By Jake Donovan
At 43 years of age, Antonio Tarver can’t afford to leave anything to chance in his latest comeback.
The former light heavyweight king has always been outspoken in regards to his own career, whether during his prime or in his present state in the twilight. No matter the opponent, the pre-fight hype almost always seems to include a war of words at some point when it comes to Tarver (29-6, 20KO).
It hasn’t been any different in preparation for his June 2 cruiserweight showdown with unbeaten contender Lateef Kayode (18-0, 14KO). The bout – which airs live on Showtime from the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA - will be his third since returning to the ring in 2010 after sitting out for nearly 18 months following back to back losses to Chad Dawson.
Tarver’s first fight back came in Oct. ’10 at heavyweight, showing up at a fleshy 221 lb. in scoring a decision win over Nagy Aguilera. Last year’s showing against Danny Green was far more impressive both in the ring and on his frame. Tarver weighed 197 ¾ lb in taking apart the Australian star en route to a ninth round knockout.
The bout with Kayode also takes place at cruiserweight, though Tarver sees himself eventually returning to the heavyweight division. It was the goal he set in mind when planning his comeback and views Kayode as the next stop in that journey.
However, none of that is to assume he’s looking beyond June 2. While confident in his ability to run the tables and capture heavyweight hardware, Tarver knows as well as anyone that all it takes is one hiccup to throw everything off course.
“There is really no confidence to this fight until it’s over,” Tarver admits. “I haven’t taken Lateef Kayode lightly by any stretch. I know as a fighter that one punch can change a fight and one punch can end a fight.
“What I did in training camp was working on eliminating any chance of his getting lucky. He went on record saying he’s gonna knock me out and holding strong to that assumption. That’s going to make me strong and alert. When the bell goes ding, I’m going to dial in on this guy and go tunnel vision.”
There are two working theories surrounding this fight. One is that Tarver will outbox Kayode, who was raised in Nigeria but relocated to Hollywood five years ago, where he trains out of Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym. The other is that Kayode’s best and perhaps only chance is to end it on one punch.
Tarver is way ahead of the curve in terms of training for either outcome.
“I’ve never really been hurt in a fight, I can take a punch,” Tarver acknowledges, having never been stopped though 16 years as a pro. “If it comes down to us going toe-to-toe, I’m ready for it. I don’t have to run. I have confidence in my ability. My punches are target-oriented. I’m trying to hit the kidney and I’m trying to hit the chin. I’m going to work for the knockout, I’m not going to look for the home run.
“When it comes down to it, we’re going to show him he’s not the only one with muscles in this fight. I’m not coming in with any predetermined outcomes.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]