12 Rounds With … Andrew Tabiti

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Unbeaten cruiserweight contender talks about his Friday night bout vs Lateef Kayode on Bounce TV, the significance of his Nigerian heritage and getting a 200-pound title shot.

A 195-pound Andrew Tabiti was two months shy of his 24th birthday in July 2013 when his professional career commenced with a 42-second stoppage of Andrew Howk at The Joint at The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

Howk was Tabiti’s first of 12-straight knockouts over a 23-month span under current promoter, Floyd Mayweather Jr., whose father, Floyd Sr., has trained Tabiti out of the Las Vegas-based Mayweather Boxing Club.

Born in Chicago of Nigerian parents, the 28-year-old Tabiti grew up without a good relationship with his birth-father before moving at age 12 with his mother and three-years younger twin sisters to Las Vegas. Introduced to boxing as a 16-year-old by his stepfather, Tabiti went 32-6 as an amateur under Gil Martinez, meeting the Mayweathers along the way.

Tabiti (15-0, 12 KOs) is coming off a unanimous decision win in August over former unified cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham.

This Friday on a Bounce TV-televised (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT) co-main event at Sam’s Town Hotel & Gambling Hall in Las Vegas, Tabiti faces former title challenger Lateef Kayode (21-2, 16 KOs) of Nigeria, who lost to Keith Tapia in his last fight in September following an eighth-round stoppage loss to world champion Denis Lebedev in November 2015.

What is the origin of your last name?

My full name is Omotunde Andrew Tabiti, which is Nigerian. Omotunde means, “Your son has returned.” Andrew is my middle name, but my family members, friends and those close to me call me “Tunde.”

What was you childhood like?

I had a hard life early on basically spending my childhood in the Cabrini-Green projects of Chicago. My Dad wasn’t around too much, and we bounced from house to house.

But my Mom was working hard trying to keep it together and make things right for us even though we were on welfare.

When did you leave Chicago?

We left Chicago when I was 12 or 13, moving out to [Las Vegas] with my Mom, my stepfather and my twin sisters.

I started boxing when I was 15 or 16 with Gil Martinez, who basically taught me how to fight. Gil’s a great trainer and I probably wouldn’t be the fighter I am were it not for him.

How was your amateur career?

As an amateur, I did OK. I was ranked No. 3 in the 2010 National Golden Gloves and lost a controversial decision in the semifinals to the eventual winner.

I was No. 2 in the 2011 National Golden Gloves. I also fought in the Olympic Trials in 2011. After losing in the trials, I was trying to get on my feet to turn pro.

How did you meet Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Floyd Sr.?

I first saw Floyd in the gym when I began boxing in 2006 and he was preparing to fight Zab Judah. He spoke to me a couple of times, encouraging me to take boxing seriously.

It took me a while, but I remained dedicated and Floyd picked me up and he signed me and I was able to turn pro under him. I’ve trained under Floyd Sr. since my pro career started up until my last fight, I’ve gained exposure while learning the fundamentals, how to use my jab, my footwork, keeping my composure. I’m thankful to the Mayweathers for the chance to make a better life for myself.

My trainer for this fight is Otis Templeton since Floyd Sr.’s mother [Bernice] passed away [in April] and he has some things going on in his personal life.

After winning this fight, I want my next fight to be for a title if possible. I’m 28 years old and time is not waiting for me. I’m ready to go. Unbeaten cruiserweight contender Andrew Tabiti

How would you describe your style?

I’d say I’m a boxer-puncher with some good skills and lateral movement. I sometimes like to be a counter-puncher, setting guys up before I capitalize off their mistakes and try to knock them out.

How big was the victory over Keith Tapia, a previously undefeated prospect?

There were a lot of people doubting me going into that fight, saying how tough Tapia was going to be for me. So it was kind of a mental thing to show people how hard I had worked, how much I felt I was improving and that I could do it.

Keith Tapia is a good fighter with a real awkward style and good power. So what the Tapia victory for me was to challenge me to become a better fighter, and on that night, I rose to the occasion and proved that I was. That was really big, transforming me from prospect to contender.

How inspiring was your win over former champion Steve Cunningham?

When I first started boxing, Steve Cunningham was someone that I looked up to because he was a cruiserweight champion and as an amateur I was fighting at 201 pounds. A lot of people doubted that I could beat Cunningham. Even though I’m very athletic, they were underestimating my boxing skills.

I knew Steve Cunningham was on his way out and that it was time for me to shine, which I worked very hard to do. I feel that I showed I don’t have knock everybody out to win, being patient, demonstrating my overall ring IQ and more boxing skills more than I have in the past.

Is there anything to be gained from the fact that Tapia was Kayode’s last fight?

Different styles make fights, and maybe Lateef could be a tougher fight for me. I do feel like at 35, Lateef is on his way out. But he’s also looking to sustain his career by beating a younger guy like me.

So that makes him dangerous, desperate and motivated. But I’m also motivated to get to the top level by adding another name to my resume.

How do you see this fight breaking down, and will you win by knockout?

Lateef Kayode’s style is really basic and not real tricky, so it’s not too much work to figure him out. I’ve been sparring a Cuban fighter, Frank Sanchez [6-0, 6 KOs,] who is really tough.

In the back of his mind, Kayode probably thinks he can use his experience, which was Steve Cunningham’s game plan. But I was effective in taking that away from him.

I’m ready to go to war if I have to, but my overall strategy is to hit and not get hit.  I’d like a knockout, but I’m not going to go out looking for it.

It’s real important to win this fight smart like I did with Steve Cunningham in order to get a title fight, and that’s what I’m intending to do.

How far are you from a title shot?

After winning this fight, I want my next fight to be for a title if possible. I’m 28 years old and time is not waiting for me. I’m ready to go.

For a closer look at Tabiti vs Kayode, check out our fight page.

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