the WBC title shot, you will face Stipe Drews. Are you worried for that match?
No way. Stipe Drews is a good fighter (29-1), but I will win easily. The match will be held in Naples, next November 11. I’m looking for it because Naples is close to my hometown (Torre Annunziata) and the European light heavyweight title will be on the line. In my career, I had the privilege of fighting in Torre Annunziata only four times. On August 15, 1998 so many people wanted to see the fight that they had to put the ring on the boardwalk: over 7,000 fans showed up. That’s a huge number by Italian standards.
The Naples’ fight will be your fourth of the year. Usually, high ranked competitors like you don’t fight so often.
I need to keep busy. I’m also training more than ever. In the past, the critics said that I didn’t train enough. It was true, but now I have changed for the better.
You don’t have many KO wins, but the call you The Killer. Explain us how you got the nickname.
I’m a killer for the precision and quickness of my punches. Maybe, I’m not the most powerful man around, but power alone doesn’t make a champion.
Let’s talk about the current alphabet champions.
I respect WBC champion Thomasz Adamek. He is really good and would be a decent opponent. WBA king Fabrice Tiozzo has his best days behind him. He beat Dariusz Michalczewski only because the [Pole] was without motivation. In fact, he never entered the ring again. IBF titlist Clinton Woods is overrated. I never saw WBO champion Zsolt Erdei in action, so I cannot express a judgement over him.
Why do you choose to compete in the light heavyweight division?
Because it is easier for me going down to 175 than moving up to 200. In the cruiserweight division, most guys are much heavier than me. There are also heavyweights who lose a few pounds just to enter the limit. In fact, you see many cruiserweights doing the opposite. Just think about Juan Carlos Gomez.
What about your loss against him?
We fought on March 11, 2001. The match was held in Lubeck, Germany. The WBC cruiserweight title was on the line. He was the better man. I don’t look for any excuse for my 6th round TKO loss. I just won the first round breaking both his eyebrows. I’m sure he remembers me. Against WBO cruiserweight champion Johnny Nelson, it was another story. We fought on August 4, 2000 in London. I lost (7th round TKO) only because I didn’t have enough experience. I don’t think much of him technically. He is not a complete fighter.
Alias The Killer
Birthplace Torre Annunziata, Italy. This town is close to Naples.
Division Light Heavyweight
Born November 16, 1976
Manager OPI 2000 Salvatore CHERCHI
Trainer Franco Cherchi
Record: 34 wins (16 KOs) 2 losses.