Coming off a 1½-year layoff, including a one-year suspension for testing positive for steroids after his previous fight, Antonio Tarver, the former light heavyweight champion, moved up to heavyweight from cruiserweight and drilled journeyman opponent Mike Sheppard for a fourth-round knockout on Tuesday night at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.
Tarver, who turned 45 last week, said before the fight that he isn't ready to face a top-10 heavyweight but wanted to use the fight with Sheppard to shake off the rust of his layoff and ease into his new division. He said he has a one-year plan, with his ultimate goal being to win a heavyweight world title, even though Tarver hasn't been much of a force -- or very active -- since losing back-to-back light heavyweight title fights to Chad Dawson in 2008 and 2009. This was only Tarver's fourth fight since 2009.
Key moment: Round 4. Although Tarver won the first three rounds, he looked sluggish. But then he began to look more comfortable in the fourth round, finally letting his hands go against the stationary Sheppard. Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs) scored a first knockdown on a well-timed left uppercut that caught Sheppard (21-16-1, 9 KOs) clean. Moments later, Sheppard went down for the second time under heavy fire. Tough guy Sheppard, bleeding from his nose, wanted more -- and he got it as Tarver, a southpaw, dropped him yet again with a nice overhand left, prompting referee Sam Burgos to call off the fight at 1 minute, 54 seconds.
We've got your number: 221. Tarver weighed a fleshy 221 pounds, 46 more than when he was at his best as light heavyweight champ. The 221 pounds was the same weight Tarver carried into his only other foray in the heavyweight division, in 2010, when he looked a bit shaky in a wide unanimous decision win against Nagy Aguilera.
Last word: Tarver says he wants to become heavyweight champion, and it's admirable that he wants to go about it the right way -- meaning, easing into the division and moving forward with a one-year plan. Sheppard was the perfect opponent to get started against, but for Tarver -- at 45, coming off a long layoff, not close to his prime and clearly not in top shape -- it looks more like a fantasy than anything that will become reality.