Denzil Stone – Atlantic City
Lateef Kayode and Antonio Tarver were due to engage in a timeless youth versus experience duel on Saturday, June 2 but, the Home Depot Center in Carson bout had an edge… as Tarver – an announcer on Showtime – had been openly critical of Kayode’s style, something the latter did not take kindly too. Considering the bad blood, what transpired seemed to be anticlimactic as, in a fight of two halves, neither man emerged triumphant…
(Embedded video above credit – YouTube, ShoSports)
Tarver (29-6-1, 20ko) retained his IBO cruiserweight world title, but may well have relinquished it should he have maintained the sub-standard form he displayed during the contest’s initial going. Kayode (18-0-1, 14ko), commanded authority for the majority of the fight’s first half, forcing the Magic Man into a defensive shell that lacked sparkle and it was only in round five, where Tarver rattled Lateef’s foundations, when he was able to finally gain momentum, finish strong and make a case for a share of the spoils.
Antonio received one score of 115-113, another of 113-115 and one even split of 114-114.
Words: Denzil Stone – Atlantic City
Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime
Wildcard Boxing Club middleweight Peter Quillin, an emerging 28-year-old contender from Grand Rapids by way of Brooklyn, overcame former 154lb world champion Winky Wright on Saturday, June 2 at Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Wright relied on lead shots and defence, while Quillin bombarded the experienced 40-year-old southpaw with bruising power shots.
Official verdict: Quillin by way of unanimous decision (98-91, 98-91, 97-92).
“I prepared for a 21-year-old Winky Wright and at times he fought like that,” Quillin (27-0-0, 20ko) said, noting Wright’s early (but overall limited) success). “You can see from my face that I didn’t take a lot of punishment tonight.”
Quillin had a more positive approach to the fight in round one but in the second and third rounds, the veteran Wright (51-6-1, 25ko) was able to take on the role of ring general, making a point of occupying the positions of the ring that he wanted to whilst jabbing effectively and employing a decent defence. These signs, of course, showed the contest was being fought on his terms, despite the 12-year age gap between he and Kid Chocolate.
There will, no doubt, be dissimilarities on scorecards due to the two fighters relying on completely different fistic material. After three rounds of boxing, Quillin had landed just two jabs – a paltry amount, especially compared to Wright’s far greater success rate of one landed for every five thrown. Quillin, though, owned Winky when it came to firing shots with bigger bullets.
Any competitiveness Wright hoped to sought disintegrated prior to the midway stage as Quillin, by round five, had established a good fluidity to his style. There was finer action from Wright who had begun to put punches together but Quillin stood up to anything Winky threw and this proved decisive. Quillin was never in discomfort when it came to taking a punch from Wright whereas Kid Chocolate’s shots had a strong pop and even put Winky on his seat in the session’s final minute with a right hand over a low left that shook up Winky’s core before buckling his legs completely.
Quillin’s power was audible in the sixth as his shots thudded into Wright’s frame and could be heard inside the Home Depot Center despite a noticeably loud Californian crowd. Wright responded well, checking Quillin’s chin at the beginning of the seventh but, Winky never being a heavy hitter, struggled to make Peter think twice about throwing as often as he was and Quillin insisted with a more pressing style.
Quillin inflicted a shellacking onto Wright in the eighth round, roughing his opponent up and bloodying his nose. An uppercut initiated the physical abuse as Winky was once again rattled and there was no let-up from what followed. Wright kept a guard high and, for the rest of the round, kept his arms there without following a single shot as Quillin went on a rampage with cross shots, straights and wide hooks.
Overall, it was another win for Quillin but the manner in which Wright is now expected to slip into retirement, having interrupted a three-year hiatus to box Kid Chocolate, one can’t help but think Winky was served up to provide the middleweight with a sweet win on his way to a title shot at 160lbs.
Denzil Stone – Atlantic City
American 26-year-old junior middleweight Austin Trout successfully defended his WBA title in the 154lb weight class as he outpointed a languid Delvin Rodriguez on Saturday, June 2 at the Home Depot Center in Carson. Rodriguez won only two rounds as he could not get his game going against the southpaw titlist. Following his win, Trout acknowledged he was boxing to a sub-par standard for national television but insisted he’d raise his game for a shot at Saul Alvarez.
Official verdict: Trout wins by way of unanimous decision (117-111, 118-110, 120-108).
“I’d give myself a 6.5 or a 7,” said Trout in a self-assessment when being interviewed by Showtime inside the ring following his third defence of his WBA belt. “I do what I have to do and will do that to any opponent. I couldn’t find rhythm, shout out to Delvin, he did his thing. I did a 6.5 because he was fighting right tonight but if I was fighting Canelo it would be a ten.”
The fight was cagey throughout but any tentative jousting that ensued in round one was slightly edged by Trout due to his confidence in his southpaw jab, together with his ability to duck under Rodriguez’s shots, however, Trout’s port-side posturing worked against him in the second round as he – on a number of occasions – succumbed to what a number of lefties do when lining up against an orthodox fighter and that is leaking right hands through the middle.
Trout regained the momentum in round three as he found the range necessary to score with his power shots and, in the fourth, he fought at his own pace – a comfortable and controlled (albeit slow) tempo – whilst still doing more than Rodriguez, who had seemingly retreated into a shell.
When the contest reached the midway stage, it was clear it was not going to erupt into the fan-friendly encounter that both fighters had vowed to produce during the event’s promotion. The blood and guts epic Rodriguez enjoyed with Pawel Wolak last summer, seemed a far cry for the challenger who could not load up on the trigger against a Trout who was edging him in work-rate, accuracy and in terms of taking the initiative. Trout was not yard-stones ahead of Rodriguez but was doing just enough to outpoint him in the majority of the sessions.
Bossing the fight in rounds six through nine, Trout threw left hands into the body, jabs to the nose, southpaw leads into the chest while Rodriguez remained somewhat reactive rather than proactive. He was the challenger and was not living up to that status… not doing enough to make a statement of intent in taking Trout’s belt. In the tenth round, Trout sparked into action, flurrying, shaking Rodriguez up with power shots, using the full space of the ring and playing the role of a Pied Piper.
Rodriguez began to make things happen in the penultimate stanza, landing a notable uppercut, some straight right hands and finally taking the lead… making the forward steps and looking to pressure the champion. While there was a stress on slickness on Trout’s part, he was still able to load up on power in the final round and landed a significant three punch combination whilst also finding the target with single fire shots. That intent, though, was lacking too often in the contest.
With the win, Trout rose to 25-0-0, 14ko while Rodriguez fell to 26-6-3, 14ko.
Denzil Stone – Atlantic City
Throwing, on average, over a century of shots in every round, busy boxer Leo Santa Cruz dominated game and durable Vusi Malinga on Saturday, June 1 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Santa Cruz was sensational in many aspects of his boxing as he showed marvelous conditioning and exceptional understanding of the jab, hook and the straight. With victory, Santa Cruz received the vacant IBF bantamweight title.
Official verdict: Santa Cruz by way of unanimous decision (120-108, 120-108, 119-109).
“It means the world,” said Santa Cruz to Showtime having picked up his first world championship, before adding: “It was always my dream.” Whether that dream consisted of such an emphatic routing of an experienced fighter would have been doubtful, but that was precisely what the Mexican achieved as Malinga was never in the competitive.
Vusi Malinga, despite his number one contender status, was not expected to overcome local fighter Leo Santa Cruz’s improving weaponry and, on the basis of the first round, that quickly became apparent as Malinga failed to land his signature uppercuts while Santa Cruz, conversely, enjoyed greater precision with a wider array of punches – particularly the hooks to the body.
In round two, Malinga upped his punch output in an effort to match Santa Cruz’s constant fist-throwing but, like the first, Leo got the better of the exchanges because he was finding it easier to land his shots than Vusi was. Santa Cruz, in typical Mexican fashion, was scoring well with a left hook and double left hook to the body and, in the third, he landed upstairs as well as downstairs and landed with straight rights to the head.
In the fourth round, Santa Cruz cracked further left hooks into Malinga’s ribs, backed him up, pumped right hands into his mouth and put together three and four punches together. All this, while using foot movement to frustrate Malinga and ensure his success rate never strayed too far above the 1:5 mark. Santa Cruz was streaks ahead in terms of punches thrown and landed and his ratio of success was over 3:10 with his most useful shots the jab (which he even tripled up on), the body-bound left hooks and the straight rights.
By the middle of the contest, Malinga threatened to fight his way into a scoring stanza but his work was just completely overshadowed by Santa Cruz’s ability to withstand any attack as well as his own unyielding effort to stay busy, even piecing together combinations consisting of five punches.
Santa Cruz hurt Malinga with a right hook to the body in round eight, forcing the South African onto the back-foot which raised Leo’s hackles as he charged in looking to capitalise on the damage done. Then, in round nine, Malinga’s chin was tested with a right fist, before further attention to either side of the midsection.
Going into the final stretch, Santa Cruz showed no signs of being unaccustomed to the 12-round distance as his exceptional conditioning ensured he was able to fight to the same tempo he had enforced from minute one and, even in the 11th, he landed the majority of his shots within his five-punch flurries, peppering Malinga’s skull with a consistent accuracy.
Showing good craft, Santa Cruz would block Malinga’s shots with a rigid guard, dip low and then land with a right hand over the top and, in the 12th, he’d hook around Vusi’s defence to continuously cronk the cheekbones.
Santa Cruz, who landed a total of 410 shots from 1350 thrown, rose to 20-0-1, 11ko with the win, while Malinga dropped down to 20-4-1, 12ko.
Words: Robert Delgado – Los Angeles
Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime
Defending WBA junior middleweight champion of the world, Austin Trout, is hoping a win over challenger Delvin Rodriguez – whose stock is currently high following his two dust-ups with Pawel Wolak last year – will elevate him from title-holder to emerging star. Trout takes on Rodriguez on Saturday, June 2 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California but Delvin believes his experience against southpaw fighters will make a difference when it’s time to trade.
The bout between Trout (24-0-0, 14ko) and Rodriguez (26-5-3, 14ko) may not be the headlining fight on a Showtime bill that also includes Antonio Tarver versus Lateef Kayode, Winky Wright against Peter Quillin and Leo Santa Cruz taking on Vusi Malinga, but Austin believes it will be the one most remembered by those at the gate and fans watching at home: “It’s going to be a great night of fights and I feel like me and Delvin are going to be the show-stealers.”
Breaking down his contest with Rodriguez, Trout said: “We know Delvin is a very high-action, fast-paced fighter, so we’re going to have to take that pace and step it up a notch. We need to keep our combinations moving and our footwork. We need to use our feet. We don’t want to stay right in front of him, but we don’t want to run either.
“I think this is the hardest fight to date that I’ve had in my career. Delvin is a world class fighter. I’ve watched him on TV as a fan and I know the type of challenge that’s coming forward. This is the toughest fight of my life [because] Delvin doesn’t fight the same every fight. He changes his style and he adapts. He’s a smart fighter. I don’t think I’ve ever fought anybody that has the diversity that Delvin does.”
Trout, though, prepared for a multi-dimensional prizefighter by varying the styles of those he sparred with during training camp: “We [got] ready with a bunch of different styles of sparring partners. In case he wants to box, we work on cutting the ring off. If he wants to bang, we have an idea that we want to do for that. We make our own camp diverse.”
Rodriguez concurred with Trout’s assessment about the quality of their match-up: “It’s going to be a great fight. I have respect for him; he’s an undefeated champion [but] I’m hungry for a world title. I just got to do what I do. I have to go in there and put my combinations together. I haven’t had any problems against lefties. He has good movement, always aware of where he is in the ring [and] a fine champion [with] a lot of skills. I’m facing someone that I know I can’t make any mistakes [against] and I definitely cannot look past him.”
Whilst Rodriguez is solely focussed on what he will be looking at from the blue corner to the red on fight night, Trout is hoping the Showtime appearance could lead to unification fights in the future: “I want to get the rest of those belts,” he said.
“To be the true champion, you have to have them all. I’m looking at Canelo [Saul Alvarez], I’m looking at K9 [Cornelius Bundrage] and, of course, everybody is looking at Floyd [Mayweather], but first I got to get past Delvin to make any of this possible. I look at Delvin as the gatekeeper. He’s the one who’s going to let me in or deny me. I have to get through him to get those other belts.”
Words: Robert Delgado – Los Angeles
Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime
Like the main event cruiserweight match-up between Antonio Tarver and Lateef Kayode, Peter Quillin‘s bout with Winky Wright (51-5-0, 25ko) pits youth and enthusiasm against age and experience. Wright, like Tarver, has never incurred a knockout defeat but he has a young buck in front of him on June 2 at the Home Depot Center in Carson that is hunting for his head. For Winky, though, that’s exactly what he says he has been looking for in an opponent…
“I’m prepared for anything,” said Quillin (26-0-0, 20ko), who weighed in at 159.6lbs, during the build-up to fight night. “I’m prepared to fight King Kong if I have to. That’s what I’ve been training to do. I make sure that I have to endure every struggle while I’m in camp so I can see the glory when I step in the ring.”
Despite Wright’s 37 month inactivity, the fact he is a known survivor adds intrigue to his clash with Quillin as Peter is on a knockout run having scalped Martin Desjardins, Dennis Sharpe, Jesse Brinkley, Jason LeHoullier and Craig McEwan all ahead of schedule.
“I haven’t been the distance in over two years now,” Kid Chocolate commented. “My last five fights have been stoppages [in] six rounds or less. Boxing is all about the challenges. And that’s why Winky Wright and I took this fight. I never really said I was going to knock him out. Pluto is a place that he’s never been. Now if he happens to see stars then that’s not my problem.”
Despite Wright’s ring absence, he never seriously ballooned up in weight, only putting on 15lbs more than his heaviest fighting weight (170lbs versus Bernard Hopkins in 2007): “I’m not going to say I stayed in boxing shape,” he said. “I wasn’t fat, but I wasn’t in boxing shape. I may have weighed 185.”
Wright, who scaled in at 159lbs during Friday, June 1′s weigh-in, added: “[The old Winky from 2004 is] still here. I have a great opponent that will bring it out of me. I didn’t pick a bum, I picked a kid that is undefeated, hungry and wants to prove to the world he’s great. He’s tough and that’s what I’m looking for.”
Wright is unfazed at the prospect of Quillin having home support as the fighter has made the West Coast his adopted home. Winky commented that he is comfortable having taken the “Marvin Hagler” route to the top by taking on guys in their own yards.
“Maybe a lot of people didn’t have to take the route that I had to take to get where I got to, but I think taking that route made me a better and stronger fighter. It made me a tougher fighter because I knew that I could win no matter where I was.” The only question that remains is if the former undisputed ruler of 154lb boxing is still better and stronger at 40-years-old with a three year layoff behind him…
Words: Robert Delgado – Los Angeles
Photos: Esther Lin/Showtime
While Lateef Kayode attracted a high-ranked international standing for his powerful cruiserweight performances, one man who believed there remained room for improvement was perpetually placed at ringside, on the announcement table, in the form of the IBO world champion in the same weight class; Antonio Tarver. Kayode did not take kind to criticism, so now Tarver aims to show him, in the ring, on Saturday, June 2 at Carson’s Home Depot Center.
Explaining the beef he has with Tarver, undefeated Kayode (18-0-0, 14ko) said: “I have something to prove to Antonio Tarver, [who has] never fought anyone like me. I’m going to prove that all the things he said about me were wrong.”
Trained by Freddie Roach at the renowned Wildcard Boxing Club in Hollywood, Kayode continued: “He said all my punches were sloppy… he said I’m not fighting with any spirit. Every time I fight on ShoBox he says the same thing. He said he’s just doing his job, but when I was doing good and connecting on my punches he just quiets down and says nothing. He only concentrates on my mistakes.”
Tarver (29-6-0, 20ko) claims to be “surprised” by Kayode’s reactions to his appraisals. He said: “I’ve got to see it with my own eyes and tell it how I see it. He’s a guy who is ranked high and if he wasn’t worthy, then I wouldn’t be fighting him [but] it’s not all about him. We all need to go back to the gym every time.
“What I was telling him were the things that I saw that he could have improved on. I’m not thinking of him being able to hit somebody hard or whatever. I’m looking at the intangibles that you need to be a world-class fighter and he could not understand that.
“He showed his inexperience and his youth by getting all emotional and out of whack approaching me and confronting me. Right there that tells me that his emotions got the best of him and now he’s bit off more than he can chew. So now instead of trying to tell him what I thought he should do to improve, now I’ve got to show him.”
Kayode will certainly be making a step-up in class when he looks to deconstruct ring veteran Tarver, a tricky 43-year-old southpaw with a good resume consisting of wins over Danny Green, Clinton Woods, Roy Jones Jr and Glen Johnson but Nigerian pugilist Kayode is not fazed at Tarver’s accomplishments and is banking on becoming the only man to inflict a knockout defeat onto Antonio: “If this fight were in the streets, I know I would win. I’m going to knock him out in the fifth round or the sixth round.”
Tarver is not intimidated by Kayode’s power: “I’m ready for whatever Lateef Kayode can bring,” he stated.
“If he thinks he’s going to be the bully in this fight, then he’s got another thing coming. If he thinks he’s going to bring power to this fight, he’s going to find out early that he’s got another thing coming. He better have an A, B, C, D plan, because it’s going to take more than one game plan to beat me, and just coming with power isn’t going to do it, because I’ve felt power punchers before and I’ve knocked them out. I’ve fought bullies before and I’ve knocked them out. I’ve fought the very best in the world and I’ve beat them.
“I have confidence in my ability and I’m a sharp-shooter. I’m trying to hit that kidney and I’m trying to hit that chin and I’m accurate. So you don’t have to worry about me missing. I’m going to be on point. I’m going to beat [him] down with my defense. I’m going to work for the knockout.”