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Antonio Tarver Q&A: ‘I’m destined to become world heavyweight champion’

Antonio Tarver (R) Clinton Woods. Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images.

Antonio Tarver (R) clips Clinton Woods with a right en route to winning the IBF light heavyweight title on April 12, 2008. Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images.

Antonio Tarver will aim to put a frustrating year behind him when he meets Johnathon Banks in heavyweight action on Thursday in Temecula, Calif.

Tarver (30-6, 21 knockouts) had been due to face Banks in late September before a fractured thumb curtailed those plans.

“I kept a cast on for five weeks and a brace for two weeks after that,” Tarver told in late November. “What’s important is that I trained through and did everything but use my left hand to punch.

“I was in the gym with my son, who was training for his fight (on the date that Tarver had to pull out of). I didn’t leave the gym and kept my mind and body focused.”

It’s 13 long months since the former three-time light heavyweight champion last fought, stopping journeyman Mike Sheppard in four rounds.

“I never imagined being out so long,” said the recently turned 46-year old. “I pushed and pushed to get back sooner but for whatever reason it didn’t happen. I’m just thankful to be back.”

Despite his age Tarver says he intends to “give the division excitement” and become the oldest heavyweight world champion ever.

Tarver-Banks is part of a stacked Goossen Promotions card featuring Oscar Escandon-Tyson Cave at junior featherweight, Austin Trout vs. Luis Grajeda at junior middleweight and Olympian Dominic Breazeale fighting Epifanio Mendoza at heavyweight. Also scheduled to appear are Edwin Rodriguez and Sergio Mora, while young up-and-comers Terrell Gausha and Marcus Browne look to continue their progression.

Anson Wainwright – What are your thoughts on facing Banks?

Antonio Tarver – To be honest, Banks has two hands but he can throw only one at a time. My focus has been solely on me being in the best shape and condition for this fight.

AW – You’ll have seen Banks fight many times before – when you break him down, what do you see?

AT – Johnathon Banks is a formidable heavyweight opponent who cannot be taken lightly. He was raised in the Kronk Boxing Gym in Detroit and trained by the late, great Emanuel Steward, so from a technical standpoint he’s solid.

AW – This fight would appear to be a must-win for both you and Banks, is that how you see it?

AT – Well, at this stage of the game every fight is a must-win, so I’m approaching it as such. If I don’t win that doesn’t mean I have to retire. Hell, if George (Foreman) would’ve quit after losing to (Evander) Holyfield, he would never have beaten Michael Moorer.

AW – Banks of course trains Wladimir Klitschko. Do you see this as an opportunity to get his attention?

AT – I’m sure he’ll be watching.

AW – Your son Antonio Jr. made his debut on the original date you were scheduled to face Banks. Is he a chip off the old block?

AT – He is, and I say the apple didn’t fall from the tree. I believe if he stays focused he can be the next big thing in boxing because he has God-given talent and work ethic.

AW – In general what are your thoughts on the heavyweight division?

AT – The heavyweight division needs saving! There’s been one dominate force, the Klitschko brothers (Wladimir and now-retired Vitali). It’s going to take a great story, or an individual who can captivate the public’s imagination. I believe the David verses Goliath, the real life Rocky Balboa against-all-odds type of fight can really give the division excitement it hasn’t seen in some time. That’s what I envision.

TarverAW – You seem to be a relatively well-preserved 46, would that be fair?

AT – Yeah, I’m well preserved and when I think about why, I believe it has something to do with doing something great before I retire, and that’s becoming the oldest man in history to win the world heavyweight title. What else could it be? ÔǪ My goal is to perform well against a solid heavyweight who has had some success and a guy used to winning. This fight will make people realize that I’m a bona fide heavyweight who should be taken seriously every time I step through the ropes.

AW – Is there someone you haven’t faced or something you haven’t achieved that you wished you had or still want to achieve in boxing?

AT – I’ve achieved a lot but there were some fights that I didn’t get that I think could’ve reshaped my career as it stands. The Joe Calzaghe fight, which I never got. When I look at styles I liked mine against him, but he chose to fight a guy I beat twice and KO’d, Roy Jones Jr. Then, the Hopkins rematch. I think any of the two would have done wonders for my career, but I guess when you’re as dangerous as I was back then, it’s the utmost form of respect. But it didn’t help my cause at cementing my legacy.

AW – You previously worked on Showtime as the color commentator; Paulie Malignaggi is now doing that job. Would you like to get back into TV broadcast?

AT – I really enjoyed my time behind the microphone and I’m forever grateful to Showtime for the opportunity. I feel it was obvious that I was an incredible talent that brought unique insight to the game of boxing. I know in time God will open that door, or another, so that I can do what I do best and that’s talk boxing.

AW – Though you’re now at heavyweight you fought much of your career at light heavyweight. Would fighting for a cruiserweight world title interest you? Guys like Marco Huck and Yoan Pablo Hernandez are big names in Europe.

AT – Those were two guys who could’ve made the division hot but, again, I called out and challenged Marco Huck repeatedly. Just like most of the European fighters, they won’t acknowledge me. I guess they learned from Danny Green. They know when I come, I come to KO somebody.

AW – In closing do you have a message for Banks?

AT – I really don’t have anything to say to Banks. I just want to say that the Magic Man is back and I’m going to educate the whole boxing world on what it really takes to be a great fighter. I’ll display how a smaller man can break big fighters down and KO these guys with combinations of sharp-shooting power punches. I’m destined to become world heavyweight champion and December 11th will put me one step closer to the most improbable feat in sports. Thanks to all my fans who still believe in MAGIC.

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected]and you can follow him at