A bit of of fisticuffs took place at LA LIVE on Sunday when Laker forward Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) threw the shot heard ’round the world by decking OKC Thunder’s James Harden in the final home game of the regular season for the former world champion Lakers. After the elbow-throwing incident, the B-ball brawler got in a boxing stance, ready for more. Just 24 hours later at the JW Marriott (directly across from the Staples Center), basketball gave way to boxing. But there was still a lot of jawing going on, verbal taunts thrown and shirts shed in a lively press conference kicking off a four-fight summer Showtime showdown taking place Saturday, June 2 at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. The bouts will air live on the cable network with an exciting lineup planned.
Coined “Four Warned,” the main event will feature Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver (29-6, 20 KOs) vs. Lateef “Power” Kayode (18-0, 14 KOs) in a cruiserweight war. Also on this action-packed card presented by Golden Boy Promotions, A.T. Entertainment and Gary Shaw Productions will be Winky Wright vs. Peter Quillin, Austin Trout vs. Delvin Rodriguez, and Leo Santa Cruz vs. Vusi Malinga.
At Monday’s media event, we got to hear from six of the prizefighters with Tarver, Kayode, Wright, Quillin, Trout and Santa Cruz in attendance flanked by Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Showtime’s Stephen Espinoza and the fighters’ respective camps joining the standing-room only crowd. This presser was highly entertaining with true passion, excitement and bravado coming from the gladiators, who all said they were appreciative of this upcoming opportunity to shine.
And for one boxer, by way of Nigeria, this really is a dream come true–and a big time chance to shine.
Lateef Kayode will be facing former champ Antonio Tarver in the main attraction. The Nigerian cruiserweight is trained by Hall of Famer Freddie Roach and managed by Steven Feder. With the Wild Card Boxing Club represented, Kayode’s supporters at the luncheon included manager Feder, trainers Jesse Arevalo and Jose Benavidez Sr., among others.
Kayode, who just turned 29, couldn’t contain his joy in taking on the southpaw Tarver, 43. He also couldn’t hide his feelings at being “dissed” by the ex-light heavyweight champ. Lateef states he tried in the past to talk to Tarver, showing respect for the former world titlist only to be “put down” and ignored by the “Magic Man,” who’s now also a Showtime boxing commentator. In my video chat with the challenger, the Hollywood boxer explains, “All he (Tarver) says about me is ‘I’m sloppy, I’m too aggressive’–THAT’S BULL SHIT!”
Brimming with confidence, Kayode tells me: “I’m better than him, I’m stronger than him. I have more energy than him. I know before the fifth round I will knock him down!”
The unbeaten Lateef Kayode will now get his chance to settle the score–and score that knockdown. If “bad blood” has been simmering, “Power” Kayode brought it to the surface while at the podium addressing his nemesis in Tarver. A pro since 2008, the Lagos, Nigeria native burst forth with a passionate speech laced with fire at his June 2 foe. While in the spotlight, Lateef told all of us: “When Tarver commented on me on Showtime, he never said anything good. I never disrespected him and I said, ‘Champ, what have I done to you?’”
With his pride perhaps wounded, Kayode is now bent on revenge and proving to Tarver and the world what he is made of. “I want to be a world champion and I want to fight world champions. I want to prove to all of you that I am better than him, that I am stronger than him,” the indignant challenger stated. “He has the name, but he doesn’t have the heart. He doesn’t have the power. The way he fights, I can get this guy!”
While he does consider himself the underdog, Lateef says of the former champ: “He doesn’t have crap; Tarver is done. I never disrespected anyone in my life, but on June 2, this guy is done.”
We all waited to hear what Antonio Tarver’s retort would be. “Wow!” was the first thing the ex-world titleholder said when he took to the microphone. Keeping calm, the Florida fighter expressed that he remembers when he was a young, hungry fighter like Kayode, wanting to make a statement in the ring. He relayed that his previous comments were meant as constructive criticism and that he’s not worried about Lateef’s power (“Power is nothing if you can’t land that punch!”). Tarver also insists he’s still a very dangerous fighter, at any age. As far as Kayode’s dream coming to fruition? “I’m telling Lateef that his dream is going to come crumbling down,” Antonio affirmed.
For the “face off” photo, the two warriors stood side by side: Both are towering cruiserweights, both were wearing long sleeved button-downed shirts, both were sporting diamond studs in their ears as they propped up their mighty fists. But Lateef went one step further in making a bold statement. Stripping off his shirt, he showed off his abs, flashing for the audience and also making sure Tarver could check out his fighting shape. As bystanders called out for Antonio to shed his own shirt, the former champ just smiled, keeping his bright red shirt on. This could be one fun matchup come June 2.
Listen below as I greeted Lateef Kayode before the main speeches began. In our interview, “Power” expresses his joy at securing a fight versus Tarver, and his desire to be a world champion while admitting he’s the underdog in the game. “I’m better than him; I’m stronger than him!” the slugger nods. He also shares his victories with his native country and thanks everyone for all their support. And he insists he will score a knockdown by the fifth round.
So what will go down on June 2?
Will it be the veteran champ Tarver who will win?
Or will the spirited upstart Kayode claim victory?
Michele Chong has been involved in the sport of boxing for over a decade. Her “Chatter Box” column covers a variety of subjects in both professional and amateur boxing, and features exclusive one-on-one interviews, recaps of fight events, shows and tournaments, book/film reviews and much more.
Inducted into the California Boxing Hall of Fame in 2008, she is also a member of the World Boxing Hall of Fame, Golden State Boxer’s Association and the Burbank Boxing Club. Michele is also involved in many non-profit and charitable organizations.