Past-Prime Performances: Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, & Acelino Freitas
by Geoffrey Ciani - It was a night where three once great fighters were all entering contests against younger foes. 36 year old Acelino Freitas took on 22 year old fellow countryman Michael Oliviera, 40 year old Winky Wright did battle against 28 year old Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin, and 43 year old Antonio Tarver squared off with 29 year old Lateef Kayode. These three boxers have all clearly seen their best days behind them. The results from their efforts wound up being mixed and quite interesting.
Article posted on 03.06.2012
Most observers viewed Freitas’ fight against Oliviera as a formal passing of the torch type of match. After all Freitas was a big star in Brazil for years and Oliviera was considered by many an emerging young star in the making. Freitas last fought all the way back on April 28, 2007 when he lost by stoppage against Juan Diaz. That fight took place at 135 pounds in the lightweight division, and Freitas’ peak fighting weight was at 130. His fight against Oliviera, however, was at 154 pounds. The fact that he had been inactive for so long and was fighting well above his best weight gave good reason to tip Oliviera to win.
Freitas started the fight quickly and it was obvious from the onset that he was not just showing up to collect a paycheck. The faster and more aggressive old man immediately took the fight to Oliviera. In round three Freitas backed him up and landed a good power combination that ended in a left hook that sent Oliviera falling back into the ropes for a knockdown. Frietas then continued to dominate the action and actually showed flashes of his former brilliance for as long as it lasted. A double jab followed big a big right hand sent Oliviera sinking down into the canvas in the ninth. He managed to get back to his feet only to be brutally pummeled by Freitas who was in the process of scoring yet another knockdown when the referee waved it.
Circumstances were somewhat similar going into Winky Wright’s fight versus Peter Quillin. Like Freitas, Winky was coming back from a long layoff having last fought in a losing effort to Paul Williams on April 11, 2009. Quillin is an undefeated young fighter who has improved tremendously since moving his base of operations from New York to California and unfortunately for Winky, Kid Chocolate showed continued improvement tonight. Winky’s timing was shaky right from that start, and although he was moving well and appeared to be in great shape, Quillin was faster, stronger, and more active. Winky did some good work here and there early, but he did not seem to have the power to really hurt Quillin.
Winky started doing better by round four, but he still lost the round. In round five it was more of the same until the seasoned veteran turned up the heat trying to find a way to change the tempo of the contest. He landed some good left hands that grabbed Quillin’s attention, and he proceeded to press and attack. This left Winky in uncharacteristically bad position, and Quillin took advantage of the opening with a quick right hand that scored a knockdown. Winky continued to exhibit the heart of a champion and a warrior but it simply was not enough. This time the outcome reflected the general consensus coming in, and Quillin coasted to a unanimous decision victory.
Despite being the oldest of the past prime fighters entering the squared circle on this night of boxing action, Antonio Tarver was the only one who was actually expected by most to win. Ironically Tarver was also the one who looked the worst early on in his fight. It was a tactical pairing from the beginning, but Tarver looked old, slow, and sluggish. In stark contrast Kayode appeared stronger, more youthful, and flowing with energy. Through the first five rounds Kayode was winning rounds and putting forth the more spirited effort. The Magic Man simply lacked the magic.
Tarver turned things around in round six, however, when he even temporarily switched to orthodox and began boxing better. He concluded the round with some solid blows. In round seven Tarver rocked Kayode with a big shot. Everything started working for Tarver and he began finding his footwork and maintaining an optimal fighting range to land some crisp one-twos and isolated quality jabs. This all corresponded with Kayode beginning to fatigue, and Tarver was actually starting to appear quicker as the fight went on. While Tarver took rounds six through ten, the last two stanzas were relatively close, and the fight was ultimately ruled (and rightly in my view) a draw.
Overall it was an interesting night of boxing that featured three former champions who were once amongst the elite in the game. One scored an upset victory, another suffered an expected loss, and the other battled to a draw as the favorite. While the outcomes were mixed, all three older fighters displayed the type of courage and determination that made them the great champions they were at the peak of their skills and athleticism.
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