By Derek Bonnett: Showtime treated boxing fans to a quadruple-header of world championship boxing involving four SecondsOut ranked fighters. The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, USA played host to the night’s action with Antonio Tarver taking on Lateef Kayode in the main event.
Bad blood brewed between Kayode and Tarver after the younger Nigerian was offended by the part-time commentator’s assessments of his ring abilities. Tarver, 43, said it’s Kayode’s inexperience which prevented him from taking the constructive criticism, but the Freddie Roach trained fighter attributed it to a lack of respect. Fortunately for fight-fans, Tarver is still a full-time fighter and the war of words was settled in the ring. The twelve round cruiserweight contest was fought with Tarver’s IBO title on the line.
Kayode opened the bout with a controlled pace and some early success with the right hand. Tarver fought defensively as he observed Kayode’s game allowing the first round to go to his opponent. Boos from the crowd fueled a wild flurry from Kayode, but nothing landed on Tarver until he turned his attention to the body of his foe. Again, the busier Kayode appeared to earn the round.
Tarver connected with a nice uppercut early in the third as more boos rained down from the crowd. Kayode responded with a wild flurry of hooks to force Tarver into his shell. A steadier flow of punches put another round in Kayode’s pocket. Tarver put in some work to the body of his own in the fourth. Tarver boxed more effectively from the outside as his connect percentage jumped for his best round.
Kayode’s awkward, bum-rush attack put Tarver on his heels early in the fifth. An inactive Tarver waited on Kayode and absorbed some good right hands while trying to find his spots. Tarver’s corner excoriated him for not letting his hands go, but the fighter was unconvinced by their assertion that he had given rounds away. Tarver let his hands go again in the sixth and he backed Kayode up in spots more than any other time in the fight. A jab followed by a solid left hand sent Kayode’s head back as Tarver fought with greater fire in his belly. For the first time, the boos turned to cheers as Tarver won his most decisive round of the bout. After six rounds, SecondsOut’s scorecard favored Kayode 58-56 or four rounds to two.
Tarver resumed landing some excellent right hands throughout the seventh. Kayode appeared rocked in the final seconds of the round by a short right-hand, but he fired back wildly to the body to squash Tarver’s advantage. Tarver landed several countering right hands as Kayode’s attack began to fade. A straight left hurt Kayode late in the eighth after a fairly even round. Tarver evened up the scorecard 76-76 according to SecondsOut.
Tarver kept his advantage in the ninth as he began measuring Kayode with the left. A big left hand stunned Kayode and sent him back on his heels. Kayode squeezed in some good body work as both fighters showed signs of tiring. In the final seconds Kayode was again rocked by a straight left. Kayode resumed his pressure and attacked Tarver’s torso with reckless abandon. Tarver began walking Kayode down into the ropes where he targeted the less mobile Nigerian. Kayode upped his output at the midway point to possibly steal the round back. After ten rounds, the fight remained a toss-up on SecondsOut’s card, 95-95.
Kayode entered the eleventh round for the first time in his career and pounded several one-twos off Tarver’s guard. Kayode covered up better along the ropes and pumped his jab for some early ground in the round. Tarver’s hands slowed greatly and his punches seemed less stiff than just a couple minutes before. The Nigerian edged Tarver with better work. Kayode started the final round on his bicycle and pumped his jab at the air. Tarver now played the role of stalker as the boos returned from a lack of activity from both men. Kayode landed the cleaner shots in an uneventful round. SecondsOut scored the bout 115-113 in favor of Kayode.
Tarver declared himself the winner after the final bell, but the judges rendered a draw by margins of 115-113 for each man with the final scorecard even at 114-114.