Antonio Tarver sat on the couch in his locker room late Friday night searching his empty palms for answers that were nowhere to be found.
He had just gone 12 rounds with Steve Cunningham at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, and was visibly displeased with the fight being ruled a split draw by the judges.
“I can’t judge the fight and fight the fight. The draw’s not indicative of my work,” said Tarver, who won 115-113 on one card, lost 115-113 on another and tied at 114-114 on the third.
"I couldn’t miss with the left, and my right hook and body shots worked. I won the championship rounds to close the show. I couldn’t land the left uppercut as much after hurting it on his elbow in the second round, but I hurt him and almost had him out.”
Tarver inflicted some damage on Cunningham with left crosses in the fourth round, raising a large welt over his right eye and causing his lip to swell.
The 46-year-old southpaw briefly turned orthodox in the fifth and sixth rounds “to get my jabs going” against Cunningham, who outlanded Tarver 154-to-141 in total punches according to CompuBox.
"I know people aren't educated on my defense," Tarver said. "But I swear the man threw a lot and landed nothing.”
Antonio Tarver (31-6-1, 22 KOs) dismissed a rematch, and instead remained steadfast in his desire to take on either Deontay Wilder or Wladimir Klitschko in his pursuit to eclipse George Foreman as the oldest man to win a heavyweight title. Foreman was 45 when he defeated Michael Moorer in November 1994.
“You can't say I can’t beat Deontay or Wladimir off what you saw tonight. Styles make fights,” said Tarver, who took a break from his role as Spike TV ringside analyst to fight Cunningham on the network. “Who is to say they can’t get knocked out? I’m 46 years old. I don’t have all day. I want Klitschko, period.”
Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 KOs) won the first three rounds on all three judges’ cards, but Tarver roared back to win the fourth and fifth rounds.
“Steve Cunningham was in great shape, lighter on his feet, but not faster than me,” Tarver said. “Hurting my left hand numbed it up, but I went back to work with it. I timed him all night and took the last part of the fight.”
Tarver won the ninth and 10th rounds on all three judges’ cards, and took the 11th and 12th on two of the three cards to salvage the draw.
“I didn't get the knockout, but just on ring generalship, I did what I had to do,” he said. "I’m not going to cry over spilled milk. I’m still in the game. I want the big fight and then get out of the game. I’ve earned that.”
For complete coverage of Tarver vs Cunningham, visit our fight page.