Frank Mir has never shied away from going out on his shield, and when it comes to his first boxing match, he’s prepared to take Antonio Tarver with him.
On April 17, Mir competes in boxing for the first time when he meets Tarver on the undercard of Triller’s Jake Paul vs. Ben Askren event. Mir, 41, most recently fought for Bellator, but is best known for his run with the UFC from 2001 to 2015 that saw him win that promotion’s world heavyweight championship at UFC 48.
Mir holds 14 wins by knockout or submission and has been knocked out 10 times in 32 pro fights. When he steps into the ring with a two-division boxing champion, he’s going for broke.
“I just want to make a good showing of myself first and foremost,” Mir told MMA Fighting’s What the Heck show. “Look, I’m an example to my children and my children are smart. They’re phenomenal human beings, if you watch my Instagram you can see the things they’re already doing, my daughter and my sons. So I’m an example to them. When I walk out into that ring, my daughter’s gonna be in my corner. I want to make sure that when I walk out of that ring, my daughter’s proud that I’m her father.
“Regardless of how that fight ends, I’m walking out of there with pride. Hopefully, that means me putting my fist through Tarver’s ribs and he gets carried out on a stretcher. But if it comes out with an L, he’s still probably leaving on a stretcher. I might get outpointed, but I’m making sure that everybody knows I was there.”
Mir parted ways with Bellator in April of last year and is as surprised as anyone that his next move would turn out to be a boxing match against the 52-year-old Tarver, who hasn’t competed in over five years. Still, Mir says it was as simple as his management calling him up, telling him the offer was on the table, and then signing the contract.
The opportunity is particularly compelling to Mir because of Tarver’s history with Roy Jones Jr. Tarver and Jones engaged in a memorable trilogy of bouts from 2003 to 2005, with Jones winning the first encounter and Tarver taking the next two to win the series. Mir considers Jones to be a boxing hero and he’s excited at the possibility of getting one back for Jones.
“I’ve got to hang out with Roy a couple of times overseas in Russia,” Mir said. “He’s an incredible guy, interesting to talk to, every bit the person I thought he would be mentally as far as the knowledge of combat sports, warfare in general. To be able to avenge a loss for one of your heroes is always a pleasure.”
Mir was inspired by Jones’ recent exhibition bout with Mike Tyson, which headlined Triller’s first foray into the boxing pay-per-view world. Jones, 52, and Tyson, 54, made a good accounting from themselves in November, and when Mir saw the shape that they were in he felt vindicated with his own efforts to overhaul his diet and workout routine over the past couple of years.
If Tyson can look good on TV after 15 years away from the ring, Mir likes his own chances.
“Watching Roy and Mike, especially Mike Tyson, someone I can relate to, someone who really let himself go there through his late 30s and 40s,” Mir said. “There were times Mike was walking around 300 pounds, he wasn’t healthy. Now you look at him, he’s cleaned up his diet, his motivation, his training, and we got to see a phenomenal version of him. So that, again, as a fighter who’s getting older, I found it especially inspiring.”
Given Tarver’s accolades, Mir knows the odds are stacked against him, though he’s feeling less pressure as the one crossing over from MMA into Tarver’s realm of expertise. He’s doing the lion’s share of his training with coach John Wood at at Syndicate MMA in Las Vegas and they’re making sure to watch plenty of Tarver footage to see what habits they can pick up and possibly capitalize on.
From Mir’s own experience, he knows what it’s like to feel dominant in one’s field and be caught off-guard and he’s wondering if that could be Tarver’s downfall in this scenario.
“Sometimes I was too comfortable,” Mir said. “I was kind of like that black belt in jiu-jitsu who doesn’t train as hard anymore and then that purple belt who’s in really good shape and really hungry is coming after him and all of a sudden you might take him lightly. Here I’m in a situation with Tarver where the roles are completely reversed. Even though I am a very sharp boxer when it comes to the basics, there’s a level of boxing that Tarver’s attained because he’s a specialist in it that I’m never going to attain. I’m like a decathlete. I can only be so good at throwing the javelin. The guy who’s a specialist in the javelin is going to be better than me even though I’m obviously familiar with it as a decathlete.
“So being a mixed martial artist, I’m familiar with boxing and very good at it and very good at jiu-jitsu and very good at wrestling, but as far as a specialist, how can I beat somebody who’s a world champion? How can I know more than Tarver when it comes to boxing? So it really put me in a unique position to where now I’m focused on training and being in shape because look, I got the basics down, but all the traps and trickery and all that that’s usually on my side, he has. So I’m gonna have to make sure I show up in phenomenal shape so that I can keep a pace and a power output and use my size and strength and just really make sure that when I’m doing the basics everything I throw hurts and it hurts for 10 rounds.”