Fight starts: Wednesday 27th November
Live on TV: 02.00am Box Nation
THE MAGIC MAN RETURNS!
In the early hours of Wednesday morning, Antonio Tarver will be stepping back into the ring following a 16-month absence in a bid to revive his career. First up on the hit-list is journeyman Mike Sheppard.
The Magic Man’s last fight ended in controversy – he tested positive for a prohibited substance following his draw with Lateef Kayode in June 2012, and the bout was subsequently deemed a no-contest.
TARVER THE HEAVYWEIGHT
For Tarver, who recently turned 45, this is not only an opportunity to reinvigorate his career following that discrepancy, but it’s also an opportunity to reinvent himself as a full-blown heavyweight.
The Florida man is a former world champion in the cruiserweight and light-heavyweight categories, and has taken some notable scalps in his career, including marquee names such as Roy Jones Jr, Glen Johnson, Eric Harding and Clinton Woods.
Tarver has fought in a heavyweight bout on previous occasion, which was in October 2010 against Nagy Aguilera. He won that fight by unanimous decision, seemingly at ease with boxing at a weight some 40-plus pounds more than he was previously accustomed.
Admittedly, Tarver isn’t getting any younger and has a bit to prove following his absence, but the Southpaw could make waves as a heavyweight given the lack of strength in depth within the division if the desire is still there.
THE PERFECT SPRINGBOARD
Taking on Mike Sheppard at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, not far from his hometown of Orlando, is the perfect springboard for the Magic Man. He will benefit from plenty of local support and it should essentially serve as a confidence-booster.
With all due respect to Sheppard, he’s not a natural heavyweight, more of a cruiserweight. And with 11 of his defeats incurred by way of knockout the 38-year-old’s chin is hardly cast-iron. That chin will be tested by Tarver who has gained 20 of his 26 career victories via KO.
During the weigh-in, Tarver certainly looked more of an embryonic heavyweight than his rival, despite coming in at 6.5lb lighter. Sheppard isn’t a bomb-throwing puncher, so the weight advantage will be insignificant –if anything, it will be a disadvantage against a fighter as agile as the Magic Man.
ANTONIO TARVER v MIKE SHEPPARD BETTING
With 16 years’ experience as a pro, Sheppard knows his way around a ring alright and, having won six of his last nine bouts, he will approach this fight in a positive mind-set. But unless Tarver returns to action a shadow of his former self, this will basically be a complete and utter mismatch.
I’m expecting this to be over quickly, and the 11/10 available with Ladbrokes about Tarver dispatching with Sheppard in round 1-2 (round group betting) is worthy of an investment if you’re looking for a solid betting angle.