This was a coming out party at the Palms in Las Vegas on Saturday evening. Chad Dawson announced loudly and clearly, with fast fists and stunning combos, that his talent is the real deal, and that some big fights in and around 175 pounds are going to come his way. Dawson handled Antonio Tarver, and scored a unanimous decision that was televised on Showtime. Dawson scored a knockdown in the 12th round, and with that capper, he wrested the baton from the old guard at light heavyweight.
The scores read: 118-109, 117-110, 117-110, but you shouldn’t read those scores and assume Tarver stank out the joint. In fact, Tarver’s was reasonably sharp, but it was Dawson’s excellence that carried the night. Tarver was willing, and pretty able, but Dawson was in another league.
Dawson said that Tarver had more than he thought he would have. He was informed by Jim Gray afterwards that Floyd Mayweather said he was the best pound for pound in the world, and Dawson said that Floyd called him before the bout in the locker room, and told him he was the P4P best. Tarver said that he'd like another crack at Dawson.
Both fighters weighed 174, but Tarver had to really torture himself to make it. The Connecticut resident Dawson (age 26, with a 26-0 mark coming in) gave up the WBC 175 pound strap for this event. Tarver, a Floridian, brought a 27-4 record. He held the IBF and IBO 175 pound belts coming in the tussle.
The two southpaws jabbed to get loose in the first. Dawson’s hand speed looked to be of a higher caliber. “Looking good, baby,” said Dawson’s trainer, Eddie Muhammad enthusiastically. In the second, Dawson’s left hit home to the Tarver body. His right uppercut also paid off. His movement, too, gave Tarver worry. He pressed forward, as Dawson moved laterally, and set the pace. In the third, Dawson got the crowd jazzed with stiff combos. Then, Tarver hit with the left uppercut and straight left; he usually takes awhile to get warmed up. He looked warm at the end of three.
In the fourth, Dawson went to work to the body. He went low, then high, and the crispness in his tosses was bound to affect the judges. He doubled and tripled up the jab, and though many were blocked, he was telling the judges that he wanted this, badly. In round five, Dawson’s hands were even faster. A straight left banged off Tarver, but he kept pressing forward. In the sixth, Tarver came out fired up. He knew he was lagging on the cards, even if the moronic open scoring system wasn’t activated. His did more work, and cracked a left to the chin that landed flush. Dawson took the round off, and Tarver just missed a couple lefts that could’ve been game changers. Would Tarver expend too much energy, or could his stamina hold?
In the seventh, Dawson roared back. Body shots with both hands scored, and Dawson made sure to stick, and then move. Tarver leaned back against the ropes, and covered up late in the round. He had no answer for Bad Chad’s launches. In the eighth, Tarver plodded ahead. He ached to land the straight left home run ball. Dawson chose his spots, but when he threw, it was showy. In round nine, it was more of the same for Dawson. An uppercut snapped Tarver’s head back and one wondered if maybe Dawson could stop him. Floyd Mayweather spoke after the round to Karin Bryant, and told her that Dawson is now the pound for pound best fighter in the world. You read that right. He said he was staying retired, for the record.
In round ten, Tarver kept hanging in. He didn’t get as discouraged as you might’ve expected, or quit, like Samuel Peter did in the fight that preceded this one on Showtime. Dawson’s guns were blazing at the end of the round. In the 11th, Tarver kept moving forward, and his face wasn’t looking like it had been hammered. But believe me, he was eating mad leather. “You got to kncok him out to win,” Tarver’s trainer Jimmy Williams said. In the 12th round, Dawson scored a knockdown with a counter right hook. He was up quickly. He actually hit with an uppercut, and tried, down to the wire, to pull off a Hail Mary shot.
Please check back for David Avila’s ringside report.