The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board voted unanimously at a public hearing Thursday to uphold commissioner Larry Hazzard Sr.'s decision to suspend heavyweight Antonio Tarver for six months for failing a drug test related to his Aug. 14 draw against Steve Cunningham at the Prudential Center in Newark.
However, rather than having the suspension commence as of Thursday's ruling, as it normally would in New Jersey, Tarver was given credit for time served. The former light heavyweight world champion appeared at the hearing with his attorneys, testified and was cross-examined, and now he is free to apply for a license next week, as long as he pays the $50,000 fine levied against him.
That could be a major problem for Tarver, 47, of Tampa, because even though he has earned millions in his career and received a purse of $250,000 for the fight against Cunningham, he is deeply in debt.
He is years behind on child support for a 14-year-old daughter. He owes $779,000, for which a Hillsborough County, Florida, magistrate recently found him in "willful contempt" of his child support order. He was ordered to turn over his 2010 Mercedes SUV (valued at around $19,000), title belts and 1996 Olympic bronze medal so they could be sold to help pay the debt -- or face possible jail time.
Tarver's financial affidavit filed with the court in December said he has not filed a federal income tax return since 2007, which could also have him in hot water with the IRS.
What's more, even though New Jersey has closed the case on his failed drug test -- unless he appeals the decision -- Tarver faces even more trouble in the state.
Anyone wanting a boxing license must fill out a detailed application. Section 4 of the standard New Jersey's boxer license form is specifically related to child support and instructs applicants to certify "under penalty of perjury" whether they have a child support obligation, in addition to other questions related to that topic. A yes to any of questions 1a through 4 "will result in denial of licensure. Furthermore, any false certification of the above may subject you to a penalty, including but not limited to immediate revocation or suspension of licensure."
According to multiple sources with knowledge of Tarver's application, he did not disclose his child support debt, and the NJSACB will likely punish him further.
"I have no comment on the child support application," Nick Lembo, New Jersey deputy attorney general and the board's attorney, told ESPN.com. "All I can say is that any child support issues were not adjudicated [Thursday]."
Tarver came up positive for synthetic testosterone, a banned substance, in tests conducted before the Cunningham fight, the main event of a Spike-televised Premier Boxing Champions card. The result of the bout will likely be changed to no-decision. Tarver tested positive in his 'A' urine sample taken a few days before the bout, but he was allowed to fight because the results of the test, conducted by a private testing firm hired to test for the fight, were not given to the NJSACB until about a month after the fight. A month after that, Tarver's 'B' urine sample also tested positive.
Tarver has steadfastly denied taking a banned substance.
"I'm here today to tell you I did nothing wrong for the Cunningham fight, and I'm not going to sit still and let these people destroy my life claiming I did something I did not do," Tarver said after the hearing.
Tarver claimed somebody set him up but offered no names or evidence.
"It's a frame job. I don't know what or who's behind this crap," he said. "But all I know is I'm clean. I'm clean -- period."
The failed test was Tarver's second in three years. Following a cruiserweight fight with Lateef Kayode in June 2012 in Carson, California, Tarver tested positive. He came up positive for the anabolic steroid drostanolone in a urine test conducted by the California State Athletic Commission. That result, also a draw, was changed to a no-decision. Tarver was fined $2,500 of his $1 million purse and suspended for a year.
The positive test also caused Showtime to fire Tarver as its ringside analyst and for NBC to fire him from his assignment to call the 2012 Olympic boxing tournament that summer. Tarver currently works as a boxing analyst for the Premier Boxing Champions telecasts on Spike, which has not made any comment about his future on the series.