The thing about Bernard Hopkins and Antonio Tarver is, they both talk a good fight, then they lace up their gloves and actually give you one.
It’s crazy. Guys who talk a lot aren’t supposed to be able to fight. That‘s just the way it is. A busy mouth hides a marshmallow chin, a grandma’s punch and a heart the size of a cherry pit.
Talk too much and everyone finally quits listening and walks away.
But not with Tarver and Hopkins. Ask them a question and your afternoon is complete, your calendar filled.
They‘ll go on about history and intangibles, and how things should be and why they’re not. They offer opinions, sermons, lectures and in-depth coverage. They rant, they rave, they complain and explain.
And then they go out and win world titles.
So what happens when you get the two of them in the same ring? A debate? A filibuster? A long chat?
I’m guessing the talking stops, at least for a few rounds.
We’ll find out for sure on June 10 when Tarver (24-3) and Hopkins (46-4-1) fight at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on HBO pay-per-view in a light-heavyweight fight.
For Hopkins, who can stand on his tiptoes and see the end of his career looming on the horizon, this fight gives him a chance to ease the disappointment of back-to-back losses to Jermain Taylor.
For Tarver, this is just another chance for him to get some of that long-overdue respect he keeps claiming and complaining he doesn’t get.
And frankly, that argument has gotten stale.
“Every time I fight someone, they want to look at all the negatives in my opponent, but they don’t want to look at the positives in me,” said Tarver, doing his best Rodney Dangerfield impression on a recent conference call. “Now people want to say Bernard Hopkins is over the hill, he’s old. But he wasn’t too old when Jermain Taylor was fighting him.”
I must be missing something. I thought Tarver was already a household name. At least it is in my house.
Asked why he didn’t think he was getting the respect he deserved, Tarver said he believed his name should be among the top three in the best pound-for-pound fighter category.
Of course, it all depends on whose list you look at.
“That’s how I feel in my heart, man,” Tarver said. “But I don’t see it. When you look at my gamesmanship, my craftsmanship, my ring generalship, my punching power – I mean, the things I had to overcome to get to where I’m at, on my own with my own two hands, it’s incredible. Guys don’t get to where I’m at the way I had to do it. And that’s beat everybody in front of me. I beat them all until there was no one left. I dominated this division. You tell me, have I got my respect? From where I came, no, I haven’t. I should be No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3.”
I don’t think you get to have more than one spot on the list. And I think Floyd Mayweather Jr., would be a hard guy to boot out at No. 1.
“So why no respect?” Tarver said, trying to answer the question. “I’m cut from a different cloth, I guess. If people don’t know by now, they’ll never know.”
I’ve always been a Tarver fan, but the constant whining has tired me out.
What Tarver hopes to do against Hopkins is slide into one of those top three spots.
“Bernard Hopkins is coming with all his legendary status,” Tarver preached. “He’s coming with the nasty Philadelphia type of reputation that he has and he’s still the same guy.”
Tarver insists that the June 10 fight should be measured up alongside all the other fights you‘ve seen Hopkins in – the De La Hoya fight, the Felix Trinidad fight, the two Taylor fights and the Roy Jones fight.
“You’re going to have to compare, and I promise you you’ll never see what you’ll see on June 10,” Tarver said. “You’ve never seen him out-manned, out-bested, out-strengthened, out-boxed, out-classed and straight flat knocked out. That’s what I have to prove.”
Only to yourself, Antonio.