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In honor of dad, Tarver at 8-1 worth wagering

Sep 2, 2003 9:32 AM

It’s a fight I’ve been looking forward to for a few years now, with the date and site Nov. 8 in Vegas. Trouble is, I can’t wait for Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver.

Father comes first.

Let me get personal. On Nov. 9, in Coney Island, my family will celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. I bring this up because it was my father who taught me about the essence of gambling.

No, he didn’t teach me how to win. He taught me the No. 1 element:

It’s fun.

Without "action," how can most adults care about who wins or loses between Wisconsin and Minnesota, for example. I was a little kid when I remember my father betting every game on the college football line printed in the papers.

Action. The NFL can pooh-pooh gambling all it wants, but you know Seahawks-Jets games would mean little to most people if they didn’t have an over-under.

Lou Katz also taught his kid how to bet fights. Every fight on television, he had the left corner. Didn’t matter if Sugar Ray Robinson was across the ring. His betting partner always had the right corner.

My father didn’t have a bookmaker. He bet with a colleague from work in the commercial cake business. A dollar a game in football, pro and college. Same in basketball. They had a buck on every major league baseball game. And a buck on every fight that was on television and back in the 50’s, that meant watching boxing two or three times a week.

It wasn’t the money so much as having a "rooting interest." My father gave me his love of sports (otherwise, I’m certain I would have turned into a rocket scientist and been miserable).

Dad also taught me another thing. He always had the underdog. He had the left corner in the ring, but the right side of those long laundry lists of college games. Plus the points, of course.

I think that’s where I get my penchant for underdogs, which takes me back to Jones and Tarver, a fight I had been pushing for when Roy went up to heavyweight instead.

Too many so-called "experts" want Jones to stay a heavyweight. They want him to fight Evander Holyfield or Corrie Sanders. They most want him to fight Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson.

Lewis and Tyson, if they came to Vegas to fight Roy Jones, they should make the match at Circus Circus, not the MGM or Mandalay Bay. Tarver is a legit fight, a legitimate light-heavyweight talent for a man, despite his beating John Ruiz, is still nothing more than a big middleweight, okay, "supermiddleweight."

I’m just guessing that when Roy signs ”” Tarver already has ”” the line will be about 8-1. That means Tarver is going to be worth a flier. First, he can fight and he can hit. He’s better all-round than Corrie Sanders, a South African Jones would have to stay away from for a few rounds before attacking him late.

Second, Tarver is trained by James (Buddy) McGirt, who is one of the best trainers in boxing. I knew Buddy well when we were both New Yorkers and at the end of his brilliant career, when he was physically faded and had only one arm, this former junior welterweight champion had this burning desire to move up and fight Roy Jones Jr. at 160.

"I know how to beat him," he would tell me, without revealing any details.

His great trainer, Al Certo, used to say how Buddy could have beaten Jones, "if he were the old Buddy." But he knew McGirt was past it and just when it looked like the fight was going to be made against Certo’s wishes, Buddy tripped over a much lesser opponent. His career as a fighter was over, but now he says he was always meant to be greater as a trainer.

In Tarver, he has a tall left-hander with some pop. Tarver also has a mouth. He dominated the post-Ruiz press conference by calling out Jones, who promised him that before he was finished, he would give his fellow Floridian a beating.

That means on Nov. 8, for only the second time in his career, Jones is going to take a chip on his shoulder into the ring. The other time he did that was in the rematch with Montell Griffin, whom he blew away in the first round.

I expect he’ll attack Tarver, which means this is going to be a fun fight to watch. The only time Jones has been decked in his career was by another left-handed light-heavyweight who was promoted by one Joe DeGuardia. Name of Lou DelValle. That was five years ago. Jones is pushing 35. If he runs into a Tarver left hand, he could be in trouble.

It’s a fight where, frankly, I don’t need to have any "action." But you can bet I’ll be betting it before I leave to honor my father. He’ll probably think I’m crazy if I bet against Roy. I’ll point to my DNA.