To be the best. It’s something that Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson have worked years and years to achieve, with much of that time being spent away from the spotlight, sweating in gyms, fighting on undercards, waiting for the opportunity to shine. Those opportunities arrived in 2004, and both fighters made the most of them. Now, on Saturday, December 18, the last major fight of the year may be the most important one, as Tarver and Johnson will battle it out live at Los Angeles STAPLES Center, not only for total supremacy at 175 pounds, but for the likely title of ‘Fighter of the Year.’
“It is an honor for me to promote a bout that I believe will go down in the books as one of the best light heavyweight championship fights of this era,” said Star Boxing promoter Joe DeGuardia. “Antonio and Glen are gentlemen outside of the ring, but in it, they will both fight ferociously to earn the respect of the public as the number one fighter at 175 pounds. And whatever the outcome is on December 18, these are two young men who do what true champions do – challenge themselves against the best.”
Tarver-Johnson, a 12 round light heavyweight championship bout presented by Star Boxing , in association with Goossen Tutor Promotions, will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing beginning at 6pm (PT) / 9pm (ET.) An exciting undercard packed with world-class fight action will be announced shortly. Antonio Tarver (22-2, 18 KOs) was an Olympic Bronze medallist for the United States in 1996, but many boxing fans truly didn’t get to know the boxer known as the ‘Magic Man’ until 2001, when after suffering his first loss to Eric Harding via decision, the Florida native rededicated himself to the sport and started tearing through the light heavyweight division with astounding ease.
By 2002, Tarver had established himself as the number one contender to Roy Jones Jr’s 175-pound crown. But instead of taking the easy way out and just waiting for his title shot, Tarver took on the dangerous Harding, the only man to beat him, and he knocked the former title challenger out in five rounds. In his very next fight, Tarver won his first world championships, shutting out ex-champion Montell Griffin in 2003 to earn the WBC and IBF crowns. It wasn’t enough though. To be the man, Tarver had to beat the man. In November of 2003, Tarver battered Jones like he had never been battered before, only to lose a controversial majority decision. But in the rematch, held on May 15 of this year, Tarver brought his own judges, sending shockwaves through the boxing world by knocking Jones out in two rounds.
“Gentleman” Glen Johnson (41-9-2, 28 KOs) has done his fair share of shocking the boxing world himself in 2004. After starting off his 11-year career with 32 consecutive victories without a loss, the native of Clarendon, Jamaica, suffered his first defeat at the hands of middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins in July of 1997. The loss would start a pattern where the soft-spoken Johnson would repeatedly wind up on the wrong side of hometown decisions and questionable officiating over the next six years. It would earn Johnson the nickname of “Road Warrior” because of his willingness to go into hostile territory to fight, but fairness was something Johnson wasn’t used to in the ring. In 2003 though, Johnson started to see a light at the end of the tunnel when he battled Eric Harding. After 12 hard fought rounds, Johnson had done his usual stellar job between the ropes and waited for the judges to take the fight from him. But it wasn’t to be, as the right decision was rendered and Johnson was on his way to bigger and better things. Later that year Johnson engaged in another controversial draw, this time in England against hometown hero Clinton Woods. But in the February 2004 rematch, Johnson won a clear 12 round decision to earn the IBF light heavyweight title. His first defense, held in Memphis on September 25, was unforgettable, as he dominated future hall of famer Roy Jones Jr. en route to a ninth round knockout win.
The stage has been set for Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson. But only one will be able to claim the title of undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world after December 18.
Tickets for Tarver-Johnson, priced at $25, $50, $125, $250, and $500, will go on sale Wednesday, November 9th and are available at STAPLES Center Box Office (open 9am to 6pm Monday through Saturday) and Team LA at Universal City Walk or by calling Ticketmaster at 213-480-3232. Tickets are also available online at www.ticketmaster.com
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