He Said, He Said
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (June 2, 2012) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © German Villasenor)
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Antonio Tarver (L) - Kayode Lateef (R)
For the past few years, Antonio Tarver has made the smooth transition from being in the ring to being Showtime’s color commentator for both its “ShoBox” series and “Championship Boxing” franchise. A large part of his job sitting ringside is to critique and analyze the boxers who are televised. Sometimes the truth hurts and those on the receiving end of critical words will take it personally.
 
This is precisely how he ended up in this weekend’s fight versus Lateef Kayode.
 
As Kayode was cutting his teeth as a developing prizefighter on “ShoBox” against the likes of Felix Cora Jr., Matt Godfrey and Nick Iannuzzi, among others, his ears burned as he eventually heard what Tarver was saying about him on these broadcasts. It angered the normally mild-mannered and friendly Kayode.
 
“He's been saying since the first time I've been on ‘ShoBox.’ He always says I'm aggressive. Sometimes I'll be slapping; I don't have enough experience,” he said a couple of weeks back on the steps leading up to the Wild Card Boxing Club, where he trains on a daily basis. “One of my friends calls me, ‘Hey, you do a good job the last fight but this man, Antonio Tarver, he says you don't do a good job. What do you do with this guy?’ So I said, ‘OK, this is getting serious, man.’”
 
So when Kayode next saw Tarver- and there are differing accounts of just when it happened- he confronted him.
 
Tarver recalled, “I was commentating a fight; I forgot where it was. It was in the States and [Kayode] confronted me. He straight up confronted me. I think we were in Vegas at the time and he said some things and I said, ‘Listen, man, I'm just doing my job. I'm not personally attacking you, saying anything negative about you intentionally. But I'm just calling it like I see it.’ I said, ‘If you were to the point you feel like you don't have anything to work on, then your job as a fighter is complete. Even I go to training camp every time to try and get better and improve on things.’ So he didn't take kind to some of the words I was saying but I was just being honest.”
 
To this, Kayode responded, “Let’s fight. Let's show the world what you got, what I got. I think I'm better than you.” Steve Feder, who manages Kayode, told Maxboxing. “It was an accumulation of things that he was saying. He was listening to what Kurt Menefee was saying, what Steve Farhood was saying and it seemed like every fight, each one would have a critique but Antonio would always add to it, picked his spots. I really believe that a lot of it, if Antonio was a welterweight, I don't think those criticisms would have come as strong. I think it's that this guy is looking at a guy in his division- his newly-found division- and I think that's what happened.”
 
Feder recalls that this altercation took place last April at the Nokia Theater on the night Vic Darchinyan faced Yonnhy Perez. “All of a sudden, a crowd got around them and they almost kinda got into it. So this fight has been kinda accumulating since last April, the building. It is personal. It's personal; no doubt about it and did the criticism add to it? Absolutely.”
 
Tarver has never been the shy, soft-spoken type. In fact, that's why he's perfectly suited for this gig. And by the way, as Kayode's progress as a fighter seemed to stagnate, was Tarver particularly out of line in his comments? Truth be told, much of the viewing audience probably agreed with him. In fact, his own trainer, Freddie Roach, stated, “He's just doing his job and some of the things are valid, actually. Antonio's talking a little bit extra now because he knows he's getting to him a little bit. I told Lateef, ‘Don't let this guy get in your head. Just fight a smart fight.’ He's doing well in sparring and training and keeping focused and making the right moves. I hope he carries that over to the fight, though.”
 
Roach says that after the Iannuzzi victory, a fight in which Kayode struggled mightily, he himself had to get on his fighter after stating that the only important thing was coming out victorious. After everyone cleared the dressing room, Roach told his charge, “You're satisfied with that performance? You gotta be kidding me,” he said, adding, “I gave him a piece of my mind.”
 
So now it's put up or shut up for both men.
 
“I gotta show him, so that's basically what it is. It's a lot of pressure on me because now I gotta practice what I preach,” said Tarver with a laugh. Unlike many other pundits of the sport, Tarver not only boxed but he's had a distinguished career. In fact, he's far more accomplished than Kayode. Did he ever think of pulling rank on him?” No, I never went that far with it,” he said. “I just basically told him, ‘Hey, I'm doing my job. I'm not on your bandwagon; I'm not paid to promote you,’ and that's what it was. I was just telling him like I saw it. I saw some things he needed to work on. No doubt he's a talent; he's a very strong fighter, very aggressive and he can hit and he can punch turn your lights out. But at the same time, there's a lot of one-punch knockout artists out there that never had the longevity or could stay long because there were other deficiencies in their game. So I'm just trying to be a well-rounded, complete fighter that can do everything well and I'm not just a puncher.”
 
To Tarver, his younger foe is everything he's not. While physically talented and imposing, he's also rawer than sushi and while Kayode possesses youth and energy, he lacks craft and experience.
 
The question posed to “The Magic Man” is, if he were handling Kayode’s career, would he have made this fight at this particular moment in time? After contemplating it for a few seconds, he answered, “Listen, of course they're rolling the dice. If they beat me, they caught lightning in a bottle. But the downside to that is that I ruin a lot of fighters in one night- ruin them. You never heard of them again. Lincoln Carter, he was on the same knockout streak till he met me. Chris Johnson, never fought again. I've ended a lot of careers; fighters were never the same. Eric Harding, destroyed him in one night; it was over for him. I can see with [Kayode]’s attitude, with his aggression, with his inexperience, that this guy can get broken on June 2nd and never be the same fighter because I'm that type of puncher’ ya feel me? I'm that type of puncher and they take my power for granted. They take my defense, my boxing skills; they just take me for granted. But all they can bank on is I show up and become an old man overnight and if my sparring and my training camp is any indication, it's not going to happen.”
 
In his view, Tarver was just doing his job when calling Kayode's previous fights. And he'll just be doing his other job on Saturday night against the man who took offense to his words. For Kayode, this is personal as he believes Tarver crossed the line.
 
“That's what I thought because I saw him everywhere; I gave him good respect. I said, ‘Brother, how you doing, champ?’ I talk to him nice; I never disrespect him, never disrespect any opponent I fight. I give them respect because they are doing something to feed a family,” Kayode says. “I do the same thing to feed my family. But this is the first time I looked at my opponent’s eyes and said, ‘I want to fight you,’ from my heart. This is personal for me in my life.”
 
CANELO VS. TBA
 
The search to find a suitable dance partner for WBC junior middleweight titlist Saul “Canelo” Alvarez on September 15th at the MGM Grand took another bizarre twist as James Kirkland, who just a day or two ago was tabbed to replace Paul Williams, was then scratched almost immediately from this assignment. Here was a tweet from Steve Carp from the Las Vegas Review Journal (@stevecarprj):
 
“James Kirkland injured his shoulder while training this a.m. and has pulled out of his Sept. 15 fight vs. Canelo Alvarez at MGM in Vegas.”

But there are whispers that Kirkland wasn't happy with the money he was to have received for that fight and that there were people buzzing in his ear to seek a better deal. It just seemed strange that a guy who wasn't supposed to even begin the boxing portion of his preparation for this fight till the beginning of July suddenly reinjures his right shoulder just a day or two after the deal is struck. Regardless, now the search is on find a new(er) foe for “Canelo”- not named Erislandy Lara- for this coveted date.

There's already lots of conjecture about the winner of tonight's bout between WBA junior middleweight champion Austin Trout and Delvin Rodriguez stepping in. The winner of the rematch between IBF junior middleweight beltholder Cornelius Bundrage and Cory Spinks is also a possibility. However, the problem with the latter two is they don't fight till June 30th. Yeah, this card may seem cursed but trust me; it will move forward. The question is, just who will televise it? Top Rank, it turns out, has a hold on the pay-per-view slot for this date. But the word around the industry is that Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer has been in discussions with both HBO and Showtime to bring this card to their non-pay-per-view platforms.

Honestly, if you’re down to your third opponent as the B-side, unless you're a Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather, it's highly questionable as a pay-per-view event. But if you have “Canelo” against a solid foe, such as Trout or Rodriguez (who will bring a belt) and an opening feature of WBC featherweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez versus Daniel Ponce de Leon, it's a very good card on either of the premium cable networks.

JULY 7TH

Tickets for the July 7th card at the Home Depot Center, featuring a 122-pound unification bout between Nonito Donaire and Jeffrey Mathebula and a junior welterweight contest that sees Brandon Rios taking on Mauricio Herrera, go on sale this morning. Here's the ticket release:

Promoted by Top Rank, tickets for The Home Depot Center’s Donaire / Rios World Championship fight card go on sale Tomorrow!  Saturday, June 2, at 10 a.m. PT.  Priced at $100, $50 and $25, tickets can be purchased online at AXS.com or by phone at 888-929-7849 as well as The Home Depot Center Box Office (open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.). Suites are available by calling 1-877-604-8777.  For information of group discounts, please call 1-877-234-8425.

According to Arum, this almost became a tripleheader on HBO, as a clash between Mike Alvarado and Ruslan Provodnikov was nearly added to this broadcast.

“HBO wanted to put that on but Artie Pellulo had made a deal with ESPN for the kid [Provodnikov] to fight on June 29th and Alvarado, when July 14th was canceled, got out of training. So that means it was very impractical to do that fight at that point. So hopefully we'll do it in the fall.”

MIDDLEWEIGHTS

With Felix Sturm deciding to face IBF middleweight beltholder Daniel Geale, as expected, instead of facing his mandatory contender, Gennady Golovkin, it looks like we are inching toward a fight between Golovkin and WBO titlist Dmitry Pirog on August 25th, televised by HBO.

That deal should be finalized once Pellulo, who has Pirog, comes back from Brazil where Acelino Freitas faces Michael Oliveira.

JULY 14TH

Here's the ticket info for the July 14th card in Las Vegas for the clash between Amir Khan and Danny Garcia (who may or may not be defending his WBC 140-pound strap): 
Tickets priced at $250, $200, $150, $100 and $50, not including applicable service charges, are on sale now and available for purchase at the Mandalay Bay box office and all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (select Smith's Food and Drug Centers and Ritmo Latino). To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000. Tickets also are available for purchase atwww.mandaylaybay.com or www.ticketmaster.com.Tickets for fans traveling from the United Kingdom are available for purchase online at www.sportscorporation.com or by calling +44 (0)845 163 0845.
 
QUADRUPLE-HEADER FLURRIES

Tonight’s quadruple-header on Showtime starts at 9 p.m., ET/PT…So now the WBC will vote on whether Garcia will be allowed to defend his title versus Khan instead of facing his mandatory challenger? Yeah, you know where this is going. They're going to say, “No way, Ajose (Olusegun)”...I'm told that Marcos Maidana has been given a choice by Golden Boy to either open up the July 14th show on HBO (now that Seth Mitchell is a scratch) or the July 28th Showtime bill from San Jose, headlined by Roberto Guerrero and Selcuk Aydin...How bout dem Kings!!...RIP to Orlando Woolridge, one of the great dunkers of the ‘80s...Yeah, yeah, I know Floyd Mayweather reported to jail on Friday. I find it interesting that some are taking such offense at others making light of it. I can see their point but on the flipside, I don't find that as tasteless as those acting as if Mayweather is some sort of victim here and someone who should be treated as a sympathetic figure. Yeah, the man lost his freedom- which is a result of his own actions...
.

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