SUNRISE, FL — Antonio Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs) won his first bout in over two years by breaking down Mike Sheppard (21-16, 9 KOs) to a fourth-round TKO. Despite being 45 years old and inactive over the last year and a half, Tarver’s skill level was too high for the journeyman Sheppard, who never got past Tarver’s southpaw right jab or left hand to do any significant damage. The end came off a flush counter left uppercut that put Sheppard on his back in the fourth. Although he beat the count, Tarver maintained steady pressure and well-placed power shots to score two more knockdowns and prompt the stoppage. The fight was Tarver’s second at heavyweight (following a 2010 decision win over Nagy Aguilera) and earned him the interim NABA heavyweight title.
On the undercard, 23-year old bantamweight prospect Randy Caballero (20-0, 12 KOs) maintained his undefeated record socring two knockdowns in route to a seventh round TKO over Miami fighter Jessy Cruz (10-6-1, 4 KOs). Cruz fought well in the early rounds using high punch activity and movement, but Caballero showed little respect for his power and walked through his offense to land hard hooks downstrairs and right crosses through the guard.
The competitiveness of the fight collapsed in the sixth when a Caballero right to the solar plexus dropped Cruz in the round’s final seconds. Caballero cashed out his advantage in the seventh courtesy of a left hook downstairs for a second knockdown. Cruz rose for more punishment, primarily receiving left hooks upstairs, before turning away in capitulation on the ropes to prompt the referee stoppage.
13-year veteran Yusef Mack (31-7-2, 17 KOs) dropped his third straight bout in losing a 10-round decision to 26-year-old prospect Thomas Williams Jr (15-0, 10 KOs). The southpaw Williams was able to load up with body shots, uppercuts and controlled the majority of the action with his faster hands and sharper technique. Mack never truly seemed to have his legs under him enough to generate power and always appeared off-balance when trying to counter or exchange with Williams. Final scorecards were unanimous for Williams: 99-91, 98-92 and 97-92.
Video Credit: @Sweetboxing
Are you ready for a Antonio Tarver heavyweight run? I was on the Bad Culture Radio show last night and argued that Tarver should fight another tuneup or two in early 2014 before moving onto a legit heavyweight. The monkey-wrench there is Tarver is coming back to make big fights as soon as possible since he’s on a “one-year plan.” As Ryan Bivins of Bad Left Hook pointed out on the radio show, undefeated Cuban heavyweight Luis “King Kong” Ortiz (20-0, 17 KOs) was on the undercard, which would be a dangerous but solid test for Tarver to prove his heavyweight credentials before facing a ranked guy.
Are you buying what the Magic Man is selling at heavyweight?