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Antonio Tarver was inspired to box again by Roy Jones Jr – before beating him 14yrs later and starring in Rocky VI

ANTONIO TARVER was inspired to box again by Roy Jones Jr - the all-time great he knocked out 16 years later in Hollywood style before going on to star in Rocky VI.

Tarver shocked the world when he ended Jones' cloak of invisibility with a stunning left hand in their 2004 rematch to knock his former amateur rival off the top of the pound-for-pound list.

The slick southpaw proved the win was no fluke, as he outpointed Jones in the trilogy two years later before landing the role as Sylvester Stallone's opponent Mason 'The Line' Dixon carrying his movie-like career onto the big screen.

Tarver told SunSport: “It was a magical experience, from knocking out Roy Jones to then co-star in Rocky Balboa, the world was my oyster for a short minute in time.

“I’ll never forget all the people I was fortunate to meet, people I never thought I would be in the presence of. Man, I had a ride.

“I worked my way there and built myself up, and it was a beautiful moment in time and I’m always grateful for the opportunity Sylvester Stallone gave me and I want to believe I did the part justice and brought Mason 'The Line' Dixon to life."

Tarver retired in 2015 as a four-time and two-weight world champion but had it not been for watching Jones get robbed of the gold medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, the American would never have picked up the gloves again.

Feeling his life was "spiralling out of control" the Orlando born made it his mission to chase the gold that had eluded Jones.

But instead winning bronze in 1996, Tarver's road to glory culminated with clinching the light-heavyweight crown against Jones.

He explained: “I fought the pound-for-pound king at the time, Roy Jones Jr and personally I never thought that Roy and I would meet.

“I got back into boxing after seeing and witnessing Roy Jones compete at the Olympics. We had fought at 13-years-old.

“My life at the time was spiralling out of control at the time, and when I saw Roy Jones get robbed in Soul, I instantly got up, I ran three miles and my vision at that time was to capture the gold medal that eluded Roy Jones in 88'.

“That was why I got off the couch and started running, and I haven’t stopped running ever since.

“Roy Jones was a major inspiration to me to even start my boxing career as it was removed from my life when I was 14-years-old and I didn’t get back into it until I was 18 or 19.

“After the long hiatus, and by that time Roy Jones had gone on to become the most electrifying fighters that we had since in years, even decades."

Tarver was given little hope when he first fought Jones - who had just won the heavyweight title - but was left on the receiving end of a controversial decision when they first boxed in 2003.

But in the rematch, Jones - who seemed to have lost all his greatest attributes after returning to light-heavyweight - was savagely KO'd and never recovered, going on to lose seven more times before retiring in 2008 at 49.

As Jones suffered an overnight demise, Tarver shot to fame, but he insists nothing was going to stand in his way despite his underdog role in the title fight.

He said: “It was satisfying as it was a lot of hard work that I put in. It just happened to be Roy Jones, but it could have been anyone, I would have approached it the same way as my desire to become champion was bigger than anything.

“Nothing was going to stand in my way, it could have been Marvin Haggler, Sugar Ray Leonord, any great fighter you could name.

“I had to become champion, something inside of me had to become champion it was born inside of me and I had to get it out.

“It was my dream and my destiny."

The historic win caught the eye of actor and director Stallone, who was looking to cast a real boxer for the sixth instalment of his Rocky franchise, as he believed it would be easier to teach a fighter how to act rather than have an actor box convincingly.

But Tarver - who put on 25lb to play heavyweight Dixon - reveals it was him who taught Sly a thing or two on set, after being handed the reigns to direct all the fighting scenes, a move he believes has revolutionised Rocky and Creed films.

He said: “When I look back at it Sylvester Stallone really trusted me. He pretty much gave me the green light when it came down to creating the fight scenes.

“He pretty much trusted me and my experience and knowledge of the game and I pretty much directed the fight scenes.

“He had the same script for 1,2,3 4 and 5 - he had the same script and Sly wanted to do it better, he wanted to be more creative with the fight scenes and he wanted to look as realistic as possible.

“So I said, ‘OK, if you want it to look as realistic as possible, this is how it’s got to look’.

“And we did it, man. Sly is a talent himself, I learned so much on set. I felt like we really gelled and worked well together and I think the fight scenes really changed the dynamics of the Rocky Balboa series.

“Even in Creed you can see all the fight scenes are choreographed like a real fight, instead of an action scene."

Tarver retired a heavyweight, and now lends his hands in experience to training and managing fighters, including his son, Antonio Jr, a 16-0 middleweight.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, Tarver was working on promoting boxing events in the Tampa Bay area with his company Signature Punch Boxing.

The 51-year-old former ESPN commentator continues to break down fights though his Instagram series TarversTapes.

Tarver retired from boxing in 2015 as a four-time and two-weight champ

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