By Rocco Morales
Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver (29-6-1) failed to pull a rabbit out of his hat, had to settle for a draw and was fortunate to retain his IBO cruiserweight title against undefeated Lateef “Power” Kayode (18-0-1, 14KO) on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. In a fight that could’ve gone either way, it was Kayode who got off to a quick start to build an early lead only to then go on cruise control to let Tarver back into the fight to salvage a draw.
Tarver, after back to back losses against IBF light heavyweight titlist “Bad” Chad Dawson in 2008 and 2009, was able to resurrect his career by first going up to heavyweight to win a unanimous decision against journeyman, Nagy Aguilera, and then dropping down to cruiserweight to defeat Australian fighter, Danny Green, for Green’s IBO cruiserweight title. But, this fight was just Tarver’s second fight at cruiserweight and he was more than 4.5 years removed since his last successful a title defense, a technical knockout victory over Danny Santiago in defense of his IBO light heavyweight title. But, overall, Tarver had been relatively inactive in the last few years, splitting his time as a world champion with his emerging career as a boxing analyst on Showtime.
Kayode, meanwhile, has had no distractions and had fought numerous times in the last couple years on Showtime, including three decision victories in 2011 over fringe contenders, with Tarver sitting ringside analyzing many of his fights. It was this unlikely scenario that brought about this fight after Kayode called out Tarver, upset with some of the assessments that Tarver had made about him during the telecasts. It made for high drama and good television to match the up and coming Kayode with the aging five time world champion, Tarver, and thus a fight was born.
Both fighters appeared at the post fight press conference, although separately, with a disappointed Tarver addressing the attending media first.
“Being 43, it took me a few rounds to get going and I think that really contributed to the draw. From the sixth round on, I showed that I still had it. I caught him with some good shots and whether he admits or not, I hurt him a couple times. I felt like I won down the stretch. This is the first time I’ve had a draw on my record. It’s not a loss but I guess it’s telling me I’ve got to go back to the drawing board” said Tarver.
“A year off before you get back in the mix is just too long, especially on a 43 year old body. I’ve made a pact with myself, my family and my team that I’m going to stay busy and you won’t see me out of shape anymore. My corner had to jump start me in this fight but if there’s ever another fight with Lateef or another cruiserweight, you’ll see the dynamic Magic Man from the start” continued Tarver.
“I never thought in a million years that he’d run. I’m 43 years old, I don’t have time to chase nobody. He was in survival mode. He felt my power and he was leery. I was backing him up all night. I got the ring rust off and now I’ll go back to the drawing board to make sure I can start quicker the next time” said Tarver.
“I will consider a bout with any cruiserweight. You make it right, we got a fight. If it makes dollars, it makes sense” concluded Tarver.
Kayode then addressed the media with Kayode immediately apologizing to his meal ticket, Showtime, for saying that Tarver was given the decision due to Tarver’s employment by Showtime as a boxing analyst.
“I’m really happy about this fight” said Kayode, although his body language could not hide his disappointment.
“All I wanted to do was open the gate for me. I want to be a world champion.” said Kayode.
” I controlled the fight and frustrated him. I did a good job. All the time, I was moving, shaking, drop my hands but at a distance. He land some good shots. He was frustrated and looking for a knockout. I wasn’t frustrated, I controlled the fight” said Kayode.
“I know, in my heart, that I won this fight” concluded Kayode.