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Hurray For The Old Guard-New Guard Scrap

BY Michael Woods ON September 18, 2008
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Us fight fans get frustrated that we don’t see more showdowns between the Old Guard and the New Guard.

Why, people ask, do we see so many Old Guard vs. Old Guard fights, like Shane Mosley (age 37) vs. Ricardo Mayorga (age 35), when we could see Old Guard vs. New Guard scraps, like Mosley against WBC welterweight champion Andre Berto, who just turned 25?

The answer is the same answer than can be used to answer about 90% of any and all questions you might have about pro pugilism: money.

Mosley and Mayorga are both proven names, even if there are multiple smudges on their records. They may be imperfect, on the downside of their careers, but at least people know their names. Even the more casual fight fan has heard of “Sugar” Shane Mosley, and is aware of the crazy Nicaraguan dude who swills beer and puffs smokes in the ring after he fights.

It doesn’t take as much energy, and effort and money to educate casual fans and those that might be persuaded to turn on a fight on a Saturday night when two vets who’ve been pros for 10 years are getting it on, as opposed to having to build up the rep of a young lion who has matured from prospect to contender to champion in the last four or so years. As in boxing, as in most all areas of life, the powers that be will often take the path of least resistance when offered the alternative, which is a rougher slog, with less up front money but perhaps more payoffs down the line.

Which brings me to the Oct. 11 showdown between IBF light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver (27-4, 19 KOs), an Old Guard guy who turns 40 on Nov. 21, and 26-year-old New Guard guy Chad Dawson (26-0, 17 KOs). This one has been marinating for more than two years, mostly because that weight class boasts a deficit of charismatic, skilled box office draws. That’s OK, we’ll take Old Guard vs. New Guard showdowns whatever way they come. To keep the sport relevant, and prevent a continued siphoning of fans to MMA, new stars have to be fashioned, and if Dawson handles Tarver in impressive fashion, the Connecticut resident will take a step toward being a New Guard star. In the trash talking department, which is still instrumental in hyping bouts, Bad Chad ain’t too shabby. Witness his slings and arrows launched at Tarver last Saturday on Showtime. Grand inquisitor Jim Gray queried both men.

“Antonio is definitely past his prime,” Dawson said. “Look at his last three performances.  They speak for themselves.  Just look at Clinton Woods.  He can’t even beat a ‘paycheck.’  (On April 12) Clinton Woods didn’t put up a fight (as Tarver won a UD12)…. He came to collect a paycheck. I am in tremendous shape like I always am.  I come into every fight in tremendous shape.  There’s nothing that Antonio Tarver does that can throw me off my game plan.  He’s slow, he’s old.  Come on, look at my last three performances and look at his, and tell me who the better fighter is.”

Gray pointed out that Dawson didn’t exactly steamroll Glen Johnson when they tangled the same night on the same card.

“Glen Johnson came to fight, Chad Dawson came to fight,” Dawson said. “We had a hell of a fight.  I’m here, I’m the future and I’m the now.  On October 11, I will prove that point to the whole world.”

Tarver had been uninspired the last several years, as he squandered the capital accumulated with wins over Roy Jones. But he now knows he’s got a limited span to make a legacy and fatten his nest egg, so he’s perked up.

“I’m listening to a guy that is very naïve, a guy that is very young, obviously, mentally and he’s sadly mistaken,” Tarver said.  “Many have come and tried to conquer and have tried to take me out.  It has never been done before and it won’t get done on Oct. 11.  All this guy is hoping for is that I show up less than prepared.  They are looking to roll the dice and get lucky. But I’m here to tell you,  I’m here to put the world on notice that it won’t happen.  I’ll have my best performance against Chad Dawson.  He’s right about the prediction.  It won’t go the distance. He’s ten years my youth.  The bottom line is I got the secret to the success. I’ve been there.  You will see a display of the sweet science when I technically annihilate Chad Dawson on the 11th.”

The New Guard representative Dawson paid homage to Tarver’s resume, but made clear he is present tense, and Tarver is the past.

 “I respect what he’s done but where he is right now as a fighter, you can’t compare that to me,” Dawson said.  “I’m young, I’m fast, I’m strong, I’m in the best shape of my life.  Every fight I come in on weight.  I never have trouble making weight. Never.  That’s a true champion right there.  I never have to struggle to make weight because I come in to camp on weight, every camp.”

I expect Tarver will not be having an issue with the scale, like we saw with veterans Joan Guzman and Sergio Mora last weekend. Showtime threw money at him for easy marks Danny Santiago and Elvir Muriqi, with an eye toward building to this showdown with Dawson, and if Tarver stinks up the joint, his chances at marquee matchups evaporate. The Old Guardsman may have one more masterful showing in him, and the New Guardsman will be amped to the gills, ready to make sure he stakes his claim as the happening thing at 175. Good for Tarver for giving the kid Dawson a shot, and good for Showtime for comprehending that if you don’t transition from tried and true performers, and take a shot on some new blood, boxing, like its fans, gets grayer and grayer.”

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