CARSON, Calif. – Lateef Kayode won the first half of the fight. Antonio Tarver won the second half. But, in the end, no one walked away a winner – including the fans.
Kayode and Tarver fought to a split-decision draw on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center tennis arena, Kayode starting quickly and Tarver rallying to pull even when the finals scores were tallied: 115-113 for Tarver, 115-113 for Kayode and 114-114.
Neither fighter was impressive, though.
Kayode, angered by Tarver’s on-air assertion as a Showtime analyst that the Nigerian doesn’t fight hard, demonstrated a fighting spirit from the opening bell and clearly outworked his 43-year-old opponent to control the first six rounds.
However, he won the early rounds because he was busier than Tarver and not because he landed many eye-catching punches. No more than one or two of his shots stand out over the entire 12 rounds.
Meanwhile, Tarver, who hadn’t fought in 11 months, was comatose during the first half of the fight. He looked both his age and apathetic, as he stood and watched more than he threw punches while Kayode had built a lead. Afterward, he suggested ring rust played a role.
After six rounds, Kayode was up 59-55, 58-56 and 58-56 and appeared to be on his way to victory and possibly ending Tarver’s career.
The old man understood the position he was in, though. And he had two choices: Go out like a lamb or fight back. He chose the latter.
Tarver (29-6-1, 20 knockouts) started pressing the action around the seventh round, popping his right jab and landing hard left hands on occasion to climb back into the fight. The former light heavyweight titleholder even hurt Kayode a few times, including two big lefts that rocked the younger man in the ninth round.
That was one of the few times that crowd got into the fight. Otherwise, the disappointed fans were sadly quiet. In short: It was a boring fight.
Of course, after the decision was announced, both fighters crowed about being robbed.
“I beat this guy in every aspect,” Tarver said. “I dictated every round. I hurt him with clean shots every round. He was sloppy just like I said he was. I whipped him after the sixth round.
“I was slow to start. That’s all he had on me. He swung and missed all night long.
Said Kayode: “Everybody knows I won this fight. I’m a strong man. I came to fight. Power is my name and I did my job. I’m better than him. He won because he works for Showtime. Let’s go to HBO or my country and see how it turns out.”
In reality, both fighters are lucky to have emerged without a loss on Saturday night.
Tarver wasn’t there the first half of the fight, although he should be given credit for doing enough in the latter rounds to make it a fight. And Kayode, hoping for a break-out victory, was anything but impressive. He was fairly active and took some good shots well … and that’s about it.
Tarver had said before the fight that he wants to prove he’s the best cruiserweight in the world. In fact, neither of the fighters we saw on Saturday would give the top 200-pounders much of a fight.
In other bouts:
Peter Quillin (27-0, 20 KOs) defeated 40-year-old Winky Wright (51-6-1, 25 KOs) by a one-sided unanimous decision in a 10-round middleweight fight.
Austin Trout (25-0, 14 KOs) retained his WBA junior middleweight title with a one-sided decision over Delvin Rodriguez (26-6-3, 14 KOs).
Leo Santa Cruz almost shutout Vusi Malinga to win the vacant IBF bantamweight title. The scores were 120-108, 120-108 and 119-109.
Santa Cruz (20-0-1, 11 KOs) outworked Malinga (20-4-1, 12 KOs) the entire fight, throwing more than 100 punches per round, according to CompuBox. He connected on 410 of 1,350 punches overall and 327 of an incredible 853 power punches. Malinga was 143 of 791.
And, in a super middleweight fight, Sakio Bika (30-5-2, 21 KOs) stopped Dyah Davis (21-3-1, 9 KOs) in the 10th and final round.