It was almost a decade ago when Antonio Tarver interrupted a post fight press conference at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas where Roy Jones Jr. was gleeful after winning the heavyweight world title.
Tarver interrupted Jones’ magical night with an open challenge in front of hundreds of reporters that angered the newly crowned heavyweight champion. That anger turned into acceptance that led to three fights including a devastating second round knockout of Jones in their second encounter.
Tarver truly was the “Magic Man” that night on May 15, 2004.
Ironically here we are in 2012, and a young upstart Lateef “Power” Kayode (18-0, 14 KOs) has verbally challenged the IBO cruiserweight titleholder Tarver (29-6, 20 KOs) to back up his disparaging words tossed against him. Those remarks were said by Tarver serving as an analyst during several Showtime telecasts of Kayode’s fights.
Tarver enters the ring against Kayode to not only defend his IBO cruiserweight title but back up his criticisms as an analyst on Saturday June 2 at the Home Depot Center. Larry Merchant must be envious of the match that will be televised on Showtime.
Words are cheap especially in this day of Internet blogs where everybody has a say and even the weakest can act the tough guy anonymously. Tarver gets an opportunity to back his word up.
“People value my opinion because I’ve fought in the highest level. Yes it’s put a lot more pressure on me now. As a fighter and commentator I’ve got to practice what I preach,” said Tarver by telephone. “If you can’t go demonstrate what you talk about people will look at you sideways.”
So here comes Tarver, 43, who surprised Australia’s Danny Green with a ninth-round technical knockout in front of his home crowd to take the title away.
“Danny Green didn’t want the rematch. He ended up fighting somebody else,” Tarver said.
Kayode is an extra tough cruiserweight whose sparred wars with a number of the best heavyweights in California such as Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola, Fres Oquendo and Alex Flores. Strength is his asset and he is tireless in the ring.
“He (Tarver) never said one good thing about me that’s why I challenged him,” said Kayode of Nigeria. “He said my punches were sloppy.”
During the opening press conference Tarver sat calmly listening as his young opponent spewed emotional venom regarding the challenge. The veteran of numerous world title fights has seen it all before.
“I’m going to break this guy down. I’m by far the most accomplished fighter he’s ever faced. I don’t think he’s coming in with all of the advantages,” Tarver said of Kayode. “I have the same attitude as he does. If he makes a mistake I’m going to make him pay. I’m not trying to get hit.”
Florida’s Tarver hopes a win over Kayode puts him in the sweepstakes to fight the heavyweight world champion Wladimir Klitschko.
“He done ran out of opponents,” said Tarver about Klitschko. “He just fought (Jean Marc) Mormeck. We’re going to take Klitschko too.”
“I tricked Roy Jones,” said Tarver about a possible showdown with Klitschko after beating Kayode. “Then we’re going to shock the world one more time.”
But first he must beat Kayode.
Tarver firmly believes that Kayode’s style fits right into his own firing lanes and the end result will be another victory.
“You want the guy to throw punches and throw punches. Guys in a shell are harder to break through their defense. I’m going to be relaxed and take my shots,” says Tarver. “If he thinks he’s going to bully me he is going to get a rude awakening. He ain’t the lion in this fight. I’m the lion in this fight on June 2.”
Kayode believes his youth and willpower will prevail.
“I will knock you down. I’m sorry to say this to my brother, but on June 2, you (Tarver) will have to go down,” says Kayode, 29. “He said I was too aggressive when I was fighting, but I’m going to show him aggressive on Saturday.”
The cruiserweight title will be up for grabs but there is far more at stake than a world title.
“God has been conserving me for something big. I haven’t had a whole lot of fights. Never seen me outclassed. I’ve always been taking care of myself,” said Tarver. “I have one of the most underrated defenses. It’s my boxing IQ. I just know how to fight. I’ve never been dominated or hurt.”
Somebody’s world is going to be shocked at the Home Depot Center.
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