Photos by Sumio Yamada
ANTONIO TARVER Drew 12 LATEEF KAYODE
Top judges have told me that in a close round they will often give it to the fighter who shows them he wants to win. Antonio Tarver was showing the judges that he wanted to win in Saturday’s cruiserweight title fight against Lateef Kayode and it earned him a draw.
This was obviously a bout that could have gone either way, it was that close. Kayode was awkwardly effective with his surprising strategy of backing up and fighting in spurts. Tarver was moving forward in the second half of the fight but often couldn’t quite seem to pull the trigger on his shots, which isn’t surprising considering that he is 43 years old.
Still, I thought that Tarver did enough to eke out the win. In rounds that were there to be won, Tarver won them by making the fight and sometimes landing a big, clean left hand from his southpaw stance, moving Kayode back and giving the judges a reason to give Tarver the round.
Kayode, a +300 underdog, fought well enough to bring victory within reach but he didn’t step over the line and produce the little extra that would have made the difference between a draw and a narrow win by decision.
For instance, there were rounds in which Kayode battered Tarver to the body. I didn’t think he did this often enough. Kayode, for me, needed to fight a little more like the younger, bigger, physically stronger man that he was, rather than trying to edge his way home in a clumsy attempt at being crafty. That said, he was one round on one scorecard from getting the job done.
When each man considers he was robbed you know that a draw was probably the right result. Kayode’s post-fight tirade was unseemly and a little unwise, seeing that he appeared to be asserting that Tarver, a Showtime ringside analyst, got some sort of favourable treatment because this was a Showtime-televised promotion. Was Kayode really saying that he wanted a rematch on HBO? Post-fight interrogator Jim Gray for once seemed at a loss for words, vaguely suggesting to Kayode to keep the networks out of it. Perhaps in the heat of the moment Kayode was forgetting that Showtime had televised his last four bouts (on the ShoBox series). Someone should have a quiet word with Lateef about biting the hand that feeds him.
This Showtime quadruple-header gave fight fans, by and large, an excellent evening of entertainment. Although the Austin Trout-Delvin Rodriguez bout was a bit too tactical for most tastes I found it rather absorbing. Trout, defending his 154-pound title and perhaps auditioning for a big fight against ringsider Saul Alvarez, boxed as if he was thinking a bit too much rather than letting the punches flow. Rodriguez looked the puncher in the fight but hesitated to throw the right hand, as if confused by Trout’s feints sprinkled with fast, almost sneaky, punches from Trout’s southpaw stance. Once Rodriguez got into a chess-match type of contest it was all over for him and after 12 rounds the unanimous decision in Trout’s favour was a formality, although the 120-108 score seemed extremely harsh on Rodriguez — yes, he clearly lost the fight but it wasn’t a shutout.
Unbeaten middleweight Peter Quillin predictably pasted the 40-year-old, long-inactive Winky Wright but I expected a little more from the fighter who uses the “Kid Chocolate” moniker. Quillin looked very good in flashes, knocking down Wright with a right hand in the fifth and wobbling him severely in the eighth, but he seemed to be easing off and allowing the veteran to get back into the fight rather than making a concerted effort to go for a stoppage win that would have sent Quillin’s stock soaring. Then again, Winky is so tough, gutsy and experienced, and has such a tight defence, that even at the age of 40 he is very difficult to get out of a fight.
Leo Santa Cruz was the anticipated punching machine in winning a unanimous, widely scored decision over Vusani Malinga in their bantam title fight but the South African southpaw gave one of the gamest-in-defeat displays that I’ve seen this year. Malinga looked like wilting from body blows in the eighth round but he gathered himself and kept fighting till the final bell.
For aficionados, it was a rare treat for a network to set aside such a large block of time as Showtime did for Saturday’s Four Warned event (and let’s not forget that Showtime Extreme started things off with the Sakio Bika-Dyah Davis bout).
The NBC Sports Fight Night series is rolling along nicely, and on Friday we saw a thrilling performance from improved junior middleweight Gabriel Rosado when he overwhelmed Sechew Powell in the ninth round. For seven rounds this was nip and tuck, but Rosado was always looking the stronger fighter, and after hurting Powell in the eighth round he simply ran right over him with some big punching in the ninth as left hooks, left uppercuts and right hands came crashing through Powell’s crumbling defences to send the New York southpaw to the canvas twice.
As good as Rosado looked, though, for me fight and performance of the weekend came in a junior lightweight 10-rounder when unheralded underdog Andrew Cancio picked himself off the canvas and battled his way to a unanimous 10-round decision win over the vastly more experienced Rocky Juarez. The TeleFutura main event from the Fantasy Springs casino in Indio, CA, was loaded with action, punch for punch in every round, with Cancio, 23, landing most of the punches. Juarez, 32, went into the bout having lost his five fights and he gave a very determined and competent performance in a courageous attempt to keep his career alive. Cancio, though, was tenacious, tough and had a fiercely intense will to win.
Moving forward behind a high guard, Cancio fired off an impressive array of punches — jabs, left hooks and left uppercuts, body shots from both sides. As hard as Juarez fought, Cancio fought even harder. Juarez was given an eight count when suffering an off-balance knockdown in the first round but he dropped Cancio hard with a right hand in the second. Cancio just kept driving forward, though, and when he dropped Juarez with a thudding jab-cum-hook in the fifth he had firmly turned the fight back in his favour. Cancio showed great ring maturity in only his 17th bout but Juarez never gave up and Cancio had to fight all-out in every round to secure a clear but hard-won victory.