By Michael Montero
This Saturday night in Carson, California Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver, 29-6 (20 KOs), defends his IBO cruiserweight title against undefeated contender, Lateef Kayode, 18-0 (14 KOs), a native of Nigeria now living and training in Los Angeles. The stacked undercard features a great match between undefeated WBA 154 pound titlist Austin Trout and proven contender Delvin Rodriguez, who has truly earned his title shot the hard way. Also on the card, the biggest test of middleweight prospect Peter Quillin’s promising career as he takes on future hall of famer Winky Wright. All three bouts will be shown live as a triple header on Showtime Championship Boxing at 9pm.
At age 43 and fighting well above his best weight of 175 pounds, conventional wisdom would say that Tarver might be biting off a little more than he can chew, but the Orlando, Florida native has never been conventional. Antonio was considered an “old” amateur when he won a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games as a 27 year old – skip forward a decade later and he starred opposite Sylvester Stallone as the fictional heavyweight champion, “Mason Dixon” in the film Rocky Balboa. In between that time he became the undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world and became the first man to knock out the legendary Roy Jones; scoring a highlight reel 2nd round knockout in their 2004 rematch. In 2010, Tarver tested the waters at heavyweight, weighing in at a career high 221 pounds as he earned a unanimous decision over gate keeper Nagy Aguilera. Last July a slimmer “Magic Man” turned back the clock with a great performance against Australian Danny Green, stopping the Aussie on his home turf to claim his IBO cruiserweight title belt. Now he faces his toughest challenge north of 175 pounds this Saturday against the undefeated Kayode.
Lateef Kayode has indeed earned the nickname “Power”. His professional boxing debut in 2008 was a 4 round unanimous decision, but then he ran a string of 14 straight knockouts (many of which occurring in the first few rounds). His biggest test to date was when he faced the respected contender Matt Godfrey last June. Needless to say Kayode passed the test, scoring 3 knock downs en route to a unanimous decision victory to claim the minor NABA and NABF titles. He’s never known defeat as a pro and is beaming with confidence. His biggest asset in this fight, other than youth, is his trainer. Kayode lives in Los Angeles and trains at the famous Wildcard Gym with the legendary Freddie Roach. That’s not a bad ally for the Lagos, Nigeria native to have on his side as he faces the fight of his life against the vastly experienced Antonio Tarver.
Another veteran from Florida, Ronald “Winky” Wright, 51-5-1 (25 KOs), fights for the first time in over three years as he faces undefeated Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, 26-0 (20 KOS), in the co-feature. This will be only the third bout for Wright over the past six years, having dropped decisions to Bernard Hopkins in 2007 and Paul Williams in 2009. Quillin, who relocated from New York to Los Angeles last year to begin training with Freddie Roach, comes in twelve years younger and has a three inch height advantage. Indeed this matchup is a continuation of the “age versus youth” theme to the card. However, the big difference between this bout and the main event are that the old man has been very inactive. Most expect youth to be served in this one.
The opening bout of the tripleheader is between undefeated southpaw Austin “No Doubt” Trout, 24-0 (14 KOs), and Dominican Republic born Delvin Rodriguez, 26-5-3 (14 KOs). The general consensus is that Rodriguez has faced the better opposition, having faced contenders like Pawel Wolak and Mike Arnaoutis. However, Trout is six years younger and much fresher, as Rodriguez has been in several tough fights. The Dominican, now based in Connecticut, turned pro in 1999 and will be going for the second title shot of his career, having lost a debatable split decision to Isaac Hlatshwayo for the IBF welterweight title in South Africa three years ago. The question will be whether Trout can prove he’s legit or not against the best opponent he’s faced as a pro.