|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - August 14, 2015
Leading up to their nationally televised 12-round main event fight at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, Steve Cunningham and Antonio Tarver participated in a feisty and entertaining war of words to promote their intriguing match-up. Both former champions went at each other without hesitation and both scored sharp blows on the other in the press, on social media and on an explosive teleconference. Their mouthy battle added spice to a fight that both fighters called a "must win". However, after 12 long rounds, neither boxer scored that must win, and had to settle for split decision draw.
The fight not only fell short of its pre-fight build up, it also had the misfortune of happening in the wake of the evening's co-feature, a cruiserweight title bout between Marco Huck and Krzysztof Glowacki, which very well could wind up being the Fight of the Year. On the contrary, Cunningham-Tarver started slow and pretty much stayed that way for all twelve rounds.
Both fighters started cautiously. Cunningham threw his jab and circled Tarver. Antonio was generally motionless, peering at Cunningham through his white-gloved guard and not throwing any punches. Toward the end of the round, the action heated slightly but the bell ended any threat of the fight's ignition.
Cunningham returned to his jab in round two and banked his second straight frame by being busier. Tarver appeared to loosen up a little in round three when he landed a few combinations. The southpaw's left hand landed twice and showed that it still had some power in it. However, Cunningham remained busier and won his third round.
The fight finally took a turn in the fourth. With Cunningham still boxing well, Tarver landed both a left and a right that made Cunningham wobble, slightly off balance. Moments later Tarver hit Cunningham with another right and Cunningham stumbled into the ropes. Clearly Tarver, 46, still had his old starch, and that power earned him his first round.
In round five, Tarver was still hesitant to throw himself into battle, and instead stayed passive and just waited for another opening. Cunningham boxed carefully, and the caution slowed his output almost to Tarver's non-existent rate. Then with time running out in the 5th, Tarver stuck again and hurt Cunningham, 39. Tarver wasn't doing much, but when he landed, he made it count. The burst of power earned Tarver another round and narrowed my score to 3-2, Cunningham.
Cunningham rebounded to win rounds six, seven, and eight on my card, but his performance was now overly cautious, bordering on timid. He was far more active than Tarver, who was content to do absolutely nothing but wait. In the eighth round, Tarver was getting tired, but Cunningham wasn't doing much to wear him out completely. A good right by Cunningham near the ending bell appeared to hurt Antonio, but the round ended before anything else happened.
The best round of the fight was the ninth. A switch-hitting Cunningham exchanged with Tarver in the red (Cunningham) corner. Steve's back was to the pad and Tarver was finally throwing punches. He kept stopping to suck in air, but his shots were powerful. Finally Cunningham escaped the corner, but the linger there cost him the round. Tarver finished the ninth wavering from fatigue.
In the tenth, Cunningham started fast but Tarver wobbled him twice. Tarver was breathing heavy, but he had won another round and suddenly the fight felt extremely close.
Every Cunningham fan worth his salt knows that close decisions are not something that Steve often wins. On my card, he was still up 6-4, but the final two rounds would be critical. Cunningham needed a surge.
However in round eleven, the action slowed even more. Tarver initiated many clinches and Cunningham appeared satisfied to play along instead of securing the win. Steve edged the 11th round, but it was by a hair.
In the final round, Tarver closed the fight with showier punches and took the round like the wily pro that he is. At the final bell, Steve's face looked a mess with a swollen right eye and a puffy lip.
My scorecard favored Cunningham 7-5 (115-113), but it was clear that he probably hadn't done enough to win this fight against this bigger name, and with a potential title fight hanging in the balance. Cunningham's career just doesn't play out that way. It's not fair, but inexplicably Cunningham has to win big to actually win a decision. The official scores agreed.
Judge John McKaie's tally matched mine, 115-113 for Cunningham. Judge Robin Taylor favored Tarver by the same score, 115-113. Finally John Stewart scored the fight even at 114-114. A split draw.
"Cunningham is a durable fighter, but I showed him that I'm still here," Tarver said after the fight. "I hurt my left hand early, but I hung in there and showed everyone that I can get in there and fight these younger guys. I thought I won the fight. I timed him all night and won the fight."
"I'm the same man before and after this fight," Cunningham said. "And this decision, you won't hear me kicking and screaming. I have nothing to be ashamed of. I'll get with my team and my family and figure out what's next."
This was an ugly fight. It was difficult to watch two accomplished boxers struggling to make something happen. Their styles just did not synch up. However with the stakes so high - a possible title fight to the winner and both careers under serious scrutiny - one of them should have done more to make a statement. It is true that Cunningham tried harder, but he didn't do enough to shut down the weary old pro.
Cunningham has lost many fights by robbery. However, despite the fact that I think he won it, Cunningham wasn't robbed. This fight was close and ugly with too little action, and tha'sthe perfect recipe for a disputed decision.
I'm not sure what this draw means for either fighter going forward, but my hunch says that Tarver, 31-6-1, 22 KOs, gets that title shot against Deontay Wilder and Cunningham, 28-7-1, 13 KOs, has to get back in line.
The challenger came out punching and jumped out to an early lead, finding immediate success with his brutish southpaw style. Glowacki was aggressive and powerful and hurt the champ near the end of the first round. Huck took a while to get going, but once the fourth round came, he began to land and chip away at Glowacki's lead.
The champion got his jab working and landed some strong rights. Glowacki landed to the body and Huck was knocked back. But the champion still took the round. For the second straight round, the fighters continued to fight after the bell sounded to end the round.
Round six was a great one. Huck, fully in charge, nailed Glowacki with a wide left hook and the challenger crashed to the canvas. It did not appear that he would rise, but Glowacki woke up and managed to get to his feet by the count of nine. The ref let him go on, and Glowacki returned to the battle like a wounded animal - dangerous and full of fight. However, Huck controlled the remainder of the round with many potent punches. Huck won 10-8 and pulled ahead on my card.
Glowacki took advantage of a resting Huck in round seven and won the round with a few effective bull rushes and hard shots. The champion kept his momentum going in the eighth. Despite looking tired, Huck loaded up on everything he threw, going for the knockout.
The ninth was slower, but Huck was still in control. He also won the tenth round and entered round eleven with a suddenly comfortable three-point lead. However the fight wasn't over yet.
In the eleventh, Huck was lulling away the round, casually boxing and wearily sitting on his lead. Suddenly Glowacki landed a left-right that put Huck on the floor. The champion got up but appeared exhausted and wobbly.
When the action resumed, Glowacki unleashed a two-fisted attack that dropped Huck again. Referee David Fields halted the fight as Huck fell. The time was 2:39 of round eleven.
Glowacki, 25-0, 16 KOs, won the WBO title with his gutsy and thrilling performance, and halted Huck's defense streak at 13. Huck's record fell to 38-3-1, 26 KOs.
Not only was this a fight of the year candidate, it was also the first great fight of the Premiere Boxing Champions television series. The result was a big upset, with Glowacki not only defeating the champion, but the event's co-promoter as well (Marco Huck of Huck Sports Promotions).
In round four, Laszczyk, North Bergen, NJ, dropped Frias with a bolt of a right hand and the crowd exploded. However, Frias was able to continue and lasted until the final bell. Laszczyk won a lopsided 8-round unanimous decision by three official scores of 80-70. Besides the knockdown in the fourth, Laszczyk also won the third round by a 10-8 score when Frias was penalized one point for hitting after the bell.
After the two Spike TV nationally televised fights, there were three walkout bouts that all ended quickly.
KAUFFMAN KO1 CARMACK
The attendance for the show was announced as 5,843. It was promoted by DiBella Entertainment and Huck Sports Promotions. .