Andrew Tabiti vs Lateef Kayode: Feeding a Beast, Slaying a Monster

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Unbeaten cruiserweight contender Andrew Tabiti says he will put his full arsenal on display when he faces veteran Lateef Kayode tonight on PBC on Bounce from Las Vegas.

Andrew Tabiti vs Lateef Kayode

Unbeaten cruiserweight contender Andrew Tabiti (left) faces off with Lateef Kayode prior to their PBC on Bounce co-main event on May 11, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Ryan Hafey/Premier Boxing Champions)

Chicago-born Vegas transplant, Andrew Tabiti, just may be the last great American cruiserweight. Aiming to wedge himself into the upper level of a brutal division currently ruled by Eastern European tough guys, the 28-year-old is set apart from the bone-crushing division elite by a patient, disciplined style supported by a well-refined set of skills.

Tabiti (15-0, 12 KOs), who is nicknamed "The Beast," will meet Lateef "Power" Kayode (21-2, 16 KOs) and display that skill set in a 10-round cruiserweight co-feature underneath an Ishe Smith-Tony Harrison main event tonight from Sam's Town in Las Vegas, Nevada and broadcast live on Bounce TV (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

A product of the Mayweather Gym and trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.'s old school lessons, Tabiti is a counter-puncher by nature, supported by a sharp jab coming from a nearly 80-inch reach and deceptive all-around quickness. He defaults to calm, cold professionalism when faced with tough tasks—as evidenced by his performances in high-water mark wins over Steve Cunningham and Keith Tapia.

With only 37 amateur fights, Tabiti has learned the vast majority of his lessons as a pro, developing as he moved along and showing himself to be a natural when it comes to assimilating an elite-level skill set.

"I'm excited to put on a good show and take care of a solid durable opponent,” Tabiti said. “I know that my time is coming and this another chance to show off my skills.

Some analysts would say that the cruiserweight contender is too patient and "professional" at this stage of his career, exceedingly cerebral and cautious in the face of what will be an increasingly aggressive set of high-end opposition as he moves towards world titles and legacy-defining battles.

The next stage of development for the emerging star will be to work on letting his hands go and making the fight-ending opportunities he currently waits to pounce on during fights. Already gifted with a strong and efficient counter right hand, Tabiti would do well to incorporate a big left in his arsenal and a more aggressive mindset.

Four years ago, Lateef Kayode would've been the ideal opponent to test the resolve of a thoughtful young tactician like Tabiti. Lacking in refined skills and nuance, the Nigerian-born, Vegas-residing Kayode was physically strong and aggressive and it made him a must-watch contender as he powered his way up the cruiserweight ranks. Dominant wins over Alfredo Escalera Jr., Matt Godfrey, and Felix Cora Jr. gave him a name. Then, a tightly contested draw with Antonio Tarver in 2012 (which was later changed to a no contest after Tarver tested positive for a banned substance) earned him elite status.

But then things went off the rails.

A three-fight run at heavyweight, culminating with a one-round TKO loss to Luis Ortiz (which was also changed to a no contest after Ortiz tested positive for a banned substance), seemed to throw Kayode well off his stride.

After the Ortiz match, Kayode had regressed in terms of technique and, more importantly, lacked the aggression that had defined his rise to the near-top just a couple of years earlier. A TKO loss to cruiserweight champ Denis Lebedev led to a 22-month layoff and then to a one-sided decision loss to Keith Tapia in September of 2017.

Coming into this bout with Tabiti, emerging from back-to-back high-profile losses, no one is quite sure what to expect. The Kayode of old could've pushed his younger foe like no one has before and could've forced a sink or swim war out of the cool-minded counter-puncher. The 35-year-old Kayode of recent form, however, brings little more than a name and an old-school toughness to the ring.

But, whether he's facing the best or the worst Kayode has to offer, Tabiti will have to work this coming Friday. It'll be a task he has yet to face against a fighter who can bring fire under the best of circumstances and stubborn tenacity under the worst.

The big question with Tabiti has always been whether he can take major league heat from someone adept at applying real pressure. And it's certainly within Kayode's ability to rattle a younger fighter not used to having outclassed opponents walk them down and/or walk through their best work.

If Kayode is intended to merely be a resume builder with a name, but shows up on fight night with even the slightest bit of spark, Tabiti could be in for the kind of tough night he needs to become battle-ready for the top cruiserweights.

However, if "The Beast" takes it for granted that he's there at Sam's Town to be fed the remains of a once-fearsome cruiserweight player while waiting on a big money title shot, he could be in for a terrible surprise.

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