Can 'The Magic Man' Antonio Tarver Make Lateef Kayode's Hype Disappear?

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Can 'The Magic Man' Antonio Tarver Make Lateef Kayode's Hype Disappear?
John Gichigi/Getty Images

This Saturday night, fans tuned into boxing on Showtime will not hear the familiar voice of current boxing analyst Antonio Tarver. Instead, they will get to see him in action. 

The Former WBC, WBA, IBF, and Ring Light Heavyweight champion known as “Magic Man” is taking time off from commentating. He is taking off the black suit and tie and putting on a pair of gloves as he steps into the ring once again on June 2 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.

Tarver, 43, looks to put his name back in contention for a heavyweight title as he faces 29-year-old Nigerian WBO, NABO and NABF Cruiserweight champion Lateef Kayode. 

Kayode is a rising star who not only brings to the table an undefeated record of 18-0 with 14 coming by way of knockout, he also brings a 14-year advantage against Tarver. 

Interest in this fight began in September, when Tarver was commentating on one Kayode’s fight on Showtime and made criticism of Kayode’s performance.  Rightfully so, because Kayode's performance was not impressive at all that night. 

During a media conference call last week, Kayode made reference to the criticism he received by Tarver that night, saying “I’m going to prove that all the things he said about me were wrong. First of all, he said all my punches were sloppy and second of all, he said I’m not fighting with any spirit. Every time I fight on ShoBox he says the same thing.”

Tarver, like most of the boxing world, was surprised by Kayode’s inability to take his criticism as constructive instead of personal, especially when the criticism came from Tarver as an analyst and not as a fighter. 

During the same media conference call, Tarver added “I’m not paid to stroke anybody or sit behind that desk and promote or market a fighter. I’ve got to see it with my own eyes and tell it how I see it.” 

Tensions have risen to personal levels between both fighters, and much has been said during their press conferences and media workout days. In just four days, both fighters will step into the same ring and all of the talking will have to be done there, inside the square circle. 

Tarver, being the veteran, clearly has the mental advantage. Having been part of many championship fights and the first guys to defeat Roy Jones Jr. when he was still considered in his prime, he certainly knows what to expect once the big lights are on. 

Kayode, on the other hand, has never been in the ring with any notable fighters, so this is a big step up for him even if he is facing a 43-year-old Tarver.  

Kayode’s inexperience is counterbalanced by the fact that he trains at Wild Card Gym in Hollywood under the guidance of renowned trainer Freddie Roach, who will be able to provide some knowledgeable information and game-plan on how to fight against a veteran such as Tarver, who relies more on knowledge than on physical abilities. 

It's hard for me to say who is going to win this fight. It's a young and inexperienced vs. old and knowledgeable type of match. Those are usually hard to predict, unless of course that old fighter has the nickname “The Executioner.”

Will the veteran Tarver give the young Kayode a boxing lesson come June 2? Or will the young, hungry fighter in Kayode push through to become a new star and force Tarver to hang up the gloves on a luxurious and accomplished career ?  

We will just have to wait and find out on June 2. The fight is only four days away. 

I will be covering the event live from press row on Saturday, and you can follow me on twitter @sonofcuba for round-by-round updates straight from the Home Depot Center . 

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