Photo by Ed Tiller, DiBella Entertainment.
An announced crowd of 5,843 turned out for Premier Boxing Champions at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, on Friday night, where two scheduled 12-rounders were served up as the main attractions.
In the main event of the evening, two former world champions met in a heavyweight tilt, with Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver (31-6-1, 22 KOs) facing Steve “USS” Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 KOs). The tightly contested feature bout proved to be very difficult for the ringside judges to call, with three different cards resulting in a split draw.
"I'm the man I've always been before and after the fight, and this decision, you won't find me kicking and screaming,” Cunningham stated. "I have nothing to be ashamed of, and I'll get together with my team and family and talk about what we do next."
Cunningham was the busier man of the two, but the harder shots appeared to come off the hands of Tarver in what became a true pick ‘em fight as the bout progressed.
"I knew they weren't educated on my defense and ring generalship,” a frustrated Tarver said of the result. “I threw the harder punches and wasn't tired. I controlled the tempo, kept my jab busy and feel like I outboxed him too.”
In the earlier rounds, Cunningham distinctly displayed more volume, with Tarver sitting in the pocket and seemingly looking to land one sold left hand. That punch finally came at the close of the 4th frame when he buzzed Cunningham with a left hook just before the bell, buckling the legs of the Philadelphian.
By the fifth stanza, Tarver was starting to land with his left hand more frequently, and it looked like he was gaining clear control of the momentum. However, a resilient Cunningham grabbed it back in the sixth round with a focused body attack. The next few frames did not show a clear cut winner, as Cunningham once again looked a bit more active while Tarver landed the harder punches.
As the championship rounds approached, both men became more aggressive and had some personal success in the 10th frame. In the final two rounds, Tarver showed veteran savvy in knowing exactly how much fuel he had left in the tank, picking his spots to try and exploit some openings. Both frames saw some nice exchanges, and there was no concrete resolution once the final bell ended the bout.
After a long delay in compiling the scores, which almost always signifies a split decision, the final tallies were revealed. The first two cards saw both men claim a 115-113 card, and then a split draw became the outcome when the final judge saw it as 114-114.
"He didn't hurt me and couldn't get to my body,” Tarver continued. “I did what I had to do but didn't get the win. We got a draw, and I'm not satisfied with it at all."
As is the case with a draw, nothing decisive can be predicted for the future of either man. However, Tarver spoke briefly with the media after the fight and made his intentions clear by saying “I want Klitschko” as he got up and walked away.