KISSIMMEE, Fla.— Jimmy Lennon is lucky the guy in the gorilla suit didn’t start jumping up and down on his head.

After reading the judges’ scorecards following Saturday night’s WBC light-heavyweight title fight, the ring announcer attempted to milk an extra bit of drama out of the verdict with the words “and still…”

Chad Dawson, who had just hammered Tomasz Adamek around the ring for the better part of 12 rounds, looked as if he were going to faint on the spot, and his promoter, Gary Shaw, almost had a heart attack before Lennon smirked and continued “… undefeated… and new light heavyweight champion of the world…”

When Don King moved his Super Bowl Eve card from the Miami Arena to Kissimmee’s Silver Spurs Rodeo Arena a few weeks back, many thought it only fitting that the World’s Greatest Promoter would at last preside over an event surrounded by the smell of authentic horse manure, but, Lennon’s cheap theatrics notwithstanding, the crowd of 5,270 more than got its money’s worth out of the main event, as the 24-year-old Dawson upset the previously unbeaten Adamek to win the 175-pound title.

In a conversation a night earlier, Dawson had not only confidently predicted victory, but accurately described how he would do it.

“I’m going to rely on my superior speed, quickness, and boxing skills,” Bad Chad had said. “And I’ve heard he had trouble with southpaws.”

That, in a nutshell, proved to be the fight. Adamek, who had struggled against the few left-handed bums he had fought in Europe, seemed utterly baffled in the early going, and when he wasn’t being confused by the southpaw stance, he was being dazzled by Dawson’s quickness.

The New Haven challenger was able to land his right-handed jab nearly at will, and from the early rounds on Adamek’s right eye was growing puffy. And as the Polish champion grew wary of the right, he set himself up for some lashing left hand leads that Dawson threw with equal alacrity.

Adamek, who came into the bout 31-0, was fighting in the United States for just the third time, and for the first time here against an American opponent. If he had expected another blood-and-guts war like the two he had experienced with Aussie Paul Briggs, he was shortly disabused.

By the time the fight was three or four rounds old, the chants of “Polska! Polska!” had all but vanished from the barnyard, and Dawson, who had been led into the ring by a small posse including one guy in a gorilla costume, by now had an army of supporters 5,000 strong.

Dawson piled up a huge early lead, winning each of the first nine stanzas, flooring Adamek in the seventh along the way. (Adamek complained that he was tripped, but referee Jorge Alonso ruled it a knockdown nonetheless.)

The trip to the canvas came after Adamek moved in to throw a one-two combination. As Dawson stepped in to counter with a left to the body, he appeared to get his right foot behind Adamek’s left one, so that when he nailed him with the body shot the Pole was immediately caught off-balance and fell over backward.

After nine, in fact, the fight had become such a rout that in the champion’s corner, trainer Buddy McGirt warned Adamek that he was giving him one more round to turn things around before he stopped it himself.

Adamek must have thought Buddy meant it, because in the tenth he caught Dawson with a perfect left-right combination, knocking him down with the latter punch.

Dawsonseemed shaken, though he would later claim that he wasn’t.

“He caught me with a good punch,” said Dawson. “It was a flash knockdown, but it didn’t hurt me at all. I just went right back to the game plan.”

In fact, Dawson fought more warily over the final two and a half rounds, which seemed quite prudent, given that he had built up such an insurmountable lead that Adamek could have knocked him down two or three more times and still lost the fight.

Dawson coasted to victory, winning by scores of 118-108  (Peter Trematerra), 117-109 (Alejandro Rochin), and 116-110 (Anek Hontongkam). The Sweet Science card also had Dawson winning 116-110.

“This has been a long time coming,” said the happy Dawson, whom we’d spotted back in 2001 when we’d named the 19-year-old middleweight ‘New England Prospect of the Year.’

“He was much quicker and I was slower, that’s all,” said Adamek. “That’s why I lost. He’s the fastest I’ve ever seen.

“Chad is a good fighter,” added the Pole, “and after I knocked him down (in the tenth) I didn’t finish him.”

“I knew Chad was a good fighter, but when Thomas finally threw punches he knocked him down,” said McGirt. “[Adamek] was waiting on him, trying to counterpunch, and you just can’t do that with a guy that fast.”

Dawsonalso credited new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., for whom he dumped Dan Birmingham eight weeks earlier to prep him for the title fight.

“Floyd’s the best,” explained Dawson, who felt he had been playing third fiddle to Winky Wright and Jeff Lacy in the Birmingham stable.

“I trained my ass off for this fight. Six or seven long weeks, and I reached my potential. I’m just happy.”

“Chad dominated him from the start,” said Mayweather, suggesting that we have yet to see the best of Chad Dawson. “I liked his speed, but I didn’t like his combinations. When Chad had him hurt, he could have finished Adamek. He needs to press more, pick his shots and really dig in.”

The win gave the new champion a perfect 23-0 record. (Dawson’s ledger also includes one ‘No Contest,’ a 2004 win over Andaulen Sloan at Foxwoods that was voided when Bad Chad registered positive for marijuana on his postfight drug test.)

So what does the future hold for a youngster of such apparently limitless potential?

“Whoever they bring to the table,” said Dawson. “I’ll fight the best fighters. I’ll be on top for a long time.”

Dawson’s thrilling victory compensated for the other two world title fights on the bill, each of which was disappointing, albeit for entirely disparate reasons.

It probably wasn’t a great omen that Jesus Chavez came into the ring wearing a Rex Grossman Bears’ jersey for his IBF lightweight title defense against Julio Diaz.

Chavez was fighting for the first time since the Leavander Johnson bout two years ago, a bout in which he won the title but left his opponent with fatal injuries, and there were questions about his ability to handle that episode, as well as nearly two year’s worth of ring rust.

Diaz, who had won the IBF’s ‘interim’ designation in the meantime, figured to be a stern test in any case, but the title fight quickly fizzled to an end when Chavez’s right knee became unhinged in the third round and he was counted out by referee Frank Santore.

Chavez had previously undergone surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee, but he had twisted the right one jogging back in Mexico, and entered the ring wearing a brace on that appendage.

Following two lackluster rounds (we gave them a round apiece, but the three judges gave both to Diaz), the combatants met in mid-ring early in the third. As Diaz threw a jab, Chavez tried to roll with the punch, presumably intent on countering, but as his weight shifted to his right leg the knee buckled and gave way beneath him.

He lay, in obvious pain, on his face, and never attempted to regain his feet as Santore counted him out at 22 seconds of the third.

“I thought he had a lot of soul, but I didn’t see that tonight,” said Diaz. “He must have injured himself.”

The ringside physician, Dr. Allan Fields, confirmed that Chavez had suffered a sublaxation, or hyperextension, of his right knee.

“And that,” said Chavez, “was supposed to be my good leg.’

Chavez was left with a 42-4 record after the loss, while the new champion is 34-3.

“I love boxing, but now I have to go back home to heal and see what the doctors have to say,” said Chavez. “I lost the title, and I pass it along to Julio and I hope he does well with it.”

Showtime viewers were spared another, more odoriferous, title fight on the Kissimmee card, which saw Cory Spinks defend his IBF junior middleweight title with a convincing but uninspired win over 38-year-old Rodney Jones, whose status as the IBF’s top-ranked contender says a lot more about the IBF than it does about the challenger’s boxing gifts.

After a promising beginning, the bout quickly deteriorated into the tactical match of light-punching southpaws most experts had expected – and feared. (The Silver Spurs audience, not exactly hardened boxing spectators, didn’t even begin booing until the fourth round.)

Neither boxer was ever remotely in danger of going down. Two judges – Adalaide Byrd and Billy Ray – didn’t give Jones a round in scoring it 120-108, while Pat Russell gave him two in returning a 118-110 verdict. The Sweet Science card had it 119-109 for the champion.

“I feel satisfied with my performance,” said Spinks, now 36-3, even though most of the audience did not. “[Jones] is a long, rangy guy and I had to outsmart him. He’s been in the game a long time and he’s a veteran, but I was the superior boxer. I used my athletic talent and smarts to win.”

“He just boxed,” sniffed Jones, who fell to 37-4-1 with the loss. “I tried to hurt him, but he kept running.”

Spinks, who said he was looking for “the cash cows,” mentioned the quartet of Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, and Fernando Vargas.

“I’m ready for them,” insisted Spinks. “It’s just a matter of whether they are ready for me.”

Former WBC cruiserweight champion Wayne Braithwaite posted his first win in nearly three years, stopping Mexican Gustavo Enriquez in the seventh round of their scheduled 10-rounder.

Braithwaite, stopped by Guillermo Jones after losing his 2005 unification bout against Jean-Marc Mormeck, appeared a bit rusty, but for the most part outclassed Enriquez. By the second round the Mexican was bleeding from a cut above his left eye, and his face increasingly resembled hamburger as the bout progressed.

Braithwaite caught Enriquez with a good left-right in the seventh, and while the opponent hit the deck shortly thereafter, Alonso ruled that the Guayanan had pulled him down as he leaned forward. When action resumed, Enriquez was taking all the punishment, and the referee elected to wave it off at 2:46 of the round.

Braithwaite is now 22-2, Enriquez 15-7.

Las Vegasprospect Bermane Stiverne hurt Harold Sconiers with a left to the body and then finished him off with a right hand, knocking the well-traveled Clearwater heavyweight out at 2:05 of the first, as Santore stopped the fight without a count.

It was the tenth KO in as many fights for Stiverne, and his eighth first-round knockout. Sconiers is now 15-17-2.

Unbeaten Texan Marcus Johnson, fighting as a cruiserweight on the Florida card, posted a unanimous decision over a surprisingly resilient William Gill (6-15) of New Jersey. Although Johnson effectively attacked Gill to the body over the first half of the fight, the opponent not only withstood the punishment but dealt out some of his own in the sixth. That proved to be the only round he would win, as all three judges (Trematerra, Ray, and Alex Levin) scored it 79-73 for Johnson, now 12-0.

Johnson’s younger brother, super-middleweight James Johnson, didn’t fare as well, and wound up on the wrong end of a unanimous decision in his 4-round prelim against veteran Darnell Boone. Trematerra, Levin, and Ray all scored it 39-37 for the winner, whose record went to 14-8-2 with the win. Johnson, after absorbing his first pro loss, is now 7-1.

Colombian cruiserweight Epifanio Mendoza was awarded a fifth-round TKO over Tennessee journeyman Eric Howard when Alonso waved the bout off, at the behest of Howard’s corner, before the bell could sound for the sixth.

Mendoza, who had been docked a point for a low blow in the third, hurt Howard with a hard right midway through the fifth. Howard took two more punches before seeking refuge on the canvas, and another after he had taken a knee. Alonso ruled it a knockdown, but deducted two points from Mendoza. Once action recommenced, Mendoza battered away at an almost defenseless Howard, who barely managed to stay on his feet.

Despite having had three points assessed, Mendoza was comfortably ahead on all three cards at the time of the stoppage, and went to 26-4 with the win. Howard dropped to 11-15-1.

* * *


LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHTS: Chad Dawson, 175, New Haven, Conn. dec. Tomasz Adamak, 174, Zwyiec, Poland (12) (Wins WBC title)

JUNIOR MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Cory Spinks, 153¼, St. Louis, Mo. dec. Rodney Jones, 153, Stockton, Calif. (12) (Retains IBF title)

LIGHTWEIGHTS: Julio Diaz, 135, Huiquilpan, Mexico KO’d Jesus Chavez, 134¾, Parral, Mexico (3) (Wins IBF title)

HEAVYWEIGHTS: Bermane Stiverne, 248¾, Las Vegas, Nev. KO’d Harold Sconiers, 220, Clearwater, Fla. (1)

CRUISERWEIGHTS: Wayne Braithwaite, 197¾, Georgetown, Guyana TKO’d Gustavo Enriquez, 197, Juaurez, Mexico  (7)

Marcus Robinson, 177¾, Kileen, Texas dec. William Gill, 178, Point Pleasant, NJ (8)

Epifanio Mendoza, 178, Barranquilla, Colombia TKO’d Eric Howard, 185, Crossville, Tenn. (5)

SUPER MIDDLEWEIGHTS: Darnell Boone, 166, Youngstown, Ohio  dec. James Johnson, 169, Killeen, Tex. (4)