By: Sean Crose
Last summer, on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather –Conor McGregor superfight, a cruiserweight battle occurred between longtime respected veteran Steve Cunningham and rising undefeated star Andrew Tabiti. Entering the ring with a record of 13-0, it might have been assumed that Tabiti, who had stopped all but two of his previous opponents within the distance, would be sure to go in for the kill. That wasn’t the case, though. Rather than get wrapped up in the moment, Tabiti outfought and outskilled his older foe. Cunningham was a crafty vet, after all. What’s more, he had the power to knock down the gigantic Tyson Fury just a few years earlier.
“I could tell he had a high guard,” Tabiti says of Cunningham. “He wasn’t really punching.” Tabiti, perhaps more than most young fighters, knows the value of playing it smart in and out of the ring if one wants to get ahead. Not that he isn’t exciting. Those fast hands and that thudding power have made the Las Vegas native a man to watch.
Photo Credit: Premier Boxing Champions
Now Tabiti finds himself about to face to another cruiserweight, this time on the eleventh of May, in the guise of 21-2 Lateef Kayode. The bout, which will go down in Vegas, will be aired live on Bounce TV and will mark the first time Tabiti has fought since the victory over Cunningham. “I’m just ready for anybody,” he says. Right now, Tabiti’s goal is to become a champion at cruiserweight and move on to bigger – and more lucrative – adventures. For the man makes it clear he will “eventually go up to heavyweight.”
At the moment, though, the cruiserweight division awaits, a division which is in the midst of a highly regarded tournament to see who the top fighter of the weight class is. It is a tournament which Tabiti didn’t find himself in. Not that the man minds. In fact, Tabiti is up front about where he stood on the ladder while the tournament was being formed. “To be honest,” he says. “I wasn’t a legitimate cruiserweight…at the time I wasn’t top tier.”
The tournament which Tabiti hasn’t been a part of will be over soon enough. At the moment, Tabiti says, he’s “favoring Usyk,” as in Oleksandr Usyk, the 14-0 Ukrainian powerhouse, who will be facing the 26-0 Murat Gassiev in the final battle for division supremacy, which will go down at a yet to be decided upon date. Like many cruiserweights before him, Usyk, should he win, may well make the jump to heavyweight shortly thereafter. So, does Tabiti feel the moment’s top crop of cruisers may elude him? “It’s a chance Gassiev may stay,” he says. “Then again, I see them both moving up.”
Once again, however, Tabiti is unperturbed. As he says: “All blessings come from being patient.”
Some of Tabiti’s confidence may well come the fact that he’s a member of the famed “Mayweather Promotions,” named after the man himself, Floyd Mayweather Jr. “I’ve got a good promoter,” Tabiti says of Floyd. “He puts fighters in a position to win titles…It’s a blessing.” Does the Vegas native ever see Floyd, one of the city’s most famous citizens? “I see him time to time,” Tabiti says. “He’s a man of his word.”
Although there had been word that problems existed between Tabiti and his trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr, before the Cunningham fight, it was the senior Mayweather who was in his fighter’s corner that night, just as he had been before. “I’m still trained by his (Floyd’s) dad,” Tabiti says,” though he adds the elder Mayweather isn’t around at the moment due to a death in the family. The duties of the senior Mayweather, then, are currently being conducted by Otis Pimpleton.
Despite his rising star and power backing, Tabiti is, in essence, a simple man. He doesn’t swear. He’s not flashy and he’s not pushing for shock value. “I live a low key lifestyle,” he says. “I just want to be humble. The universe is watching what you give in and what you give back.” Tabiti’s background was a rough one, though one which he didn’t let swallow him whole. “I had a tough upbringing,” he says. “At one point I was staying with a church family.” A church family that didn’t have much patience for things like swearing. Such are the experiences Tabiti has taken into his adult life. It’s the sense of maturity that sets the man apart from other rising stars.
While other up and coming fighters make it a point to be as brash and outspoken as possible, Tabiti says he doesn’t “really like conflict too much.” Not that he minds getting in the ring to prove who the best competitor is. I ask the six foot one inch fighter about the challenges he might face should he move up to heavyweight. This is a supersized era, after all, with enormous individuals like Anthony Joshua, Deontay Wilder, and the aforementioned Tyson Fury dotting the landscape.
“No, not at all,” he responds after I inquire whether or not he’s concerned of the size of possible future opponents. “I’m very fast,” he adds. “It’s defense. Defense is a major key.” As is confidence, something the twenty eight year old clearly has in abundance. “Boxing’s a technique,” he says. Boxing can also be quite lucrative…if one is able to move onto the upper echelons. That’s something that Tabiti feels can come in time. At the moment, though, the fighter will focus on his May bout with Kayode. Should he prove successful, the spotlight will inevitably, become brighter, something it looks like Tabiti may well be prepared for.
“I like Showtime,” he says of what is now the premiere cable network to broadcast boxing. Tabiti’s showcased his skills on the channel before. Will he do so again in the near future? “Hopefully, the next fight,” he says.