By Keith Idec
Antonio Tarver believes his vast experience against better, higher-profile fighters will be one of his biggest advantages when he faces Lateef Kayode in a cruiserweight bout June 2 in Carson, Calif.
The Nigerian-born Kayode defeated Felix Cora Jr. and Matt Godfrey by unanimous decision in his last two fights. Tarver’s resume includes victories over Roy Jones Jr., Glen Johnson, Montell Griffin and Eric Harding, as well as losses to Chad Dawson and Bernard Hopkins.
Their incomparable careers notwithstanding, the 43-year-old Tarver has taken Kayode very seriously. The hard-hitting Kayode (18-0, 14 KOs), who is trained by Freddie Roach, stands between Tarver and his goal of eventually challenging one of the Klitschkos for a heavyweight title.
“I’ve worked very, very hard,” Tarver said . “I haven’t taken Lateef Kayode lightly, by any stretch of the imagination. That’s what they need to understand, that I’m serious about this fight. I’ve taken this guy as a serious threat, and regardless of anybody trying to keep putting in my head that he’s inexperienced, he’s this, he’s that, I know as a fighter one punch can change a fight and one punch can end a fight. And what I’ve done in training camp is eliminate any chance of him getting lucky. And so the only way I can do that is to make sure I’m in the very best shape, mentally and physically.”
The trash-talking Kayode has repeatedly predicted he’ll become the first fighter to knock out Tarver (29-6, 20 KOs), of Tampa, Fla. That has helped keep Tarver completely committed during training camp for a fight that was made mostly because Kayode confronted Tarver over the Showtime commentator’s criticism of Kayode during “ShoBox: The New Generation” telecasts that featured Kayode’s fights.
“I haven’t been this [focused] for a fight in a long, long time,” Tarver said. “This feels, to me, like some of the biggest fights I’ve had because this guy’s strong, he’s aggressive and he went on record saying he’s going to knock me out. And he’s holding strong to that assumption, so I know this guy’s coming in to try to hurt me.
“That’s going to make me sharp, man. That’s going to make me very alert and that’s going to make me razor-sharp in that ring. I know I’m going to be ready to go. As soon as the bell goes, ‘Ding,’ I’m going to be aware of everything around me. I’m going to dial in on this guy. It’s going to be tunnel vision and I think this fight, right here, is going to show people exactly my ability and my skill.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.