By John G. Thompson: This Saturday night Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime bring a thrilling boxing card to the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Former light heavyweight champion and US Olympian Antonio “The Magic Man” Tarver (29-6, 20 KO’s) takes on undefeated Freddie Roach-trained Nigerian Lateef “Power” Kayode (18-0, 14 KO’s). Also on this excellent card, up-and-coming boxing star Austin “No Doubt” Trout (24-0, 14 KO’s) looks to tackle his biggest challenge to date in the rugged scrapper Delvin Rodriguez (26-5-3, 14 KO’s). As if these two fights were not intriguing enough, former champion Ronald “Winky” Wright (51-5-1, 25 KO’s) makes his ring return after three years of inactivity against undefeated Peter Quillin (26-0, 20 KO’s).
Tarver, who played heavyweight champion Mason Dixon in Rocky Balboa in the latest installment of the franchise, put on weight for the roll and perhaps should have stayed in the heavyweight division. Instead he came back down to light heavy and was dominated by long time middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins who was moving up in weight. Now at age 43 and fighting to defend the International Boxing Organization cruiserweight title he won last year against Danny Green, Tarver takes on the most dangerous foe he has faced since losing two decisions to Chad Dawson in 2008. Tarver has been inactive as of late, focusing on his new career as commentator for Showtime, with just one bout in each 2009, 2010, and 2011.
I am not sold yet on the abilities of Lateef Kayode, despite his KO percentage. If he were to stop Tarver, however, who has never been stopped despite a level of competition including fights with Dawson, Clinton Woods, Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr., and Glen Johnson, Kayode might earn some fans. Should Tarver win, he will prove he still belongs in the ring with other elite cruiserweights, but if he loses a decision or worse via knockout, he should seriously consider sticking to his career as an announcer.
I wrote an article back in November titled “No Doubt Trout is an Elite Light Middleweight” which drew some criticism after Trout’s dominant sixth round TKO of Frank LoPorto. Some claimed Trout has not yet fought a high enough level of competition to warrant such praise, however, regardless of the opponent one only has to watch the way Trout moves around the ring to recognize the potential. On Saturday night he will get to show that potential against his toughest opponent to date in Delvin Rodriguez who always comes to fight. Rodriguez has been stopped once against Jesse Feliciano and has been outpointed by the likes of Ashley Theophane and Isaac Hlatshwayo, so while a win would not be enough to place Trout in any pound for pound lists, an impressive showing could do a lot towards his marketability.
Forty year old Winky Wright returns to the ring for the first time since a lopsided points loss to now injured Paul Williams back in April 2009. On a side note, I’m sure the whole boxing community is routing for Paul Williams to overcome the paralyzing injuries he recently sustained in a motorcycle accident. Wright did not fight at all in 2008, and had only one bout in 2007, losing a decision to Bernard Hopkins. Though his taller opponent Quillin boasts nine first round knockouts and another six bouts ending in the second round, we will see if he has the boxing skills to go with the power, since the defensive minded Wright has never been stopped in fifty-seven bouts.
Among the non-televised bouts on the card, Sharif Bogere (22-0, 14 KO’s) has one of the more elaborate ring entrances in the sport today, wearing a lion skin, and being carried into the ring in a lion cage by several men in loincloths. He faces light opposition in Manuel Leyva (21-6, 12 KO’s), who has lost five of his last six bouts, three by stoppage. There is also a descent matchup between former titlist Sakio Bika against Dyah Davis, and a bout between Vusi Malinga (20-3, 12 KO’s) vs. Leo Santa Cruz (19-0-1, 11 KO’s) for the vacant IBF bantamweight title.
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