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ABC to televise Antonio Tarver's return bout


Aug 19, 2002
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Very happy to hear this news. Aside from the heavyweights, Boxing is not sick as many want to claim it to be. It's nice to see the mainstream media might finally be tuning into this idea.

Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver is not the only one making a comeback. So is ABC, a onetime stalwart of televised boxing.

Tarver (24-4, 18 KOs) hasn't fought since losing a lopsided decision and his light heavyweight crown to Bernard Hopkins in June, unless you count his movie victory as Mason "The Line" Dixon over Rocky Balboa in the sixth installment of the popular movie series (which came out on DVD this week).

ABC has been away from boxing for much longer. The last fight the network televised was on June 17, 2000, when Jose Luis Castillo upset Stevie Johnston to win the lightweight title in Bell Gardens, Calif.

Now, Tarver will return to the ring on ABC on April 22 to face New York-based Albanian Elvir Muriqi (34-3, 21 KOs), 27, a crowd-pleasing brawler known as "The Kosovo Kid." They'll meet in a scheduled 12-rounder in the 3,000-seat room upstairs at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. The one-hour telecast begins at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Promoter Joe DeGuardia of Star Boxing has been working on the time buy deal for months with ABC, whose sports programming is now overseen by sister company ESPN, which will handle the production of the event and feature "Friday Night Fights" broadcasters Joe Tessitore and Teddy Atlas.

With the Hilton locked in as the host casino and the deal with ABC awaiting nothing more than some paperwork formalities, the fight is on.

"I think it's going to be great for boxing and great for ABC, and the ratings will be very high," DeGuardia told ESPN.com. "It's a great thing for the fighters to get the exposure from a network like ABC. It's good for our sport. Anything good for boxing, I am for."

Tarver, 38, has been training for the fight in Vero Beach, Fla., with trainer Buddy McGirt.

"Antonio is anxious to get in there," McGirt said. "He's excited about being the first fight on ABC in a long time."

The fight will culminate a big weekend in Atlantic City for Star Boxing. DeGuardia is also promoting a Friday night "ShoBox" card on Showtime at Bally's, where junior welterweights Mike Arnaoutis and Kendall Holt will square off in a title eliminator. The winner gets a shot at titlist Ricardo Torres.

"We'll have an important fight on Showtime and then there will be an exciting fight with Tarver-Muriqi on ABC," DeGuardia said. "It will be a big Atlantic City weekend for us and a revival of boxing on network TV."

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