Antonio Tarver raised his arms in triumph and climbed up on the ropes. Roy Jones Jr. smiled, gave his corner a high-five with his glove and admitted he was beaten by a better fighter.
Tarver retained his IBO light heavyweight title Saturday night with a unanimous 12-round decision over Jones, his second victory over his longtime rival in 16 months.
"He came to reclaim his throne, but it wasn't happening tonight," Tarver said.
Tarver won the crown in May 2004 with a stunning second-round knockout of the former world champion in four weight classifications. He nearly dropped him again when he hurt Jones with a right hand in the 11th round, but couldn't finish him off.
"I was good, but not good enough," Jones said. "I'm satisfied with my performance, and I realize I lost the fight."
Tarver improved to 24-3 in a career that has taken off in the past three years. Jones dropped to 49-3 and has lost his last three fights -- two by knockout.
The bout was the third between the rivals in less than two years -- and fourth overall including an amateur meeting that Jones won in 1982 when they were 13-year-old kids growing up in Florida.
Jones entered hoping to rebound from the knockout losses to Tarver and Glen Johnson that raised questions about whether he was washed up and should retire. Tarver's right in the 11th sent him reeling into the ropes, and the champion closed in to try to end the fight but appeared to tire.
Jones escaped from the ropes when Tarver swung wildly and missed, and finished the round even though he was blinking his eyes repeatedly, as if he was having difficulty seeing.
"He caught me with a good shot and I think that was the turning point in the fight," Jones said, adding that he has not made a decision on whether to retire.
"I'm a true champion," he said. "Being the champion I am, I may come back. . . . If I hadn't gotten hurt, I would retire. But you saw me, I kept coming."
The judges scored the fight 117-111, 116-112 and 116-112 in favor of Tarver, who threw 620 punches to Jones's 320. The champion landed 158, while Jones landed 85 -- or about seven per round.
"He was bested by a better fighter," Tarver said. "I didn't feel like he was intimidated. If I made a mistake he would have punished me."
The fight drew a sellout crowd of more than 20,895 to the St. Pete Times Forum, even though Jones did little to promote the bout -- turning down all requests for interviews during preparation and limiting his appearance at a mandatory prefight news conference to less than 20 seconds.
Toney Dominates Guinn
James Toney dominated Dominick Guinn over 12 rounds in Reno, Nev., to set himself up for another possible heavyweight title shot.
That could come against Chris Byrd, who successfully retained his IBF title against DaVarryl Williamson in a lackluster fight on the same card at the Reno Events Center.
"I'm ready for anybody. I'm a little rusty but now I'm healthy," Toney said.
Earlier, Byrd won a unanimous decision over Williamson to retain the IBF heavyweight title in a fight so bad it was booed every round by the crowd and drew warnings from the referee.