"Bernard is a cagey fighter, but sometimes he's too cagey. Sometimes he trys to outthink everybody as if nobody's watching. He reminds me of an old, slick con-artist. First of all, he's been caught trying to do this before, with the Roy Jones incident. Anybody hits him anywhere near a rabbit punch and this guy falls for dead...The whole thing about it is this man, the man didn't even attempt to fight. Look at the tape. Chad Dawson knew that he was going to take that out because he was pissed off. He was furious that Bernard was even trying to cop out to that, an injury like that. And I don't care, you can get a doctor to say anything. You want to prove that you're hurt, I need to see an MRI. Where was the shoulder deformed? If you pop something out, you gonna see the bone sticking out of the shoulder...Bernard should have got off of the canvas and attempted to fight and not just hold his arm like he couldn't use that arm and like the arm couldn't move. He should have attempted to fight...He never attempted because in his mind, his mind was already made up. He made the decision to lay on the canvas and cop out to whatever shoulder injury he claims he had...He didn't risk nothing on Saturday night. I don't know how Bernard can live with himself robbing the public like he did. He straight up put the mask on and stuck up every Pay-Per-View buyer that night," stated former light heavyweight champion and current IBO cruiserweight champion Antonio Tarver, who had some harsh criticism about the performance, or lack thereof, of Bernard Hopkins this past Saturday in his clash with Chad Dawson. Check out what else he had to say about the fight, his own future plans, his take on James Toney's upcoming cruiserweight fight, and much more.
PC: What's up Magic Man? How is everything going?
AT: Ah man, we just got back in the gym and starting to train right now. We focused on getting in great shape. We don't know if we're going to stay at cruiserweight or go after this big title, man, in the heavyweight division. A lot of these guys have a fight lined up, but when the smoke clears, I will still be standing here and hopefully there will be some great, great opportunities out there for me. Everybody is busy right now, the cruiserweights and even the heavyweight champions. The only one that's out there, and he acts like I'm the invisible man, is Povetkin. I don't know what his whole situation is and what he is ready to do, but we put a challenge out there to him as well.
PC: Is that a tough situation for you, being in the gym right now, but not knowing whether you're going to fight at heavyweight or cruiser?
AT: At cruiserweight, I don't have to kill myself to make the weight. I'm usually around 195 or 190 and if I muscle up a little bit, I'm right at the weight limit, but with the heavyweight division, we want to be strong, quick and agile, so there are some things that we are going to have to do in our training to make sure that we can do that and be at a comfortable weight, and strength is most important when I'm fighting heavyweight, strength and power, you know what I mean? So we gonna want to be in phenomenal shape at about 210, 212 or 215; no more than 215. We want to still be able to bring the type of cruiserweight energy to the fight.
PC: At light heavyweight, you kept guys on the outside and used your reach advantage and you got your leverage on your left hand from out there, but at heavyweight, like you said on our radio show, you're going to have to fight chest to chest. Is that what you are working on right now in the gym?
AT: At heavyweight, it can be over with from one shot. These are big guys that can punch and that's something you have to be a little leery about. At light heavyweight, I wasn't really concerned about getting hit. I had my defense and I was comfortable there, but at heavyweight, I have to be more than keen about my defensive skills because it only takes one uppercut or straight right hand and it's lights out, so I understand that these guys are stronger, but with me, I want to be inside working. I bring all dimensions to the game. I can fight off of the ropes, I can be a pressure fighter, and I can box, stay outside, or counter punch. You try to perfect all facets of the game. At heavyweight, I'm going to have to be a pressure type of fighter. I can't let these guys come to me because I will be the smaller fighter. I have to get inside and pressure these guys and make them fight me, backing up, and be a very aggressive fighter. And that's cool because there is no danger inside. If I stay on the outside, that will give them the opportunity to line me up with their leverage, so that's going to be my key.
PC: It's gotta be disappointing for you to watch what happened on Saturday night in the Hopkins/Dawson fight because I remember watching you fight Harding with a broken jaw and you could barely spit your mouthpiece out in between rounds and put it back in. You took to Twitter to talk about it a little bit. Can you elaborate a little more?
AT: It's disappointing as a fan because they got these guys in MMA, man, getting their joints yanked on and they are not getting nearly what these upper echelon guys in boxing are getting. These guys are supposed to be throwback fighters, but seems to me like these guys are getting soft, you know what I mean? That's not a knock on Bernard. Bernard is a cagey fighter, but sometimes he's too cagey. Sometimes he trys to outthink everybody as if nobody's watching. He reminds me of an old, slick con-artist. First of all, he's been caught trying to do this before, with the Roy Jones incident. Anybody hits him anywhere near a rabbit punch and this guy falls for dead. It wasn't until the referee warned him, "Bernard, if you don't get up, I'm going to disqualify you," and he continued fighting. The whole thing about it is this man, the man didn't even attempt to fight. Look at the tape. Chad Dawson knew that he was going to take that out because he was pissed off. He was furious that Bernard was even trying to cop out to that, an injury like that. And I don't care, you can get a doctor to say anything. You want to prove that you're hurt, I need to see an MRI. Where was the shoulder deformed? If you pop something out, you gonna see the bone sticking out of the shoulder.
PC: Yeah, I really didn't see a difference in shoulder structure when him and Max Kellerman was trying to point out the difference.
AT: Really though, Bernard wasn't in excruciating pain. He was sitting there listening to the outcome of the fight with this bewildered look on his face. Man, if you are in that type of pain, you don't give a fuck who's saying what; you gonna be down somewhere and having them check you out and then take you to a hospital immediately because you are seriously injured. The guy looked like he took a way out. I don't think he is deserving of a rematch. If he wants to get back in line and fight his way back up to the top, that's what he needs to do, but he's trying to get 2 for 1 and that's a shame because I could never see Muhammad Ali or Sugar Ray Robinson, and these guys that fought with their heart and soul and laid their life on the line, I could never see them copping out like that. I fought 4 rounds with a broken jaw and in my condition, I could have quit in any round and been justified for quitting, but that's not in me. At the very least, Bernard should have got off of the canvas and attempted to fight and not just hold his arm like he couldn't use that arm and like the arm couldn't move. He should have attempted to fight and then said, "Look, I'm hurt," and whatever happened, happened. He never attempted because in his mind, his mind was already made up. He made the decision to lay on the canvas and cop out to whatever shoulder injury he claims he had.
PC: I agree with that. I mean, at the end of the day, it ended up a TKO loss anyway. I'm not in his body and saying I felt what he felt, but I have had reconstructive shoulder surgery and I understand what that feels like to have a separation. I too would have liked to see him try to give it a go as well.
AT: Exactly. Then there is the speculation that people want to give Bernard the benefit of the doubt, but you know what? He's been paid twice for something that he didn't do. He didn't work on Saturday night. He didn't risk nothing on Saturday night. I don't know how Bernard can live with himself robbing the public like he did. He straight up put the mask on and stuck up every Pay-Per-View buyer that night. They were counting on him to do something historically and he copped out on them.
PC: I think a lot of people are starting to give him a pass because he is 46, but at the end of the day, we're not putting him in the ring at 46. He's choosing to fight at this age.
AT: Exactly. That's also a good point. If you're going to do that, man, just retire. You have nothing left to prove, you have did it all, and now you can just get out of the way. Go lay down somewhere. Like I said, they gonna have to knock me out; I ain't going out like that. I ain't going out like that. It ain't nothing wrong with going out on your shield. What about the guy that has his nose split open, his eye cut, and he's bleeding like a pig on the canvas in a fight where he probably wasn't making $200,000. We put a lot of heart, guts and tears into this game and then you got some pre-madonna like Hopkins. I mean, Chad knew he was going to quit. Chad knew that when he fell to the canvas that he was going to cop out.
PC: Yeah, you can tell by the way Chad reacted.
AT: You can tell by the way he reacted as soon as Bernard hit the canvas. He said, "Man, get your ass up." That's what he said, and that's why Bernard didn't want no part of him.
PC: You named some old school fighters that wouldn't have went out like that. Does Hopkins put you in the mind of some other old school fighters, like Sonny Listen and Nigel Benn, who were more like bullies, but when their opponents fought back, they showed another side?
AT: Oh yeah! One thing about it, when Hopkins stepped in that ring, I could tell that he never thought Chad would be that big. Chad is a big light heavyweight. Everybody say that I was a big light heavyweight, and I was, but Chad is bigger than me. He has a real big upper body and he is a real strong and young kid. I think Bernard felt his power with the one right hand he got hit with, and I thought Bernard sensed it was going to be a long night. Chad was avoiding that right hand that he kept coming in with, and of course the headbutt following. Chad looked like he came prepared. He was in shape and at that pace...and I don't think Chad was fighting at his pace, but at that pace, he had Bernard pretty much where he wanted him and he was letting his hands go. He was going to open up on Bernard. I told everybody going into the fight that Bernard was going to look 46 that night. And that's not that Chad is a world-beater. I think Chad is coming up at the right time. I was 41 when I fought him, Glen Johnson was in his late 30's, and Bernard is 46. Chad happened to be 12 to 14 years younger than the top guys that were in the division, outside of Pascal. He came through the light heavyweight division at the right time and I think he deserves the opportunity to show the people what he really has. I tested him in the second fight, I think he was tested in the Glen Johnson fight, and Hopkins was supposed to do something that nobody has seen done, but Hopkins didn't come to fight. If Chad wants to avenge his loss against Pascal, I think he deserves that opportunity. I don't think he should put his career on hold or slow it down trying to rebuild a rematch with Hopkins. I don't know if Hopkins is sellable now because nobody knows what he is going to pull. Is he going to come in and fight like a champion and the self-proclaimed legend that he claims to be, or is he gonna lay down and try to sign an easy paycheck.
PC: He's a tough sell right now, for sure.
AT: I mean, for real. He got some doctor to go out there...I mean, look, show me the MRI because it didn't look that severe to me.
PC: Just going back into your situation a little bit, you are right, everyone is scheduled to be fighting someone right now. Is the goal to get back in there in early 2012 after the smoke clears?
AT: Yeah, that's pretty much it. We want to make the first available Showtime date in 2012. Hey man, look, we just trying to clear the air in 2012, you know, as far as the heavyweight division goes and as far as any big named cruiserweights out there. Just clear the air, fight big fights, you feel me? I hope Toney goes over there and does something great, and that's a fight I know people have been looking for and hopefully it's able to be made. That's where I'm at, man. I'm trying to fight the biggest fights available. I've been calling everybody out; they know I'm here and I'm not going to stop until I get that opportunity.
PC: You went to foreign territory and came back with a title. I know Toney is an experienced veteran, but do you have any advice to offer him to go over there and come back with that belt; obviously the knockout, but anything else?
AT: You know what, man? James Toney is an old throwback veteran. James Toney has probably forgotten more about boxing than guys out here doing right now will ever learn; trainers and boxers. I don't have to tell James Toney what to do. He definitely knows what to do. He just has to treat this as any other fight. I don't care how many fans are out there, they can't help him when he gets in that ring. It's just you and that one guy, and as long as James Toney focuses on that and check the crowd from the get go, and not let this guy jump ahead of him and get out running...He has to shut him down. As soon as this guy tries to make a move, crack him. You know what I mean? Let the world know and everybody in Russia know that its James Toney's night and that he's not going to be denied. I mean, that's what I did and I took it from every press conference and every time I went over there. I never bent on my abilities that I was going over there to knock him out because that was my only assurance that I was going to get back over here with the title. I was coming to knock him out and I didn't care who he had there as fans or who they had as the judges; it didn't matter, and I never wavered from that since day one. I said and preached the same thing and that's how I felt and that's what I believed, and it all came to fruition. So James Toney cannot waver on his beliefs at all on what he's going over there to do and that's win.
PC: Props to Showtime for recognizing your word play and putting you behind a mic. It's always refreshing hearing your commentary on Showtime. Is there anything else you want to say before I let you go?
AT: I just want to say, man, hey, I appreciate all of the support throughout the years and you can follow me on Facebook as well as Twitter @AntonioTarver. You can get all of the latest as far as boxing and you can ask me anything. I don't mind answering. You know that's not a problem with me.
[ Follow Percy Crawford on Twitter @MrLouis1ana ]