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Tarver finds positive in injury

After a hand injury, Antonio Tarver is back in good shape to face Johnathon Banks. AP Photo/Rob Griffith

Although heavyweight Antonio Tarver suffered a broken thumb while training for a Sept. 29 fight with Johnathon Banks, forcing the bout to be postponed, Tarver said he looked on the bright side. The injury, he said, gave him more time to train and get into shape, even if he could only use one hand.

"What was important is I trained through it, never leaving the gym, even though I was training one-handed," said Tarver, the former light heavyweight champion, who turned 46 on Nov. 21. “I focused on my mind and body. We were locked into the original date, but sometimes there's a silver lining when something like that happens. We made it into a positive by training right through. Hopefully, everybody will see the energy, power and conditioning in the fight when I am victorious over Banks.”

The fight was rescheduled and will take place Dec. 11 (ESPN2, 10 p.m. ET) on a tripleheader at the Pechanga Resort & Casino in Temecula, California, that also will feature former junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout (27-2, 14 KOs) in the main event against Luis Grajeda (17-3-2, 13 KOs) and Oscar Escandon (23-1, 16 KOs) taking on Tyson Cave (22-2, 6 KOs) in a junior featherweight elimination bout.

Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs), of Tampa, Florida, who will be coming off a 13-month layoff, is a southpaw and injured his left thumb near his wrist. He was in a cast for five weeks, then spent two more weeks in a brace.

"I've had long layoffs the last five years with only five fights. It's been frustrating,” Tarver said. “I'm hoping to get busy after this fight, as I get closer to the opportunity to end my career on the highest note, when I'm crowned heavyweight champion of the world."

One of the reasons for a 17-month layoff that caused him to be idle for parts of 2012 and 2013 was the fact that he tested positive for a banned steroid after a draw with Lateef Kayode in a cruiserweight bout. (It was changed to a no decision.)

Banks (29-2-1, 19 KOs), 32, of Detroit, who also serves as the head trainer for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko, will be coming off an 18-month layoff after a decision loss to Seth Mitchell in their June 2013 rematch.

Banks trained Klitschko for his Nov. 15 knockout victory against Kubrat Pulev while training for his own fight. Tarver said that probably was helpful to Banks.

"Any time you're training Klitschko has to help Banks," Tarver said. "He has the best of both worlds training the heavyweight champion of the world. I'm sure Klitschko shared strategy with him. I'm expecting to fight the best Johnathon Banks. Klitschko wants him to be successful, so I'm sure he let Banks share his training camp and his on-site trainers for conditioning. Training Klitschko can only help Banks."