TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Antonio Tarver craves for respect as a boxer.

The IBO light heavyweight champion insists he didn’t get it after a stunning second-round knockout of Roy Jones Jr. in May 2004, so he hopes beating his longtime rival again will prove he’s no one-punch wonder.

Tarver and Jones, once generally regarded as pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, meet for the third time in less two years Saturday night, with Tarver’s title – and possibly Jones’ career – on the line.

“A lot of people are thinking I’m one-punch happy,” said Tarver, who lost by decision to Jones in November 2003, although many felt he beat the former four-time world champion that night, too.

“I’m a better fighter today than you’ve ever seen. I’m more focused. I’m more convinced of my ability. Whatever Roy Jones brings, I’m here to tell you it won’t be good enough. Not here. Not now. Not ever.”

Exactly what Jones is thinking heading into the scheduled 12-round bout is difficult to tell.

He’s declined all requests for interviews while preparing for Tarver. And, the prefight news conference he contractually was required to have this week began and ended with a 17-second statement spiced with a couple of expletives.

“I ain’t really got much to say. My hand’s fine. I’ve got no excuses,” Jones said in an apparent attempt to dispel reports he had injured his hand during training.

Ninety minutes later, promoters played a videotape of Jones’ brief appearance for Tarver (23-3, 18KOs), who knocked out Jones with a straight left counter in their second fight. Four months later, Jones (49-3, 38 KOs) was knocked out again by Glen Johnson.

“All these games he’s trying to play with Antonio’s mind, to me are not going to work,” Buddy McGirt, Tarver’s trainer, said.

“Antonio has been more dedicated this camp than I’ve ever seen him. The scary part is Antonio is really starting to find himself as a fighter. You might say: “He can’t get any more confident than he already is.’ But in the gym, I see a lot of differences.”

Jones and Tarver both grew up in Florida and their paths first crossed as 13-year-olds competing against each other at the Sunshine State Games in 1982. Jones won that fight, and Tarver has spent most of the past two decades trying to catch up.

And even now that he’s beaten Jones, he doesn’t believe he’s receiving the respect he deserves.

Tarver predicts a decisive victory, saying his opponent will have to be “the Roy Jones of old just to survive.”

“I’m ready to take care of my business,” Tarver said. “What you all didn’t see the first time around, and what you think you didn’t see the second time around, if you think it’s going to be any different, then you’re sadly mistaken.”

Although Jones hasn’t been talking, his camp promises he’s focused on one thing – beating Tarver.

“He’s 100 percent physically and mentally ready to fight this fight, and there’s nothing that’s going to stop him from doing so,” Jones advisor Brad Jacobs said.

“Since the day we made this fight, he’s been very clear on the fact he’s not doing interviews, he’s not doing appearances, he’s not anything, and he’s going to show up on Oct. 1. He stuck to his word.”

AP-ES-09-30-05 1725EDT

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