“Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon”

Appearing in: Rocky Balboa

“You’re looking at Mason ‘The Line’ Dixon. I’m the heavyweight champion of the world and unfortunately Rocky’s got to come back to see me.” said real-life World Light Heavyweight Boxing Champ Antonio Tarver in October, 2005.

When news of Rocky VI broke, it was reported that Tarver’s nemesis, Roy Jones Jr. was in the running for the role, but ultimately, Tarver took home both the belt and the role.

“Me and Sly have had a 10-year friendship,” Tarver says. “He’s the director and he wrote the film. He told me he wrote it with me in mind, that’s a big compliment.”

They call World Light Heavyweight Champion, Antonio Tarver “Magic Man” for a number of reasons – maybe it’s because he has made 23 opponents disappear in the ring; maybe it’s because his remarkable skills recall the sleight of hand made famous by Houdini. But more likely, Tarver is known as the “Magic Man” because in a short four year period, he has helped take a sport in the doldrums to the next level, exciting mainstream, sports fans as well as hardcore fight followers – a task many believed was impossible. That’s “Magic”.

During his first five years in the sport which began at the age of ten, he happened to fight a young man who would play a major role in his career later on – Roy Jones, Jr.

Following Tarver’s second-round TKO of Joaquin Garcia in his professional debut in 1997, he moved up the ranks without the media spotlight that was shining on some of his fellow Olympians. Tarver came up the hard way, fighting in front of demanding crowds in such boxing hotspots as the legendary Blue Horizon in Philadelphia. But these fights steeled Tarver’s resolve and helped make him the fighter he is today.

There was something missing though, and it was evident in June 2000, when the 16-0 Tarver suffered the first defeat of his professional career to Eric Harding. In a hard fought 12-round title eliminator, Tarver dominated the first half of the bout, but after having his jaw broken in the ninth round, it became an uphill battle, and Harding finished strong, knocking Tarver down in the 11th round en route to the decision win. It was a tough defeat to swallow, but Tarver showed his championship heart.

“I’m not making excuses, but if you look at the fight, I dominated until my jaw got broke,” said Tarver. “With the broken jaw, I was unable to finish as strongly as I wanted to. Look at the first nine rounds, it’s obvious who the better fighter was.”

Looking to erase the mistakes of the past to become a complete fighting machine from bell to bell, Tarver enlisted the services of former world champion, Buddy McGirt and conditioning coach, Dudley Pierce to help him reach those goals.

After allowing his jaw to heal, the new Team Tarver, which also includes his promoter Joe DeGuardia and Star Boxing, got back to work in 2001. The results were amazing. Previously unbeaten Lincoln Carter and highly regarded Chris Johnson were both stopped in devastating fashion, and in January 2002, Tarver earned a shot at the IBF Light Heavyweight Title with a 12-round decision win over Reggie Johnson, a victory that also earned Antonio the NABF and USBA 175-pound titles.

In July 2002, Antonio Tarver put his guaranteed title shot on the line against the only man to ever beat him, Eric Harding. It was a risky move, but one that only true champions will make. In just five rounds, Tarver avenged his defeat via TKO.

Nine months later in April 2003, Tarver finally got his world title shot and made the most of it, shutting out former world champion, Montell Griffin over 12 rounds to win the vacant WBC and IBF titles.

But, there was something missing, and that was Roy Jones, Jr.

In November 2003, Tarver finally pushed Jones into a title fight, and what a fight it was, a 12-round battle that saw the pound for pound king punished by Tarver like he had never been before. Yet when the decision was announced, Jones had regained his championship belts via a highly controversial majority decision.

A rematch came in May 2004, and with Tarver’s now immortal question, “You got any excuses tonight, Roy?” ringing in the ears of fight fans, one of the most memorable nights in recent history kicked off. Two rounds later, Tarver landed the shot heard ’round the boxing world, a single left hand that knocked Jones out for the first time in his magnificent career, and after years of blood, sweat, and tears, the world found out what Antonio Tarver already knew. He was a star.

Antonio was boxing’s talk of the town after defeating Jones, and he fulfilled numerous television, radio, and print media obligations after his amazing victory. And while some fighters would have been content with a couple of easy title defenses against unknown opponents, for Tarver’s first fight back in December 2004, he would face the second man to send Jones crashing to the canvas, Glen Johnson.

It was a bout that was an early Christmas present to fight fans, as both warriors – unquestionably the two best 175-pounders in the world – battled it out for 12 hard-fought rounds. Unfortunately, Tarver would lose a highly controversial split decision that night, a verdict many at ringside felt was unjust.

This is Antonio Tarver we’re talking about though, and past history showed that he was always twice as dangerous in a rematch. In June 2005, Tarver regained his light heavyweight championship by a 12-round unanimous decision over Johnson, re-establishing his supremacy at 175 pounds.

To many fight fans, Tarver’s win just reinforced what they always believed – that “The Magic Man” is one of boxing’s best, pound for pound. But the man Tarver took that crown from – Roy Jones, Jr. – was still not convinced, and on October 1, 2005, these two rivals fought for a third time in a match that the boxing world was eagerly anticipating. It was no surprise to the Magic Man’s fans that night when he nabbed both the title and the belt.