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A good laugh ... Antonio Tarver yesterday
Michael O'Brien/WA News A good laugh ... Antonio Tarver yesterday

When you've flattened Superman and ended the career of Rocky, respect is not in short supply. But for Antonio Tarver it's as much the present as the past that is winning him the admiration of his peers - and nothing could make the lanky American happier.

Tarver, 42, and a four-time world light-heavyweight champion is in town on a whirlwind tour of Australia. He and Danny Green are hitting five cities in six days to help promote their fight for the WA man's IBO cruiserweight belt in Sydney on July 20.

The bout is Tarver's latest opportunity to beat the odds and write a new chapter in one of the sport's great tales.

It was seven years ago this week that the man from Florida thrust himself into superstardom by knocking out Roy Jones Jr inside two rounds of their rematch in Las Vegas. Tarver, written off as someone who got lucky in losing their first meeting by just a majority decision, had seethed resentment all through his preparation.

The frustration helped inspire one of boxing's biggest upsets - and one of its immortal one-liners.

"You got any excuses tonight, Roy?" Tarver sneered as the two fighters received their final instructions before the opening bell. Jones looked aghast. Soon after it was the boxing world that was open-mouthed as Tarver's left hook sent the self-proclaimed 'Superman' into orbit.

"Hahahaha, that was unbelievable," the father-of-two recalled yesterday. "I looked him dead in his eyes and he looked ghost white. He wasn't expecting me to say that. He wasn't expecting me to say anything.

"It came from the bottom of my heart. All through the training camp the critics gave him so many excuses, excuses, excuses. Excuses as to why I was even competitive in the first fight (Jones complained that he had lost weight too quickly when dropping from heavyweight to light-heavy following his historic title win over John Ruiz). And they robbed me, they know they robbed me. So second time, it felt so sweet. Just to get in there and say, whatever happens tonight I'm going to knock you out. No excuse."

The win over Jones, and victory in their third and final rubber, made Tarver one of boxing's hottest properties. A latecomer to the professional game - he won a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics aged 27 - suddenly new doors were opening, including the incredible chance to star in one of Hollywood's most successful franchises.

In 2006 Tarver got the call from Sylvester Stallone to appear in the sixth and final Rocky film - Rocky Balboa. This being the big screen, the fact Stallone's character was now in his late fifties was no bar to another crack at the world heavyweight title, although the Italian Stallion came up agonisingly short against Mason "the Line" Dixon, played by Tarver.

So how did it feel to end Rocky's career? Cue that laugh again. "Hahahahaha, I never looked at it like that," Tarver said. "It was an incredible experience and after I retire I'm going to get back into acting."

That time in Hollywood temporarily turned Tarver's head and not long after he was handed probably the worst defeat of his career when he was outclassed by Bernard Hopkins. He later regained the world title, only to lose consecutive contests to Chad Dawson and as the last decade wound up, so it seemed had Tarver's fantastic career.

But a victorious return last October, at heavyweight, convinced him he still has a future in the sport. As has his work as a knowledgeable ringside commentator with the Showtime boxing channel.

"I commentated Shane Mosley-Pacquiao the other week, that was amazing," he said "As long as they have me that's where I see my future.

"It really shows me everything I should be doing in the ring. I have a complete understanding what they're (judges) looking for now, how you win rounds, how you make sure you're entertaining the crowds. Now I've just got to transform that from commentating into the fight.

"I'm surprised how the fighters that we interview, how they respond to me too. It makes me feel good to know that I'm respected so much by my peers. When Pacquiao walks in and says 'Tarver' and gives you that big smile, because he knows you done something great in your career that he respects, it's a feelgood story. When I can look Sugar Shane (Mosley) in the face and ask him a direct question, 'what happened in the Mayweather fight?' and he can give you an honest answer, that tells me a lot. They respect. I've been there and they respect my opinion. It makes me feel good - it makes me feel that I did something right."