Antonio Tarver and Steve Cunningham each came into Friday night’s fight hoping to elevate his status in the heavyweight division. But after their draw at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, a shot at a world title might be no closer for either man.
Each thought himself the victor, however, in an evenly paced bout in which both fighters had their moments.
Wearing an ice bag on his left wrist claiming an injury from an early punch, Antonio Tarver (31-6-1, 22 KOs) winced in the locker room after being reminded of the judges’ scorecards: Robin Taylor had it 115-113 in his favor, John McKaie scored it 115-113 for Cunningham, and John Stewart saw it as a 114-114 deadlock.
“I don’t know what the judges were looking at. I boxed his head off,” said the 46-year-old Tarver, a three-time 175-pound world champion.
“Cunningham's a durable fighter, I take nothing from him, but I hurt my left wrist with the first uppercut I threw in the second round. It caught him on the elbow. Still, he fought sporadically and I landed all of the power shots. I hurt him and almost had him out. I definitely won more rounds than him."
Steve Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 KOs), a two-time world champion at 200 pounds, said he thought his body attack took the wind out of the Tarver, believing that his subtle power and durability stole the earlier rounds.
Tarver landed his best shots in the later stages of the fight, rocking the 39-year-old Cunningham with lefts in the ninth and 11th rounds.
“He’s got a good left hand and he caught me with it in some spots and buzzed me a couple of times. I give him a few rounds, but I outhustled him and I did more," said Cunningham, who had a welt over his right eye and swelling on the right side of his lip afterward.
"He was like a dead fish surviving. I pressuring him the whole time and I landed the cleaner body shots that had him backpedaling the whole time. We were trying to get the stoppage and do something that had never happened to him before, but he wasn’t trying to engage, so I thought that I did enough.”
For complete coverage of Tarver vs Cunningham, including photos, highlights and scorecards, visit our fight page.