Dan Rafael: Mike Sheppard

Rapid Reaction: Tarver wins

November, 26, 2013
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.

Tarver returns at heavyweight

November, 25, 2013
Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, out of the ring for 16 months because of a drug suspension, is making his comeback at heavyweight.

Tarver, who turned 45 last week, will take on designated opponent Mike Sheppard, a 38-year-old West Virginia club fighter who has lost three of his last four fights, in a 10-rounder on Tuesday night (Fox Sports 1/Fox Deportes, 9 ET) at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla.

"For this fight I was anxious to get back,” said Tarver, who is from Tampa. “I really missed boxing.”

After Tarver’s last fight, a cruiserweight draw with Lateef Kayode in June 2012 in Carson, Calif., he tested positive for the anabolic steroid drostanolone. The California State Athletic Commission suspended Tarver for a year, fined him (although it was a pittance, just $2,500 of a $1.1 million purse) and changed the result of the bout to a no contest.

Tarver maintained all along that he never knowingly took a banned substance, although the failed test cost him his job as a Showtime analyst as well as a gig that had yet to start as a studio analyst on NBC for the 2012 Olympic boxing tournament.

In Tarver’s only other fight at heavyweight, he won a 10-round decision against Nagy Aguilera in 2010. Tarver said he is at heavyweight again because he dreams of one day winning the title, as unlikely as that is.

“I wanted to go to heavyweight because if I was going to make my return, it had to be for something bigger than me. I had to set a goal and I want to become heavyweight champion,” Tarver said. “It gives me something to come back for, something to reach for, gives me a mountain I can climb. That’s when I'm at my best -- when I feel my back is against the wall and I am the only one that thinks I can do it. I have to have the mindset and spirit to get it done.”

Sheppard (21-15-1, 9 KOs) figures to be a soft touch for Tarver (29-6, 20 KOs), although he admitted that he is not ready to take on a top heavyweight yet. Tarver also knows a loss at this stage of his career probably means it’s over.

“I'm not ready today for the top 10, but I want to get right back to work,” Tarver said. “If I lose again, there’s a good chance I will hang it up. I don't want that loss to come and, hopefully, be heavyweight champ.

"After [Tuesday’s] fight, I am going to recuperate in preparation for my next fight. I don’t know who that is going to be, but I'm going to be ready. It won’t be long before I can call out the best heavyweights in the world and be a serious threat. I am prepared for whatever Mike Sheppard is going to bring. This is a chance of a lifetime for him. He knows if he can beat me, he can make a name for himself. I have to make sure I protect my name and my reputation. I can’t wait. This is my reintroduction to the boxing world.”

A step up for Olympian Breazeale

November, 13, 2013
Dominic Breazeale, the 2012 U.S. Olympic super heavyweight, is taking a step up in competition when he faces battle-tested Nagy Aguilera in a scheduled eight-rounder Nov. 26 (Fox Sports 1), Golden Boy Promotions has announced.

Breazeale (7-0, 7 KOs), a 6-foot-6 former college quarterback, will face Aguilera at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., in one of the televised bouts on a card headlined by the return of former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver (29-6, 20 KOs), who turns 45 on Nov. 21 and is moving up to heavyweight from cruiserweight to face soft touch Mike Sheppard (21-15-1, 9 KOs) in the main event after 16 months out of the ring because of a positive steroid test and subsequent suspension.

Aguilera (19-7, 13 KOs), who has won two fights in a row, is vastly experienced compared to the opponents Breazeale has been facing. Aguilera went the distance in decision losses to Tomasz Adamek in 2012 and Tarver in 2010 in Tarver’s only previous heavyweight bout. Aguilera also has faced top contender Cristobal Arreola and former titleholder Samuel Peter, although he was stopped by both. His biggest win was a shocking first-round knockout victory against former titleholder Oleg Maskaev in 2009.

In another heavyweight bout added to the card, although not scheduled to be televised, 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist Odlanier Solis (20-1, 13 KOs) and Kevin Johnson (29-3-1, 14 KOs) -- who both lost world title fights to Vitali Klitschko -- meet in a 10-rounder.

The previously announced co-feature will see rising bantamweight contender Randy Caballero (19-0, 11 KOs) face Jessy Cruz (10-5-1, 4 KOs) in a scheduled 10-rounder.

Also on the card, light heavyweight prospect Thomas Williams (14-0, 10 KOs) meets former title challenger Yusaf Mack (31-6-2, 17 KOs).