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Kayode wants to kayo Tarver

Story by Francisco Salazar
Photos courtesy of Tom Casino/Showtime

Constructive criticism. Most people go through it at some point in their professional career.

Accountants are reminded to balance, nurses are reminded on procedures for drawing blood, and teachers are reminded to check for students' knowledge. It is meant for managers, supervisors, or owners to give feedback to someone who is applying specific job requirements and to do it to the best possible way.

Lateef Kayode applies his trade in and out of a ring and, to a certain extent, listens to constructive criticism from his trainer, manager, and his promoter. Although he is a "perfect" fighter on record, he is far from being the perfect fighter. He could get there one day, but there is a lot of work for him to do before he would be considered the number one cruiserweight in the world.

Antonio Tarver may not have the platform to voice that opinion in print, but did get Kayode's attention when he did so on television. However, Kayode did not take it as constructive or criticism. Because of that, Kayode wants to take out his frustrations and anger out on the former undisputed world champion.
Kayode hopes to respond with his fists against Tarver on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA.

The bout will be for Tarver's world title belt and headline an eight-bout "Four Warned" card. The bout, along with three other bouts, will be televised live on Showtime.

Kayode, who is promoted by Gary Shaw, has slowly moved up the ranks of the cruiserweight division since making his professional debut in August of 2008. He is already ranked in the top 10 in three of the major sanctioning bodies and has accumulated a handful of regional title belts.

In his last fight, Kayode defended one of those belts, winning a convincing 10 round unanimous decision over Felix Cora Jr. on September 9th in Hinkley, MN.

Tarver, who also serves a Showtime analyst during broadcasts, made comments during the broadcast (and other broadcasts that Kayode has fought on) that angered the Nigerian-born fighter. One could brush aside those comments, but Kayode said that Tarver personally attacked him.

Tarver stated that he was giving constructive criticism and it is not his fault that Kayode has always had people in his corner praise him throughout his undefeated run. However, Kayode plans to do something about it on Saturday night.

"I'm ready to fight," Kayode told over the phone on Tuesday morning.

During training and in leading up to a fight, Kayode carries a confident, yet positive personality where ever he goes. However, Kayode's demeanor has changed leading up to his fight his fight with Tarver. He is much more outspoken and has an angrier tone when speaking about Tarver.

What was it that Tarver said that has angered Kayode so much? On previous "ShoBox: The New Generation" broadcasts, Tarver questioned Kayode's status as a world title contender and that he slapped with his punches.

While Tarver says that he was doing his job, Kayode did not accept those claims.

"I don't like what he said about me. He only looks for the mistakes that I make during a fight. I'll show him when I hit him with my left hook how I "slap" my punches. I can fight him or I could box him."

Those are bold words from Kayode, who is stepping up in class against the former undisputed light heavyweight world champion. In his last fight, Tarver stopped Australian contender Danny Green on July 20th.

Whereas one would think that Tarver might have an extraordinary advantage having watched Kayode fight in person, the unbeaten fighter brushes that notion aside.

"I don't care if he has watched me. He could watch me all he wants. If he thinks that I'm going to have the same style on the night of the fight, he'll be mistaken. He won't know what I will do for this particular fight.

Look at my fights, I have gotten better and I will keep getting better."

"Besides, I have seen him fight in person (Tarver and Kayode fought on the same card on October 15th, 2010) and seen his fights on tape as well. I believe in my power and am confident in my ability. I will counter what he does on June 2nd."

Since migrating to the United States, Kayode has made an impressive run as a professional fighter. Escaping Nigeria, where he played soccer and get in fights on local streets, to come to the United States has allowed him to live the American dream so many immigrants strive for.

Now living and training in Hollywood, CA, he feels that he is blessed that he is benefitting from the opportunities here in the United States. The social challenges that he says he has had to overcome have allowed him to be strong mentally in and out of the ring.

That is why he thinks he has a mental advantage over Tarver.

"I have nothing to lose. I feel the pressure is on him more because of what he's said about me. If I were to beat him, what will he say about that? He would be ashamed of himself."

There was talk of Kayode possibly fighting for a world title belt against current holder Guillermo Jones after he defeated Cora Jr. That fight did not pan out, but Kayode thinks that his fight against Tarver was a blessing for him.

Maybe a fight with Tarver was just what Kayode needed at this stage of his career.

"Maybe God promised me this fight. I know that people have told me that Tarver is tough. Maybe God is doing this for a reason."

Whether one thinks that Kayode may or may not belong in the ring is to the eye of the beholder. However, Kayode has a lot of confidence that he will be able to defeat Tarver on Saturday night.

Kayode believes that he is ready for a world title shot and a victory over Tarver would allow him to achieve that goal. However, Kayode will be in against a formidable and still dangerous fighter in Tarver.

Then again, Kayode does not want anything easy and is ready for the challenge.

"Even if I were to lose, I'm still going to win. Where I am at in my life and my career, I've improved a great deal. I'm going to do my best and still be proud of what I've done (in my career)."

After the fight, win or lose, maybe Tarver can constructively analyze whether Kayode does belong with the elite cruiserweights in the world.

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