Some fighters like to tell the world of their ring prowess and professional achievements, while others prefer to stay quiet and carefully build their reputation with solid performances. This weekendʼs IBF/IBO Light Heavyweight unification clash in Tampa, Florida features two boxers who perfectly epitomise those two very different moulds of men.
Sheffieldʼs IBF champion Clinton Woods is the quiet, unassuming type who would rather holiday in his caravan in Skegness than lavish himself with the finer things in life. He is the type of champion that is respectful and only shows his more frightful side in the ring.
Antonio "Iʼm prettier than a girl" Tarver is Woodʼs exact antithesis. Bold, brass and mouthy, listening to Tarver speak, you could easily be fooled into thinking that this man was the greatest to ever don trunks and gloves.
"If anyone has any doubt whoʼs the best light heavyweight, I will show them once again on Saturday nigh," Tarver said at this week's press conference. "I am delighted that Woods is here and sounds ready to fight, but like so many that fought me before him, his dreams and hopes will be dashed. There is only one true light heavyweight champion and thatʼs me."
The reality, however, is very different.
Despite being an Olympic Medallist and former undisputed l75 pound champion, the truth is that Tarverʼs name is known mainly for his victories over a very faded Roy Jones Jr and his role as Mason "The Line" Dixon in Rocky Balboa rather than beating a line of worthy contenders.
I donʼt wish to take anything away from the Floridan southpaw, he was once the top dog at 175 pounds, but Tarver his not one of the great fighters as he proclaims himself to be.
You would have to go back to June 2005, yes almost three years ago, to find the last time that Tarver defeated a fighter ranked in the divisionʼs top ten. That was a rematch win over durable Jamaican Glencoffe Johnson, who is also in action on tonightʼs card against WBC champ Chad Dawson. Tarver's been far from impressive since.
Tarverʼs thinking seems to be that because Woods was easily brushed aside by Roy Jones back in 2002, and he has since beaten Jones twice, although some would argue thrice as their fist encounter was controversial, then this will be a cakewalk for him.
Heʼs in for a surprise.
Firstly, when Jones stopped Woods in six, it was a prime Roy Jones, the best pound for pounder boxer of the time, and not the slower and easier to hit version of the Pensacola man that returned to the light heavies after mixing with the giants up at heavyweight.
Thereʼs also the factor of current form. Since Tarver starred alongside Sly Stallone in the aforementioned boxing movie, he has hardly been putting on vintage displays. In June 2006, Bernard Hopkins, aged 41 and coming up from middleweight, ripped the Ring Magazine title and the status of being the universally recognised as the number one light heavy from Tarverʼs grasp.
It was an easily night for Hopkins as he dominated proceedings and, at times, made Tarver look like a novice.
Tarver, originally from Orlando but now based in Tampa, has won his two outings since, but they have come against lower tier opposition. Last summer, he squeezed past New York based Yugoslav-Albanian, Elvir Muriqi, winning by majority decision. Muriqi was a club fighter at best, but many though heʼd done enough to win.
Then last December, Tarver stopped Danny Santiago in four. While knockouts are always good, the truth is that Santiago was coming off another stoppage loss and was there to be blown away.
Clinton Woods, on the other hand, has improved since he took the vacant IBF crown by halting Rico Hoye in early 2005. Heʼs shown amazing heart and determination in weathering the stormy moments and outhustling Glen Johnson and Julio Gonzalez each twice, as well as scoring a knockout of the well-schooled Jason DeLisle.
Woods knows what he has to do and, unlike his American adversary, is not underestimating the task in front of him.
Verdict: Tarverʼs southpaw stance may give Woods problems in the early sessions, but I see the Steel City hardmanʼs determination to hang onto the IBF strap he holds so dearly being the deciding factor and so Iʼll go for the Brit over 12 rounds.