Antonio Tarver, 173½, reclaimed his perch high atop the light heavyweight division, with a clear, though hard-fought, 12-round decision over a determined Glen Johnson, 173, in front of a thrilled Memphis crowd Saturday night.
Tarver, 23-3 (18 KOs), was focused from the opening bell, mixing hard and light punches in a high volume with both hands. His clear design was to prevent Johnson, 48-10-2 (28 KOs), from steamrolling and capturing rounds through sheer determination.
Of course Johnson was intent on getting close in order to land often, but Tarver simply did not let it happen. As Johnson rushed forward, Tarver met him with a barrage of short, tight combinations, with an occasional hard left to keep him from gaining momentum.
Johnson captured the 5th and 11th rounds when Tarver appeared to take breather. In the 11th, Johnson had Tarver on the run, but it was not enough as Tarver recaptured control in the 12th round to close strong.
Johnson ended the fight with a slight mouse under his left eye and was fully aware that the night belonged to Tarver.
“I have no quarrel” with the decision, said Johnson in a post-fight interview with HBO’s Larry Merchant. “I’m proud when I win and I’m proud when I lose – when I really lose.”
Tarver told Merchant that he is interested in a rematch “for the fans” and “for the money.”
Two of the ringside judges scored the bout 116-112, while the third judge scored it 115-113. I scored the bout 118-110 for Tarver.
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Former welterweight champion Ike Quartey, 156, survived a 9th round knockdown to win a close but unanimous ten-round decision over highly rated Verno Phillips, 155½, in Memphis on the Johnson-Tarver undercard.
Quartey, a native of Ghana, fighting only his second fight in five years, was wobbled in each of the first two rounds when Phillips connected with solid left hooks. It appeared early that perhaps Quartey had too many years of ring rust to throw off against a top fighter.
Quartey, however, warmed to the task in round three. He landed clean, sharp jabs and right hands to clearly take the round.
He also seemed to gain steam as Phillips appeared to resort to wide punches and faded as the fight progressed. Quartey repeated his round three success by sweeping all rounds up to round eight.
Round nine seemed to be more of the same – until Phillips dropped another tight left hook that dropped Quartey. Quartey held as Phillips was unable to put punches together to capitalize on his success. In the last seconds of the round, Phillips did land again and Quartey hit the deck, only to have the referee call the knockdown a push.
Quartey resumed his dominance in round ten and had Phillips in some trouble as the fight drew to a close.
I scored the bout 96-93, or eight rounds to two (two points awarded to Phillips for his knockdown in round nine) for Quartey.
The judges’ scoring was 95-94, 95-94, 96-93, all for Quartey.