Both Jones, Tarver eager to make case in rematch

Champ says weight loss led to 1st-fight struggle

rival blames complacence

May 15, 2004|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

Even on the worst night of his professional career, Roy Jones defeated tough left-hander Antonio Tarver. In doing so, Jones said he earned more respect from fans than he did in dominating most of his previous 49 opponents.

"I conquered myself and my opponent all at one time. As a matter of fact, I got more credit for that fight than any other fight I have had to date," said Jones, who claimed rapid weight loss had weakened him.

"I had a lot of guys tell me, `I always thought you were a great champion,' but that they had always seen me when things were going my way," Jones said during a recent conference call.

"They say, `I never saw you when things weren't going your way. I never knew you had heart like that. I never would have gotten to see that if you had energy for that fight. I'm a loyal Roy Jones fan forever.' "

But Tarver vows to make "forever" end tonight at the Mandalay Hotel in Las Vegas when the 35-year-old native Floridians face off in a rematch of their brutal November bout.

On the line is the World Boxing Council light heavyweight crown Jones took by majority decision from Tarver (21-2, 17 knockouts), who dished out more punishment to Jones' face than any of his previous opponents.

Tarver said the only reason Jones (49-1, 38 KOs) -- considered by many to be the best in the sport, pound for pound - lasted the distance is because Tarver allowed him to.

Tarver said he had Jones on the ropes several times, only to back off and let him off the hook. "I had the man hurt a lot of times. If I knew they [judges] were going to job me like they did, I would have finished him," said the Tampa resident.

But Tarver, whose nickname is "Magic Man," added, "My bag of tricks will be emptied this time."

"I busted him up. I took the man's heart. The same thing is going to happen on May 15," he said. "But you know what? This time, I'm going to finish the job. I am determined to get Roy Jones out of there."

A Pensacola resident, Jones was coming off his World Boxing Association heavyweight title victory over John Ruiz in March of 2003 when he went after Tarver eight months later.

More concerned about getting the weight off - the muscular fighter said he dropped from nearly 200 pounds to the 175-pound light heavyweight limit - Jones said he "didn't take any supplements and wasn't eating right."

Jones, whose left eye was nearly swollen shut in the fight, also said he was suffering from an abscessed tooth.

"I had to dig down deep and really go," he said. "I knew I had to beat him and I had to find the energy to do it. I had to dig down deep into my heart and say, `Look, you're not giving up. You're going to win, so you have to keep going.'

"I took his best shots in Round 8, and after that, I thought the dude couldn't do anything more to me. I went to my corner and said, `Let's get this thing over with; come back and finish this dude off next time.' "

This time, Jones says he's trained properly. "I dieted so the weight came off as I worked on my skills," he said. "This time, I'm Roy Jones again."

Tarver became infuriated during a recent conference call upon hearing Jones' explanation of his "lackluster" performance.

"The man has every excuse," Tarver said. "Why doesn't he throw in a hangnail, too?"

Tarver also scoffed at the notion that his opponent will come in better prepared.

"It doesn't matter which Roy Jones shows up. As long as I'm across the ring from him, he's in a world of trouble," Tarver said.

"When I show up and I'm in shape, he's got a nightmare on his hands. What's going to happen when I'm in his face, laying into him in Rounds 6 and 7? In Rounds 7 and 8, I'll decide his fate. This fight will not go 12 rounds."

But Jones already is looking past Tarver, toward more lucrative bouts.

He mentioned a possible rise yet again into the heavyweight ranks to face either Mike Tyson or WBC heavyweight champ Vitaly Klitschko, after which, he said, he would retire.

"I've been boxing since I was 10 years old," said Jones, who could replace George Foreman as an HBO analyst. "That's a 25-year career. It's time to walk away, really."

Jones is expected to earn between $6 million and $7 million for the fight, depending on HBO pay-per-view sales. Tarver could earn as much as $2 million.

NOTES: Tarver recently filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, revealing he is nearly $1 million in debt... Felix "Tito" Trinidad of Puerto Rico will announce the end of his two-year "retirement" from the sport during a Las Vegas news conference today. Trinidad (41-1, 34 KOs) will face Ricardo Mayorga (27-4, 23 KOs) of Nicaragua in a middleweight battle Oct. 2.

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