The resident of Hollywood, California and native of Lagos, Nigeria, 31 year-old Lateef Olalalekin Kayode (20-0, 16 KO's) has been working extremely hard with trainer Freddie Roach at his Wild Card Gym for this grand opportunity on September 11th to face fellow undefeated heavyweight 35 year-old Cuban Luis Ortiz (21-0, 18 KO's) of Miami, Florida at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"It's going to be a great fight for both of us,” said Kayode. “A great opportunity to prove myself in the heavyweight division."
You might recall on April 30, 2009, exactly five years and four months ago, the 26 year-old Kayode came to San Diego’s Four Points By Sheraton Hotel to fight Marcus Dickerson (4-0-1) on a Bobby D Presents Fight Card. That bout ended early when Kayode stopped Dickerson at the 3:00 mark of Round #1.
Now, despite moving up from Cruiserweight (175-200 lbs.) to heavyweight (200 lbs. and up), the 6’1½” Kayode is not intimidated by Ortiz’s size. Ortiz, who stands 6’4” tall, will likely have a 25 to 30 pound weight advantage plus a three-inch reach advantage.
"He is strong and big, but it doesn't concern me at all," said Kayode at the latest Press Conference in Los Angeles. "I spar with a lot of big guys and I’m used to it."
Kayode knows that a win over Ortiz is his gateway for all sorts of major opportunities.
"I have been doing my work and know this is a big opportunity. This fight will give me a Heavyweight title belt and that will lead to even bigger fights."
Kayode, who sports scars on his cheeks from a Yoruba tribal ritual, gives much credit to the man who helped him secure this opportunity, promoter Greg Cohen. Cohen has worked with such notables as Hasim Rahman, Shannon Briggs, James Toney and Samuel Peter.
Cohen’s impressions of Kayode, "Lateef is a bonafide heavyweight with one punch power in either hand. After speaking with Freddie (Roach) over the past few months, he implored me to do whatever is needed to secure this fight with Ortiz. Freddie believes the styles match up perfectly for Lateef to be successful. I think Lateef's power and execution of Freddie's game plan will be the difference in this fight. It won't be easy, but on September 11th, I expect Lateef's hand to be raised in victory and he’ll become a major player in the Heavyweight division."
In his battle with Nicholas Iannuzzi, Kayode proved he could take a punch. Entering that fight, Iannuzzi (16-2, 9 KOs) felt he could stand in front of Kayode and trade punches. So what the Tampa resident did was dance and move to avoid shots, then he'd lunge forward and out to throw the quick jabs and combos before either locking up or jumping back out of harms way. Clearly frustrated, Kayode was unable to fight his game, and, for just the second time in his career, he was pushed to the distance, to score the 98-91, 97-92, 95-94 victory.
During several Showtime boxing telecasts, the former IBF World Lightweight & IBO World Cruiserweight Champion Antonio Tarver, at the time a Showbox commentator, was highly critical of Kayode’s defensive and technical flaws during his 10-round decision victories over Nicholas Iannuzzi, Matt Godfrey and Felix Cora Jr. These ringside evaluations led Tarver to believe he could come out of retirement and defeat Kayode. Then, on June 2, 2012, Kayode and Tarver fought. The bout ended up being declared a majority draw (115-113,115-113,114-114). Soon after, the split decision draw was overturned after Tarver tested positive in the post-fight drug test.
Putting aside the problems in Kayode’s homeland, his present goal is to follow in the footsteps of fellow Nigerian Samuel Peter and become the second Heavyweight champion from his country.
The horrific state of affairs in Nigeria has to be a distraction for Kayode
Kayode comes from Nigeria which is surely ranked in the Top 10 Most Dangerous Countries in the World. Much of the Earth's population growth is in this sub-Saharan nation, a country now dealing with the deadly Ebola Virus. The recent epidemic resurfaced right after the Islamic terror group Boko Haram’s April 16th kidnapping of 230 Nigerian schoolgirls. Since that date, only 43 were able to escape.
The Islamist militants' name translates to "Western education is a sin" in their local language. The group opposes the education of women under its version of Sharia law. They believe women should be at home raising children and looking after their husbands.
The escalation of violence in northeastern Nigeria has developed into a situation of armed conflict in which all parties violate international law in a country where you have 54% of the people living in extreme poverty. Greed abounds. Even their #1 sport, football, is now in turmoil. And yet, in 2014, Nigeria's economy (GDP) became the largest in Africa and overtook South Africa to become the world's 26th largest economy.
Kayode’s opponent, Luis “The Real King Kong” Ortiz who comes from a far less greedy country, Cuba, does have more amateur experience, but since turning pro, he hasn’t fought anyone of note. Ortiz was born and raised in Camaguey, Cuba. He’s a 6’4” southpaw who was signed by Golden Boy Promotions and is now ranked #2 by the WBA. He’s had 362 amateur bouts winning all but 19. After winning all sorts of medals and National Championships, he made his way to Miami, Florida where he started training with Dino Spencer at the highly touted 5th Street Gym.
So, now you have all the facts and figures. Who do you think is going to win? This boxing writer sees the fight going the distance in a tightly contested match.