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Cruiserweight resurgence a late gift for Tarver
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - I'm no big fan of Antonio Tarver.

Never have been.

I didn't think much of him in the Eric Harding/Montell Griffin days. I gave Roy Jones Jr. eight of 12 rounds in their first fight. The most memorable thing to me about their second was Tarver's eyes were closed when he hit the history-making home-run ball with the left hand.

And in the rubber match, Jones did far more to lose than the incumbent did to win.

So when the "Magic Man's" empire crumbled with a loss to Bernard Hopkins and slid over the cliff of irrelevance against the Elvir Muriqis, Danny Santiagos and Clinton Woods of the world, no tears were shed from my traveling keyboards in Philadelphia and Florida.

In fact, by the time he was drubbed twice by Chad Dawson in Las Vegas and put on 46 pounds to waddle past Nagy Aguilera in an ugly-fest last October in Miami, Okla., I figured the long-standing mental vendetta I'd carried on had officially dissolved into the sunset.


Antonio Tarver insisted a pit stop at 200 pounds would result in an IBO title.
But then it came back.

Instead of manning the Showtime microphones and collecting a cent for every dozen "Rocky Balboa" rentals at the local Redbox, the more-than-halfway to 43- year-old insisted a pit stop at 200 pounds would result in an IBO title coronation down under in Sydney.

Being the cynical type, I know Danny Green would keep the skid skidding.

I said as much in this space last week, picking the hometown hero to win in one-sided fashion, with a snappy tagline forecasting the champion as "too good and strong for puffed-up cruiser wannabe."

The pick: Green in 9.

The result: Tarver annoyed me again.

By dominating all but a few sequences in his own nine-round victory, the sport's newest two-division claimant either ensured himself a satisfying golden parachute or took a step toward giving the cruisers more headlines than they've had since erecting "Holyfield fought here" signs two decades ago.

Carrying a name with more cache than fellow champs Cunningham, Huck, Jones and Wlodarcyzk, Tarver is automatically in line for defenses against legit challengers like Yoan Hernandez and Denis Lebedev, foiled contenders like BJ Flores and Troy Ross and barely breathing former champs like Enzo Maccarinelli and even Jones -- who fell in 2 minutes, 2 seconds while challenging Green in 2009.

Or, if circumstances call for bigger quarry...a series of multi-title conquests.

"I'm going to unify this championship one belt at a time," he said. "I'll go anywhere in the world to win, because when you're in that squared circle, that's my home."

Much as it pains me, I say, good for him.

While I'll still contend his body of work pales next to Jones and many others, it's hard to maintain a coherent argument that Tarver isn't at least some of the things he's claimed to be since first hitting the big time eight years ago in Connecticut.

And 13 title fights, eight wins and a mantel-full of belts later...I'm ready to change teams.

Good luck, Antonio.

With me in your corner, you'll sure as heck need it.

Speaking of guys I like, it appears Kermit Cintron's on his way back.

Embarrassed by a one-sided upset loss to Carlos Molina on the Rios-Antillon show a few weeks back in California, the Puerto Rican-born Pennsylvanian will reportedly climb back through the ropes to meet Antwone Smith in the main event of a Friday Night Fights show on Aug. 12 in St. Charles, Mo.

Now 31 years old and a former IBF champion at 147 pounds, Cintron was 2-1-1 in a four-fight stint at 154 pounds, including a controversial draw against Sergio Martinez and a bizarre technical decision loss to Paul Williams in which he was unable to continue after tumbling from the ring in round four.

The match with Molina -- for which Cintron weighed in at 149 1/4 -- was his first in 14 months and saw him drop all three scorecards by matching 98-92 tallies.

Smith, a 24-year-old Miami resident, is 20-2-1 since turning pro in 2006 and has won two straight since a ninth-round TKO loss to Lanardo Tyner last July in Atlantic City.

"It's a tough loss, that's for sure. It's a tough loss," Cintron said in the locker room, moments after the Molina loss. "All I can do right now is slam my head through the wall and get myself woken up.

"It all depends on what's out there. I know my team has plans for me. They saw that today wasn't my day and I'm hoping that in my next fight I do a lot better than what I did today.

"I'm really disgusted with myself and I really believe that I let my team down."

This week's title-fight schedule:

FRIDAY

Vacant IBF featherweight title - Homebush, Australia

Jorge Lacierva (No. 2 contender) vs. Billy Dib (No. 3 contender)

Lacierva (39-7-6, 26 KO): Fourth title fight (0-3, 0 KO); Unbeaten since 2007 (7-0, 4 KO)

Dib (31-1, 19 KO): Third title fight (1-1, 0 KO); Held IBO title at 130 (2008)

Fitzbitz says: "On home turf, good young man outdoes sturdy old man." Dib by decision

WBA light heavyweight title - Las Vegas, Nev.

Beibut Shumenov (champion) vs. Danny Santiago (No. 15 contender)

Shumenov (11-1, 7 KO): Third title defense; Second fight in Las Vegas (1-0, 0 KO)

Santiago (31-4-1, 19 KO): Third title fight (0-2, 0 KO); Last won 12-round fight in 2005

Fitzbitz says: "Still-emerging champ pads record on game veteran contender." Shumenov in 7

SATURDAY

WBA minimum title - Jakarta, Indonesia

Muhammad Rachman (champion) vs. Pornsawan Porpramook (No. 11 contender)

Rachman (64-10-5, 33 KO): First title defense; Held IBF title at 105 (2004-07)

Porpramook (22-3-1, 16 KO): Fifth title fight (0-3-1, 0 KO); First fight in Indonesia

Fitzbitz says: "Fifth time's the charm for road-tripping Thai." Porpramook by decision

Last week's picks: 2-1 Overall picks record: 323-108 (74.9 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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