Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Deal in works for Antonio Tarver bout
By Dan Rafael
Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver made a big impression in his first cruiserweight fight last July when he went to Australia and knocked out Danny Green in the ninth round in a mild upset, and he has no intention of letting up.
Tarver, who has aspirations to make an impact at heavyweight even though he is 43, intends to continue his assault on the cruiserweight division for now when he returns May 26 to headline an edition of "Showtime Championship Boxing."
Tarver told ESPN.com that he is close to finalizing a deal to face contender Lateef "Power" Kayode. The site has not been determined, but Tarver said that his adviser, Al Haymon, was working on a site in Florida, Tarver's home state.
"The date is locked in and Lateef Kayode and me will be a good fight," Tarver said. "People will see what I'm doing at 43 and realize that age is nothing but a number. Kayode is a fight I'd like to have. I will be in great, great shape, show my boxing ability, and I should be able to win that fight."
The Tarver camp had been in talks with cruiserweight titleholder Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, but he has a mandatory defense to make and that deal did not pan out, prompting talks with Kayode, who like Tarver, is promoted by Gary Shaw.
"It's very close to being done," Shaw told ESPN.com. "Kayode will have to be at his best to beat Tarver. He is a big puncher, but has not looked sharp in his last few outings. Tarver is a very smart fighter with lots of tools in his arsenal. He could very well give Kayode a boxing lesson. But should (Tarver) decide to trade, it will be very interesting."
A Tarver-Kayode fight has been brewing since last year. In addition to boxing, Tarver also works as a Showtime commentator and has called pervious Kayode fights on the "ShoBox: The New Generation" series, and he has not always been so kind to him in his analysis.
Tarver was critical of Kayode's performance in a decision victory against Nick Ianuzzi in February 2011, a fight many thought Ianuzzi won.
"He took offense to my commentary in that fight with Ianuzzi. He said he thought I didn't like him and that I wasn't calling his fight right," Tarver said. "I told him I called it like I saw it and said the things he could improve on. I said my job as an announcer is to call things as I see them and he took offense to what I said. I heard later that he called me out on some video on YouTube. Well be careful what you ask for and never disrespect your elders. He should have learned that by now."
Tarver then joked that maybe he could also commentate on his own fight for Showtime.
"As he (Kayode) has moved up the ladder with his competition, he has struggled, but we won't take anyone lightly," Tarver said. "I feel I would have to be the favorite in the fight."
Tarver said he is already training for the fight and looking forward to finalizing the deal with Kayode (18-0, 14 KOs), a 29-year-old Nigeria native who lives in Los Angeles and has only been a pro since 2008 -- the last year in which Tarver held a major world title. However, Kayode works with trainer Freddie Roach and is a strong and powerful fighter.
"He's a power puncher and very aggressive, and I'm sure Freddie will have him at his best and formulate a plan to beat me. My job is to make sure it doesn't work," Tarver said. "I'm excited to get back on center stage and show that I am still relevant."
In the fight before he knocked out Green, Tarver (29-6, 20 KOs) made his heavyweight debut in October 2010 and struggled to a unanimous decision against journeyman Nagy Aguilera, which convinced him that he needed to slow down his heavyweight ambitions and fight at cruiserweight first.
"We rushed into that heavyweight situation," Tarver said. "If I ever do it again, I'll do it the right way. I love cruiserweight. I feel like I can knock out every cruiserweight because I'm too big and strong with my speed and power in this division. I feel like I could break down any cruiserweight in the world. I was not in the best shape for Aguilera and it showed, but I was still able to outbox him."
Tarver said he only wants a couple of more fights at cruiserweight before taking aim at a significant heavyweight fight.
"My goal is to be heavyweight champion, but if I have to take two more fights at cruiserweight and then be ready for the heavyweight division by the end of the year, that is what I will do," Tarver said. "And when I am back at heavyweight I will not be the heavyweight you saw against Aguilera. I will be a lean, mean punching machine. First cruiserweight. I'm in the twilight of my career and I need to stay busy. If I could squeeze in three fights this year, it would be a blessing.
"Most of the cruiserweights who have gone on been successful at heavyweight have impressive stays at cruiser. If you can't beat the best cruiserweights in the world you're kidding yourself about beating the best at heavyweight. I just need to get comfortable where I can be strong and make these cruiserweights feel my power, and then do the same with the heavyweights."