In a do or die fight for two older heavyweights looking for one last opportunity at a world title bout, Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver and “USS” Steve Cummingham gave everything they had in a hard fought, competitive twelve round split decision draw. Scores were 115-113 for Cunningham, 115-113 for Tarver, and 114-114. This main event at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey was part of the Premier Boxing Champions and was broadcast on Spike TV.
This was an extremely difficult bout to score and one that could’ve gone either way, yet a draw was a fair decision since both boxers had their moments but neither did enough to separate themselves from the other. Both pugilists weren’t in trouble in this matchup and neither could dominate the action for an extended period of time. Tarver and Cunningham were also not actively throwing as many punches as they should’ve considering the magnitude of this fight.
Cunningham was the aggressor throughout the bout as he pressed the action with the higher work rate and constantly had the former light heavyweight title holder from Tampa, Florida backing up. Cunningham landed 154 punches of the 678 he threw, according to CompuBox punch statistics, compared to Tarver who landed 141 of the 450 shots he delivered. Even though Cummingham dictated the action, Tarver’s good defense blocked a great deal of shots that Cunningham threw. He was the more accurate puncher as he landed 31% of the time while Cunningham connected on 23% of his shots. Tarver also landed more power shots; however, he didn’t let his hands go enough for most of the fight which cost him some rounds.
“I knew they [judges] weren’t educated on my defense and ring generalship. I threw the harder punches and wasn’t tired. I controlled the tempo, kept my jab busy and felt like I out boxed him too,” said Tarver. “He didn’t hurt me and couldn’t get to my body. 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.”
Cunningham controlled the action for the first three rounds. Tarver stunned Cunningham in the fourth as he landed two powerful left hooks after Cunningham’s feet got tangle up and then he rocked Cunningham again in the fifth round from a similar punch. Both boxers altered winning rounds in the second half of the fight. Tarver staggered Cunningham on more than one occasion in the ninth and eleventh round and gave the former two-time cruiserweight champion from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania a swollen and bruised right eye late in the bout that progressively got worse each round.
“I’m the man I’ve always been before and after the fight and this decision, you won’t find me kicking and screaming,” said Cunningham. “I’ve nothing to be ashamed of and I’ll get together with my team and family and talk about what we do next.”
Tarver (31-6-1, 22 KOs) ranked number nine by the IBF remained unbeaten in his last six fights dating back to his defeat to Chad Dawson in 2009. Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 KOs), the sixth ranked WBA fighter has altered wins and losses over his last couple of bouts but has faced the much better competition. Tarver at 46-years-old and Cunningham not much younger at 39 are running out of time for an opportunity at a heavyweight world title. This fight didn’t help either fighter, although it didn’t necessarily hurt either Tarver or Cunningham. This bout warranted a rematch especially it was so evenly contested, with the winner getting a bit closer to fight against Deontay Wilder or Wladimir Klitschko for a world title, although Tarver was extremely adamant after the fight that he didn’t want a rematch.