In the sport of boxing, fighters yearn for opportunities to showcase their skills to the masses. Not all fighters shine under the bright lights, and some fold under the immense pressure.
Taking advantage of such opportunities can be the difference between a potential breakthrough or a fall from grace. 27-year-old Andrew Tabiti (14-0,12 KOs), will find himself on one of, if not the biggest stage in combat sports history.
Tabiti is the current NABF Cruiserweight champion and will defend his title against arguably his toughest opponent in veteran Steve Cunningham (29-8, 13 KOs). The Chicago born fighter understands the gravity of the stage he’ll be on, but also feels right at home.
“There hasn’t really been any nerves,” said Tabiti. “To be honest, I feel like I should be here and I’m comfortable in it.”
Tabiti fights under the Mayweather Promotions umbrella and has had an impressive career thus far. Tabiti has defeated virtually all of his opponents with relative ease and looks to add Cunningham to that list.
Cunningham will be both taller and longer than Tabiti come fight night. Aside from the slight size advantage, Cunningham also brings in experience to the table and could offer different looks to the younger Tabiti.
“Steve is a real good fighter and much respect to him,” said Tabiti. “He’s a two-time World Champion and it’s a great chance for me to showcase my talents and become the next Cruiserweight star.”
Tabiti, who is 14 years younger than Cunningham says that one of the keys to his victories, is his stiff and effective use of jab.
“Once I establish my jab, that’s it. He’s going to try some things but I’ll be able to adapt. Believe me, I’m going to catch him with some stuff,” said Tabiti.
As a Money Team fighter, it’s only natural that Tabiti has learned many tricks of the trade being surrounded by up-and-coming prospects, former-and-current champions, and of course Money Mayweather himself.
Tabiti has proven to be formidable as a toe-to-toe fighter, but appreciates the pure boxing aspect of his game the most. “When people watch me fight, they can expect to see a well rounded fighter,” said Tabiti. “I know when to box and I know when I need to get someone out of there. I like when a guy comes at me and I can use my smarts and boxing ability to beat him.”
With the opportunity of a lifetime just around the corner, Tabiti states he’s enjoying every moment. In the fight game, it’s fairly easy to find yourself being distracted by things or people outside of the ring. Judging from what we’ve seen leading up to the Mayweather vs. McGregor showdown, the high-octane atmosphere may start to become more palpable as fight night nears.
“The key is to have tunnel vision. If you’re a fighter and you don’t have it, you can get lost in the sauce,” said Tabiti. “Luckily, I have tunnel vision. I stay focused on what I need to have going on.”
Historically, the Cruiserweight division has not usually won over the masses for its popularity, but Tabiti hopes to shed a light onto the division and bring fans to the edge of their seats with a crowd-pleasing showcase of power and boxing ability.
“I want to build myself as a household name in boxing and yeah, I’d love to do it by shining a light on the Cruiserweight division,” said Tabiti.
The Beast will get his opportunity this Saturday and fans may get their first glimpse of the future of the Cruiserweight division.
All photos by Esther Lin/Showtime
Peter Nieves is a sports journalist who's been writing for Round By Round Boxing since 2012. When he's not covering the sweet science, he's busy twirling his mustache and writing a screenplays. You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram @pnieves90