The August 14th main event in Newark, New Jersey’s Prudential Center evening features Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver (31-6 with 22 KOs) against Steve “U.S.S.” Cunningham (28-6 with 13 KOs). The bout will be a heavyweigh contest between two veterans who have been world champions in lower weight classes. The Spike telecast will begin at 9 pm. Here is what the boxers had to say during last week’s media conference call:
Promoter Lou DiBella: Steve is a guy who’s one of the highest character people in all of boxing one of the most well respected by his peers, by the press, by the media, by the fans because of the type of guy he is. He’s a family man, he’s a man of faith and he’s a guy that lays it all out in the ring. He’s never been in a bad fight and he’s never given anything but 110% and I’m proud to be able to promote a fight featuring Steve Cunningham. They will headline the evening in a 12-round heavyweight battle.
This is a match that both fighters must win. This is a must win fight if they’re going to continue at the highest levels of the heavyweight division Antonio and Steve don’t have a margin for error here. The winner will move on to a huge opportunity and the loser of this bout it’s a huge step back and maybe really the end of the line. So this is the kind of fight that figures to be a terrific match up and a must win fight that’s a recipe for a great fight.
Antonio Tarver is one of the biggest names in boxing for a long time. Antonio and I got to spend some time together because of the Rocky Balboa movie. He’s an actor and he’s a commentator for Spike now and one of the best in my view actually up and coming on air guys in boxing. Antonio I know you’re looking forward to this opportunity and you want that shot at a heavyweight title but you got to get through Mr. Cunningham. What do you have to say about that?
Antonio Tarver: Well it’s just like any fight I’ve had over the years. All of my fights have been huge fights. I can tell you I feel good going in. I’ve done the work. I haven’t underestimated Steve Cunningham at all. I have a great deal of respect for the man. His story with his daughter [who survived a heart transplant that some doctors refused to do because of the high risk] is really outstanding. But unfortunately we in the hurt business and this is boxing at the highest level and it’s all about opportunities.
There’s no fighter out there that has struggled and overcame like I have and it’s those struggles that are going to carry me through this fight and beyond. I hear his story and it’s heartfelt but the last three years of my life can’t nobody even comprehend. That’s what champions are made of. I truly believe God gives his toughest test to his strongest warriors and I’ve been tested and I’ve proven that I can go through and I can endure.
So this fight is going to be about who wants it most and that’s the bottom line because we both know how to pull our hands that’s not a doubt. But it’s going to come down to who want it most. He has a good distance, he’s long, he’s rangy and got good movement. He’s an active fighter. But at the same time, the boxing match within this boxing match is going to be a fight.
When the fight slows down, I’m going to be right there. I’m not going anywhere. He’s going to have to knock me out to take this victory from me. That’s the only way I’m going out there.
That’s the only way I’m losing is if I get knocked out because I’m in great shape. I’m ready to go. I know what this fight means to me, and the time is now.
I wanted a big name guy so that I could really put my skill on display. Steve Cunningham gives me the opportunity. I know he wants this fight bad; we both do. There can only be one winner.
I’m bringing it August 14th. I’m ready to go. my sparring is going well, my training camp is going well. I have a great trainer in Orlando Cuellar who’s on the line as we speak.
So we’re just ready for August 14, and we’re going to set the Prudential Center on fire. We know we’ve got some foreigners that are going to be coming over and they may bring a lot of fans. But we’re going to bring the show. Don’t miss the Magic Show on August 14.
Q: Antonio, there are a lot of rumors that you’re looking past Mr. Cunningham and to the next big fight. Can you please shed some light on that?
A. Tarver: No man, I’m not, I’m a veteran. I’ve been around the game forever and a day. I’m not ever going to be that naïve to look past a credible fighter like Steve Cunningham. That would be dumb of me.
I’m not looking past him, but I’m a realist. I can see the future too. I’m a realist. I know what this fight means. I’m not looking past him. But I am looking through him. Straight through him. He’s transparent. I’m looking straight through Steve Cunningham; yes. I’m not looking past him but I’m looking through him.
Q: Any predictions for this fight at all champ?
A. Tarver: You’re going to see a well-conditioned Magic Man doing what he do best and that’s winning. That’s it. I mean I’m not going to have no predictions. I mean I know I’ve got my hands full. I’m going to have to bite down on that mouthpiece. I’m going to have to pull that cup up and I’ve going to have to dig to get Steve Cunningham out of there, man.
I’m ready for that. I’m preparing for that war, a battle of attrition; it’s going to be a hell of a fight.
I predict that this fight can be a candidate for fight of the year because I know what it’s going to have to take for me to get this victory. It’s going to have to take the old Magic Man. I’m going to have to show you glimpses of the old Magic Man with the things that I’m able to do in the right.
If it comes down to making adjustments, I’m going to be able to make those adjustments. If it comes down to getting inside and letting them rip, I’m going to be able to do that. If it comes down to making him miss and making him pay, I’m going to be able to do that.
I just believe in my skill and my ability man, even at the late age of 46. It’s just a blessing from God that I’m even still able to do it.
So I’m walking through my destiny knowing that it’s not an accident that I’m here today. It’s not an accident that I had to go through what I had to go through to get here.
This is a purpose and its destiny for me. Nothing is going to stop me. That’s bottom line. I can’t wait to see this shit unfold.
I’m ready you and excited that I’m back on national network TV; that I’m back at the top of the game and everybody is going to be able to see for themselves. After August 14 there won’t be no more doubt about what I can do and my capability at 46.
My skills haven’t eroded. My timing hasn’t eroded. My speed hasn’t eroded. I’m still here and that’s what I want to show the world on August 14, that they slept on the wrong man; period.
Q: A lot of people have you as the underdog in this fight, and want to see a Tarver-Deontay Wilder fight? Can you stop all that from happening?
S. Cunningham: I’ve been getting counted out since I started challenging for a world title. I’ve been traveling to Europe fighting in Poland where nobody wants to go. Fighting in Germany, successfully defending my title numerous times, where nobody wants to go. South Africa, where nobody wants to go. I could care less about what anybody says. When I fought Marco Huck I was the five to one underdog and they threw the towel in on him in the last round. So I can care less about what anyone says. I’ve got to question myself to Antonio Tarver. He’s speaking about his respect for me and there is respect for fighters regardless before and after the fight.
But a lot of people who know fighters, they know that at a certain point in training camp a fighter is agitated, he’s ready to fight, and it’s time to fight. I’ve been at that point, so I’m ready to fight right now.
He’s trying to compare life woes. My daughter’s struggle and the struggle he said he went through in the past three years. Look dude, you can keep all the woes. You can take my daughter’s woes. You can take your woes. I don’t want them. Nobody wants those woes. We can’t compare that. I’m not into comparing life woes.
Now you say your life was hard in the past three years and nobody could understand; nobody could fathom. Have you been driving that Bentley you bought after the Green fight? You’ve been driving in a Bentley. You understand what I’m saying. Have you made over $500,000 in the last three years? I haven’t. I don’t have a Bentley and beating you is going to get me that; you understand.
So don’t try to compare. Nothing that you’ve been through that will not stand up to a damn thing Steve Cunningham has been through in his whole career.
A. Tarver: With all due respect, I think you kind of misinterpreted what I was saying. I know we both got struggles and I respect that. And no, my struggles may not be personal like yours, family oriented, and I respect that too.
But what I’m saying that the struggle that I had to overcome to get back to where I’m at right now today. After I got suspended, I can just talk all day about it. Losing my job; losing the opportunity to commentate in the Olympics; that meant a lot to me.
S. Cunningham: But listen, we can go all day. We could trade back and forth all day like baseball cards. You had troubles; I had troubles.
A. Tarver: No income. I didn’t make no income.
S. Cunningham: We’re going to get in the ring and match skills. I don’t want to hear about your woes. I’m actually sick about talking about my daughter’s situation because it’s out there.
A. Tarver: But look dude, I’m just giving – I’m giving you the utmost respect on that because I’d understand if it was my daughter, I understand that’s out of our control.
S. Cunningham: Well this is another question I have for you then. Where does all this utmost respect come from? A few years ago [when Cunningham badly wanted to fight Tarver as a cruiserweight], it was all, “who are you– you’re nobody.” Come on man, let’s keep it real. No Tarver, let’s keep it real.
A. Tarver: I keep it real.
S. Cunningham: I’m not one of these smart-ass, trash talkers who can run they mouth and get themselves into some money. I fight to get my money, you understand? So you’re that dude who runs his mouth so much. You’re a professional mouth-runner.
Yes you’re a great fighter but then you’re also a professional mouth-runner. I’m a professional fighter, period. You understand? I’m not jumping in the ring on August 14th to beat the hell out of Antonio Tarver. Do you understand?
A. Tarver: Hey, that’s your mission. That’s everybody’s mission. But at the same time, I don’t understand where you’re coming from because I’ve been as quiet as I’ve ever been before a fight. I haven’t really been digging at you about nothing. I’m giving you the utmost respect because I know you’re a warrior. I know you’re coming to win, and I know I’ve got my hands full. That’s why I’m busting my ass in training camp.
If you ask me, I think you’re taking me lightly. You’re overlooking me. How in the hell you going to break camp and go to Vegas and commentate, like you’ve got it easy. You feel me? I wouldn’t break camp for you, but you going to break camp for me? Good luck August 14th.
S. Cunningham: If you think me going to commentate for two days is breaking camp…
A. Tarver: You got a problem. You’re out your rabbit ass mind. You going to fly to Vegas and think you going to beat me August 14th, you crazy. You out your mind. You distracted.
S. Cunningham: I was ready to fight when they announced it. Do you understand me?
A. Tarver: You don’t know what’s coming at your ass August 14th. You playing.
S. Cunningham: Distracted? There’s no such thing as a distraction.
A. Tarver: I ain’t Marco Huck. When I knocked Danny Green out, none of them clowns wanted to fight me. I ain’t Marco Huck.
S. Cunningham: When you start looking like him in the 12th, then think about that.
A. Tarver: Whatever. Hey, enjoy your weekend in Vegas, bro. I’m going to be in camp. Putting on the fine touches – putting on the final touches to this great training camp I’ve had.
S. Cunningham: I’m going to enjoy it. I’m going to drink a beer. Man you going to be putting on final touches for a long time fat boy.
A. Tarver: Go to Vegas.
S. Cunningham: You need to be in camp for seven, eight, nine weeks.
A. Tarver: Ain’t nothing fat about me. Ain’t nothing fat about me, I’m just not a muscular toned guy. I knocked a lot of them out though. I’ve knocked a lot of muscular men out. Them the easiest muscles to box.
S. Cunningham: August 14. That’s it.
A. Tarver: Muscles ain’t never whipped me. I can’t believe you so irate.
S. Cunningham: I’ll see you August 14th, my man.
A. Tarver: I ain’t even did nothing psychological. I ain’t even got to play the psychological game. Your mind is already gone. Your mind already blown. Just the thought of August 14th, so it’s going to be easy pickings.
S. Cunningham: There’s no way in God’s green earth you could ever, ever attack me psychologically. I’m a war tested as a veteran of this country.
Q: I don’t know if you saw that fight, but tell me what you think at this point today, your advantages are over Steve given he’s proven himself in the heavyweight and other divisions.
A. Tarver: I wouldn’t say any advantage or anything. It’s just going to be two men in there and we’ve got to fight. I stand on my experience. I stand on everything I’ve accomplished in boxing. And I’m saying, whatever goes on in the fight, I’m going to figure it out between the 12 rounds. That’s what I’m saying.
I’m going to figure it out and I’m going to do what I’ve got to do to get the win. That’s all I’m saying. I’ve got the utmost respect for Steve and I keep saying that. Man this is one fight I don’t even have to be mad or even have to have no personal feelings towards nobody. This is just a fight that we’re in. It’s a business.
I’m not taking this personal, but I’ve got my work to do because I’ve got big dreams.
Ain’t nobody going to out-box me, period. The only way you’re going to beat me is to knock me out and that’s it. He got an opportunity to do that. That’s it. We’re going to fight and that’s the bottom line.
I ain’t got to cut no weight. I’m feeling strong. I don’t have the problems I had at light heavyweight. So I’m at my best and bringing it, period.
I’ve got the best defense in the game so, how are you going to hit me? I see it coming a mile away. Come on man.
The bottom line, I’m gone have to close my eyes for this guy to hit me because he ain’t going to be able to hit me with that basic stuff. You ain’t fighting no average fighter, you fighting an exceptional fighter dude.
You ain’t faced nobody like me. I don’t care nothing about all them European you’ve fought. I’m the Magic Man. I’ve got a thousand tricks up my sleeve and you it ain’t gone take but one to get your ass out of there, period.
S. Cunningham: You sound like you’re getting yourself up for the fight right now. Like you’re a hype man.
A. Tarver: I’m keeping it 100% with you Steve. I’m keeping it 100 with you boy.
S. Cunningham: Keep it 100 with me and let’s have this out.
A. Tarver: All the rest of the those guys you fought are basic robotic standup fighters.
Q: Speak on Tarver as you see the more fights that you watch, what the apparent weaknesses of Antonio Tarver?
S. Cunningham: The strength of Antonio Tarver is steroid use. Weakness is his mouth.
A. Tarver: Now that’s the most disrespectful thing. Because someone say you failed the test, that don’t mean nothing. You can go to GNC and get whatever you want. It may not be NFS certified.
But I spent my year. I did my time and that’s it. That’s behind me. That ain’t got nothing to do with right now. You looking for excuses already. Ain’t no steroids in my system bro. I don’t need no steroids. Never have, period.
S. Cunningham: The question was for me, now let me get my time.
A. Tarver: So I just don’t understand why you trying to shoot low. I can get off the phone man. I’ll see you August 14th. I ain’t got time to go through this with you.
S. Cunningham: Bye. Bye.
A. Tarver: I ain’t got time to do this with you. Because that stuff you talking is beneath me.
S. Cunningham: I’ll see you in a few weeks, bro. See you.
A. Tarver: Beneath me.
S. Cunningham Bye, hang up.
Q: Tarver, one question for you big man. Now, what’s the strengths and weaknesses of Mr. Cunningham?
A. Tarver: Man his weakness is me. He fighting me. That’s his weakness. He ain’t got no weakness as far as boxing is concerned. He’s a complete fighter. He has the heart, he has the durability; he’s a strong fighter. He’s going to be there to win but he’s fighting me. That’s the difference from everybody else he’s ever fought, he’s fighting me; period. A hungry, determined, focused Magic Man.
S. Cunningham: But how you hungry and you driving Bentleys? How you hungry and you making over $500,000 a year? I ain’t see those numbers yet bro.
A. Tarver: I’m going to tell you: because I’m not a prize fighter. I don’t fight for the money, I fight for pride. I fight for the glory of the game. It ain’t about no money. I make money. It ain’t about that. It’s about my name, it’s about my history.
This Hall of Fame run – this Hall of Fame run that I want to put the final chapter on my career. That’s it. It’s bigger than money Steve. It’s bigger than money.
Q: Antonio, is there anyone in particular that you would want to face, higher than your ranking, if you beat Cunningham.
A. Tarver: I want to face Deontay Wilder and Wladimir Klitschko. I ain’t got nothing else to prove man. I’m going to prove it August 14th. They know who I am. I’ve got five championships to my name. I don’t have to prove nothing. They know who I am and they know when I’m ready to fight, I’m going to tough out for anybody.
So I ain’t got time to be fighting all these non-descript fighters. I ain’t worried about ranked above me because my name carry weight. My name carry weight and that’s it.
Whatever I do on August 14th, my next goal is to become the Heavyweight Champion because it ain’t nobody on they resume that they’ve faced that can add up to my name and my credibility in the game of boxing.
Not none of them guys that ain’t never won shit in they whole career. So I rest my case. August 14th everybody can see where I’m at. After that I want to chop down one of these giants and that’s it, period.
Q: Steve, can you tell the viewers honestly, what weaknesses do you see in Antonio Tarver that you think you can exploit on August 14th.
S. Cunningham: The good thing about fighting a guy like Tarver is you – if you think you see a weakness than you’re fooling yourself. Like I said before in the beginning, respect is there most definitely. But fighting is fighting and getting prepared for a fight is mental and physical.
So our banter back and forth, that’s what fighters do also. But there’s no way I would disrespect myself to sit there and say that’s a weakness we’re going to exploit on Tarver. We’re going to beat him. You understand what I’m saying?
I mean and his strengths, like he said, he’s five time world champion. He’s a Fall of Famer already. He’s a great fighter. I think he’s a great fighter.
L. DiBella: I’ve got to say, I’ve got a lot of these calls. And the last 20 minutes or so were about the chippiest I’ve ever heard. So I think we’ve got a war ahead of us in the right on August 14, PBC on Spike, 9:00 Eastern Time; 9:00 Pacific Time. Tickets for the event are available at Ticketmaster.com, Ticketmaster outlets, Prudential Center.