Antonio Tarver and Steve Cunningham fight to a split draw
NEWARK, N.J.ÔÇöAbout the only thing missing was a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth. Otherwise, Antonio Tarver fulfilled all the prerequisites, from his bald head to his protruding gut, to bear a striking resemblance to the fictional James “The Grim Reaper” Roper, the Damon Wayans character from the movie “Great White Hype.”
Apparently, Tarver’s belly wasn’t all jelly. The 46-year-old managed to go 12 hard rounds against Steve “USS” Cunningham Friday night on the PBC on Spike show before 5,843 in Newark’s Prudential Center, but the two fighters finished in a split draw.
John McKaie had it for Cunningham, 115-113, judge Robin Taylor had it 115-113 for Tarver and judge John Stewart saw it a 114-114 draw.
Stewart and Taylor gave Tarver the last four rounds. McKaie gave Cunningham the 11th and 12th.
It was a tough fight to score. Tarver, soon to be a grandfather, landed lefts the whole night. One look at the puffy right side of Cunningham’s face spoke volumes. Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 knockouts) did well at the outset, arguably taking the first three rounds, boring in and backing Tarver up. But it didn’t take long for the veteran Tarver (31-6-1, 22 KOs) to figure out Cunningham, walking USS into a few lefts.
Occasionally, the two received a spattering of boos from the crowd, especially after the fireworks Krzysztof Glowacki and Marco Huck provided in the previous fight. Neither fighter hurt each other, but Tarver’s punches seemed to carry more impact.
Tarver had the more explosive power, while Cunningham was the more accurate puncher.
“Tarver-Cunningham was a close fight, and I personally feel Tarver won,” said Lou DiBella, the show’s promoter. “I truthfully think Tarver eked it out, based on more accurate punching, bigger punching. I wasn’t scoring every round. I’m not going to judge the result. It wasn’t a terrible fight, it just followed a great fight. I mean Glowacki-Huck has to be fight of the year. Glowacki is the undertaker. He came back from the dead. How he got up from the sixth round I have no idea.”
There was no formal post-fight press conference because neither Cunningham nor Tarver wanted to talk. Both thought they’d won and both were highly agitated after the result was read. Eventually, Tarver did come out and speak to the media.
“I have never won a close decision, so I’m not totally shocked, and we’re right here close to Philly, so I felt I won more rounds than he did and I definitely hurt him,” said Tarver, who had an ice pack wrapped around his left wrist, which he did say he hurt during the fight. “He didn’t hurt me. I hurt him a few times. I thought I inched out a close fight.
“I didn’t lose. I had a draw. I’m ready for a big fight. The guy was awkward and had no rhythm. I thought I boxed his head off. The guy didn’t hit me with anything big. I landed all of the power shots. I definitely felt I won more rounds than him and dictated the pace. Steve Cunningham is a durable fighter. I take nothing away from him. But he went to school against a 46-year-old man tonight. I’m still beating these young guys. There’s no point in a rematch. I want the big fight.”
Cunningham did release a statement, saying, “I’m the man I’ve always been before and after the fight. You won’t see me kicking and screaming. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I’m going to get together with my team and figure out what’s next.”