Tarver retains IBO World Title with a Draw against Kayode: Is a rematch in order?June 8, 2012
When former multi-time Light-Heavyweight world champion Antonio Tarver entered the ring to challenge two-division world champion Danny Green for the IBO World Cruiserweight championship in July of last year, Tarver at age forty-two was determined to show that he still had what it took to compete at the top level of the sport. Tarver having traveled to Australia to challenge Green on his home turf dominated the fight from start to finish in route to an impressive ninth round stoppage. Tarver, who has fit nicely into the role of color commentator for Showtime Sports on it’s Boxing telecasts clearly showed on that evening that he was still a forced to be reckoned with.
Tarver’s first defense of his IBO Cruiserweight crown would come against unbeaten rising Cruiserweight contender Lateef Kayode on June 2nd. The bout took place at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. There were a few interesting sub-plots that made this fight intriguing. Could Tarver, now forty-three maintain his skills after being inactive for nearly a year? There were also those who questioned whether or not Tarver could compete effectively against a fighter who is just entering his prime. The basis of this question came from those who were of the opinion that Tarver fought a version of Danny Green who some argue at thirty-eight years old was possibly made to order for Tarver from a stylistic standpoint. Therefore, Tarver had to answer the questions of skeptics who wondered if he could be a legitimate threat as a Cruiserweight in only his second fight in the division.
Perhaps the most interesting thing that sparked interest in this fight was that Tarver was facing a young fighter in Lateef Kayode whom had developed quite a grudge against the champion. This stems from Tarver’s commentary during several of Kayode’s bouts that were televised by Showtime. Among Tarver’s critiques of the undefeated Kayode was that in his opinion (Tarver’s), Kayode was a fighter who threw slapping punches and had several flaws. Although it was clearly constructive criticism by the future hall of famer Tarver in the eyes of this observer, it clearly was not taken in that context by the young contender from Nigeria. Kayode launched a campaign which included among other things the use of YouTube to demand a bout with Tarver. A demand that was eventually granted.
When the two fighters entered the ring one of the questions I had in my mind was would Kayode come out and look to impose his will and get physical with Tarver from the outset. Despite Kayode’s impressive physique he had showed a tendency to fatigue late in fights, specifically in his bout with Felix Cora, Jr. his last fight before facing Tarver. I wondered if stamina would become a factor for Kayode as the bout progressed.
When the fight got underway it was surprising in my eyes to see Kayode fight at a considerably tactical pace. I had expected him to use his physical strength to impose his will on Tarver. It was not however surprising to see Kayode throwing more than Tarver in the early rounds. Kayode did not land much in the early rounds but it was clear to this observer that he had won five out of the first six rounds based on his being more active if nothing else. It also appeared that Tarver may have expected that Kayode would come out and fight in a more physically imposing manner than he had. It seemed that because of this Tarver was more or less studying his opponent in the fight. Despite excellent defense from the champion, he lost the first five rounds on my scorecard simply based on the fact that he did not throw enough punches.
This sentiment was echoed in Tarver’s corner between rounds five and six as his trainers Jimmy Williams and Buddy McGirt who told their fighter that he was giving the fight away and needed to step it up and let his hands go. Tarver responded in round six by stepping up his pace and landing solid left hands from the southpaw stance. One thing that impressed me at this stage of the fight was Tarver’s ability to make adjustments in that he started to periodically switch from his normal southpaw stance to an orthodox stance. This seemed to throw Kayode off his rhythm and allowed Tarver to make up much needed room on the scorecards.
What was apparent during the middle rounds was the difference when Tarver would connect with punches compared to Kayode’s activity in the early rounds. Tarver gradually started landing the harder punches and was able to occasionally stun Kayode. Although this was not a fight where two fighters were going to set punch stat records and fight at a high pace it was clear from the middle rounds on that Tarver was dictating the action.
As the fight moved into the late rounds, Tarver continued to stalk Kayode around the ring and more or less won those rounds on my scorecard based on effective aggression. At the end of the twelve round bout I had Antonio Tarver winning the fight 115-113 having scored the last seven rounds in his favor for a seven to five margin in rounds.
This seemed to be the consensus score of the fight although opinion is split among fans and experts alike as to who they think won the fight. For my part I feel Tarver won the fight from round six on and was simply the effective aggressor who landed the harder punches.
The split decision draw that was rendered in this fight quite frankly did not surprise this observer one bit. As I’ve said many times recently and over the years, it often boils down to what a judge looks for and prefers in their criteria in scoring a fight… Both Tarver and Kayode had their moments in this fight and both were solid from a defensive standpoint in that neither fighter was able to really stand out from the other. This is illustrated in the total CompuBox punch stats which showed Kayode having a slight edge in total punches landed, landing 105 of 513 punches to Tarver’s 99 of 484 punches landed.
Kayode however was not able to definitely separate himself from Tarver in the fight and in fact was unable to effectively defend against Tarver’s solid left hand and occasional uppercuts throughout the fight. This was a case of the punch statistics telling some of the story but not the whole story.
Although Kayode would throw punches in flurries and was able to do some effective work to Tarver’s body, he was unable to hurt Tarver and Tarver was able to defend against a lot of Kayode’s offense. In fights where both fighters fight in spurts it is who lands the most effective punches that often gets credit on the scorecards. Although Lateef Kayode gave a “Game” effort, Tarver landed the more punishing blows in the second half of the fight and that is what I based my score on.
It is certainly understandable to see a fighter display disappointment and anger following a draw or a controversial loss. Following the fight an irate Kayode made the accusation in post-fight comments that Tarver had “Won” the fight because he works for Showtime. Kayode also said that he would only be open to a rematch if it were televised by HBO. I respectfully disagree with those statements. The fact is Tarver did retain his world title but did not “Win” the fight. A draw is not a “Win”! In my opinion there is also no controversy in the judging of this contest.
As far as Kayode’s stance that Tarver had “Won” due to his working for Showtime. I disagree. If you watch the fight again you will hear Showtime’s announcers (Tarver’s colleagues) say in the early rounds that Tarver was not doing enough and that Kayode had won most of the early rounds.
As I’ve said many times there is often a misconception in regard to opinion as to who won a fight in decisions like this based on the thought of the fight being scored as a whole. Professional Boxing is scored round by round. I believe you would be hard pressed to find anyone who thought the fight was close after five rounds and did not have Kayode winning most if not all. Although it may be tempting for Kayode and his supporters to blame Showtime for a decision that did not quite go in his favor, the accusation quite frankly is “Baseless”.
Kayode’s anger is certainly understandable however any grievances regarding the decision should be aired with the California State Athletic Commission and not with Showtime who televised the bout.
Despite Kayode’s anger in regard to the decision, the verdict rendered on June 2nd regarding this fight was a “Fair” decision. For his part, Tarver stated after the fight that he thought he did enough to win the fight however said that perhaps he had fought down to his opponent’s level. When asked about a potential rematch, Tarver said he didn’t believe that there would be a rematch but did say that he felt the draw was a blemish on his record.
So should there be a rematch? It will be up to the International Boxing Organization (IBO) to mandate a rematch. For a governing body that has risen in prominence over the last several years, it is now time for the IBO to step up and bring resolution to what some feel is a controversy.
Should there be a rematch? My opinion? “Absolutely”…