Antonio Tarver, for all his flair and success, will never be considered part of boxing's golden age. He represents a bright spot, however, as the sport has fallen from national consciousness and into niche fan membership. His iconic trash talk of Roy Jones Jr. before knocking out Jones remains an important piece of boxing history.
Tarver, 46, knows this. In a HuffPost Live conversation Monday, Tarver — an analyst for Spike's "Premier Boxing Champions"— talked of his optimism that the return of boxing to network and cable televisions can signal the ultimate return of boxing to the forefront of sports fandom. Boxing pundits hope shows like "Premier Boxing Champions" show, and NBC's pickup of boxing (which started Saturday night), mean good news for the sport.
"I think this is a new beginning for boxing, a new era. We get boxing back on network TV, man," he told host Ricky Camilleri. "I remember when I was a kid, watching all the greats: Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard. This is how these great fighters became legends, because they were in everybody's household. You couldn't help it."
Though his trilogy with Jones is now a decade in the past, his mouth is still feisty. Tarver says he remains far from retirement, and even has a plan to be the oldest fighter ever to capture the heavyweight title. George Foreman achieved the feat at 45. Tarver is eyeing a fight with fellow aging heavyweight Shannon Briggs next.
Tuesday's chat wasn't about Tarver's future, though. It was about the future of boxing. Tarver has already cemented his place in the sport's lore, no matter if he does win that heavyweight title or not. He wants the future Tarvers, and Roy Joneses, and Sugar Ray Leonards to be seen by everyone.
"We took boxing from mainstream and made it a pay-per-view type of sport. Everybody worked to get to the pay-per-view level because that's where you made your serious money," he said. "I'm not saying some fights aren't pay-per-view worthy; some fights are. But not all of them. We have to see our great young champions on a regular basis on network TV. I think it makes them more popular, it makes them more famous, and in actuality it puts more money in their pocket."
Watch the full HuffPost Live conversation here.
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