By: William Holmes
Antonio “The Magic Man” Tarver made his first appearance inside the ring at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida since his positive test for steroids. He’s a former light heavyweight champion and he was making his debut in the heavyweight division.
The first bout of the night was between Washington D.C. native Thomas Williams Jr. (14-0) and Philadelphia native Yusaf Mack (31-6) in the light heavyweight division. Mack is a rugged veteran who has had several title shots but has always come up short and Williams is a young prospect with significant upside.
Mack had a three in reach advantage while Williams had a seven year age advantage. The bout started off slowly with Williams, uncharacteristically, in a southpaw stance. Mack landed a couple of straight right hands in the first but a fierce exchange occurred at the end of the first round with Williams getting the better of Mack.
In the second round Williams landed a right hook to the side of Mack’s head that may have briefly stunned him. His straight left was also finding its target and was snapping the head of Yusaf Mack. Mack took a beating in the second round, but had a strong third round with short punches.
Williams began to take over this fight in the fourth round when he attacked the body of Mack. He loaded up on several combinations and his body attacks opened up some shots to Mack’s head. Mack’s back was against the ropes several times in the fifth round and his punches were lacking a quick hard snap.
William continued to pound the body of Mack from sixth round to the eighth round. In the ninth round Williams wobbled Mack’s legs with a hard right hook and continued the onslaught in the final round, but Mack was able to survive.
The final scores were 99-91, 98-92, and 97-92 for Thomas Williams Jr.
The second bout of the night was between Randy Caballero (19-0) and Jesse Cruz (10-5) in the bantamweight division.
Cruz was a large underdog heading into this fight. Caballero had the height, reach, speed, and age advantage over Cruz, but Cruz was fighting near his hometown.
Jesse Cruz came out the aggressor and may have surprised Caballero with his aggression. His straight left hand was able to land and he was throwing more and landing more than his highly regarded opponent. Caballero looked frustrated in the third round when he pushed the smaller Cruz to the floor.
Caballero picked up his aggression in the fourth round and was landing several had punches to the body of Cruz. Cruz’s activity began to taper off in the sixth round while Caballero’s activity only picked up. Caballero scored a knockdown late in the sixth round with a right hand to the body of Cruz.
In round seven Caballero continued to press forward and do significant damage to his quickly fading opponent. He scored another body shot knockdown in the seventh round but Cruz was able to get back up. Caballero finished the fight at the end of the seventh round as the referee waived off the fight while Caballero was landing several hard punches on a nearly defenseless Cruz.
Caballero won by TKO at 2:59 of the seventh round.
Antonio “The Magic Man” Tarver (29-6) met Mike Sheppard (21-15-1) in the main event of the night. Antonio Tarver mentioned before the fight started that he is on a one year plan to meet Wladimir Klitschko.
Tarver looked soft and out of shape and both fighters did a lot of clinching in the first round. Tarver, however, was clearly a class above Sheppard and was able to pop shot his opponent at will from the outside.
Tarver connected with two good uppercuts in the second round and straight left hands down the pike. Sheppard was offering little, if any, offense. Tarver had Sheppard trapped on the ropes in the third round and was landing several shots to the body.
He landed a hard left uppercut right on the chin of Sheppard and he went down in the fourth round. He was able to get back up to his feet, but was still wobbly and went down two more times before the referee called off the fight.
Antonio Tarver won by TKO at 1:54 of round four but he needs to do a lot of work in a short period of time if he wants to challenge Wladimir Klistchko.