Lone Star focus breeds success for Tyner
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Scratch the Chamber of Commerce off Lanardo Tyner's prospective job list in Houston.
Though the 32-year-old junior welterweight admits his boxing career got a boost when he headed south from his native Detroit a year ago, he says his new home in southeast Texas isn't exactly the same when it comes to extracurricular activities.
"Being here in Texas, there's really nothing to do," Tyner said, in a FitzHitz interview, as he prepared to depart Space City for the Jersey Shore and the biggest night of his career -- a Friday encounter with Mike Arnaoutis for the USBA's 140-pound title at Bally's Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City.
"I don't have anything to do but train and get ready. In Detroit, there were a lot of distractions, a lot of family up there and a lot of nightlife. But here, all I do is go to the gym and go home and spend time with my wife and my kids. It's not as exciting, but I'm comfortable."
The chaos, at least according to plan, will be saved for the ring.
There, in the main event of ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" card, Tyner will face the veteran Arnaoutis -- who was unbeaten through 19 pro bouts before dropping a reed-thin split decision to Ricardo Torres for the vacant WBO world championship in November 2006 in Las Vegas.
He lost a unanimous verdict to prospect Kendall Holt five months later, but rebounded to capture the USBA belt in his most recent bout, a 12-round scorecard rout of Harrison Cuello on March 6 at the Grand Ballroom in New York City.
Tyner, meanwhile, is still pristine through 19 bouts, winning 11 by knockout, including a body-shot stoppage of Victorio Abadia in less than two minutes at the Palace of Auburn Hills in suburban Detroit on February 1.
"I've watched him fight, and we actually almost came together a few years ago when I was 7-0 and he was something like 11-0," said Tyner, who turned pro in 2004. "Something happened to keep that one from actually coming through, but I'm glad it's happening now.
"It's my first big chance. He's already had his. It's my turn now."
Though he comes from a city that's produced Hall of Famers in Joe Louis and Thomas Hearns, Tyner draws his stylistic inspiration from fellow junior welterweight Aaron Pryor -- a dynamic Cincinnati product who held world titles at 140 pounds between 1980 and 1985.
Known primarily for two KO victories over Alexis Arguello, Pryor won his first 36 bouts as a pro before his career was sidetracked by drugs and other legal issues. Still, many consider him among the best in a decade that also featured Hearns, Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler and Roberto Duran.
"I was always a Sugar Ray Leonard fan, but I've seen tapes of Pryor's fights and I think I fight a lot like him," Tyner said. "I don't start fighting until I get hit, and then I come harder, just like he did. He could've been even better, but a lot of guys ducked him."
Nicknamed the "Pain Server," Tyner is hoping a willingness to fight anywhere from 135 to 147 pounds will help him avoid a similar dearth of quality opponents.
"I'm always training and I'm always ready," he said. "There have been offers made for fights and guys have accepted, but then after they realize who they're going to be in with, they make a few phone calls and the next thing you know, they've gotten out of the fight.
"But if I do my job on Friday night, that shouldn't be a problem anymore. They can't really duck me. I'll be ranked in the IBF and I'll become a mandatory for a world title shot at some point, depending on how impressively I win. Knowing that has made me train even harder."
Arnaoutis is listed at No. 15 in the IBF's 140-pound rankings for April, while Tyner is No. 10 in the USBA's roll call for the month. New York native Paul Malignaggi is the IBF world champion and is scheduled for his second defense later this month against No. 4 contender Lovemore N'dou.
"In a way, I have to admit, I'm a little nervous," Tyner said. "There are a lot of people counting on me. A lot of people from back home -- and commissioners and promoters -- are saying things like 'If you win, we all win.' I know they're counting on me and I think about it a lot.
"I'll be nervous up until the time we throw the first punch. But then, it's a fight."
* * * * * *
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm guzzling the Kool-Aid this week.
Count me among those sufficiently moved by the "De La Hoya and Friends" production on HBO last Saturday night to believe the "Golden Boy's" prospective rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. this fall is something more than a waste of time.
I'll admit, in the days following their viscerally disappointing encounter in Las Vegas last May 5, I was quick to categorize any return bout as an unnecessary money grab by two guys who, quite frankly, have no economic need for such theatrics.
But now that Mayweather's two most attractive options -- Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito -- are set to square off at Madison Square Garden on July 26, the second go-round with Oscar suddenly becomes the back half of a competitively enticing "Final Four" at 147 pounds.
Though undoubtedly in there with an opponent hand-picked to make him look good, De La Hoya showed enough stylistic progress last weekend -- most notably with a spearing left jab and better stamina -- to present a more daunting challenge to the "Pretty Boy's" supremacy come September.
Toss in the ongoing Mayweather family dysfunction -- Roger and Floyd Jr. in one corner/Floyd Sr. in the other -- and you have exploitation-ready fuel to power the 24/7 series that helped the first bout earn "biggest fight ever" status in terms of PPV hits and live gate revenue.
Then, imagine if you will, the ultimate championship bout that would match the winners next spring:
Mayweather-Cotto alongside the Puerto Rican Day celebration in New York.
De La Hoya-Margarito in an all-Latino "Cinqo de Mayo" showdown in Los Angeles.
No matter the final ingredients, it's a can't-miss concoction.
Bartender, get me another... and make it a double.
* * * * * *
Another 140-pound belt will be up for grabs in the weekend's lone world title fight.
U.K. favorite Junior Witter will make the third defense of his WBC super lightweight crown on home turf, when he faces unbeaten No. 1 challenger Timothy Bradley at the Nottingham Arena on Saturday.
Witter, unbeaten in 21 fights since a loss to Zab Judah in 2000, picked up the vacant crown with a decision win over veteran DeMarcus Corley in 2006.
He defended twice in 2007 against Mexican import Arturo Morua and ex-WBA champ Vivian Harris, recording stoppages in nine and seven rounds, respectively.
Bradley, a native Californian, is making his first professional appearance outside his home state.
He's 21-0 with 11 knockouts in a career that began in 2004 with a two-round stoppage of Francisco Martinez in Corona. His most recent fight was last July, when he outpointed Miguel Vazquez over 10 rounds for the WBC's youth championship, also in Corona.
He relinquished the youth title -- for boxers aged 23 and under -- upon turning 24 years old on August 29.
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides 'In The Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.