LAS VEGAS-Bad Chad Dawson had been flying under the radar for years, but beating Antonio Tarver for the IBF and IBO light heavyweight title in convincing fashion has some people calling him one of the best prizefighters in the world after winning by unanimous decision on Saturday.
“He is one of the best fighters pound for pound,” said Floyd Mayweather Jr. who was in attendance.
Dawson unleashed his impressive arsenal before more than 3,000 people at the Pearl at the Palms Casino and proved relinquishing his WBC title to prove his talent was the right move to advance his career before a national audience.
“I told you I could do it,” said Dawson (27-0, 17 KOs) who is normally a very reserved person. “This is a happy moment to be able to bring the title back to New Haven.”
The lanky fighter out of New Haven, Conn. was brilliant in winning by unanimous decision 118-109, 117-110 twice.
“Out-pointing him and outworking him one round at a time was our philosophy,” said Dawson who remains undefeated and now a primetime match for any of the marquee fighters.
Dawson allowed Tarver (27-5, 19 KOs) to shoot the jab for the first 30 seconds, and then he took over with body shots and speedy combinations in the first round. That proved to be the template for the rest of the light heavyweight fight.
The speed of Dawson had Tarver waiting for something to happen. Body shots and triple hooks won the second round for the former WBC titleholder.
Tarver stole the third round with aggressiveness in the latter part of the stanza. But it was close.
Realizing he had the speed advantage Dawson seemed eager to unload four and five punch combinations from rounds four through five.
After firing so many blows and withering combinations, Dawson opted to relax a little in the sixth round. It was Tarver’s best round and still he was never able to hurt or bother Dawson.
In the seventh round Dawson returned to the blistering combinations that kept Tarver in a defensive cocoon. It was an overwhelming round for Dawson and showed that he could turn it on whenever he pleased. Tarver had a subtle look of despair but he plodded forward.
“He came with a busy game plan, he threw a lot more punches than I did. I felt my defense wasn’t what I think it should be,” said Tarver, 37. “But I was not busted up. I caught a lot of punches on my arms.”
Tarver, obviously aware he was behind on points, decided to look for the big blow to even the score in one swift moment. That moment never came.
“I didn’t use my left hand as much as I wanted to,” said Tarver. “I tried to gut it out and score a knockout, but it didn’t come.”
Dawson’s legs and hand speed offset any of Tarver’s attempts to corner the younger fighter and score the knockout. Instead, it was Tarver who hit the deck after a right hook and left hand from the younger fighter in the final round.
Tarver claimed it was a slip, but after the fight was over he admitted defeat.
“I’m not apologizing for anything,” said Tarver. “I respect the guy. There is no disrespect.”
The new champion was gracious too.
“Tarver has a lot more than I thought he would,” said Dawson who was seldom in danger. “I was the younger guy, I had a better work rate. I’m the champion now.”
Former Olympian Ricardo Williams (13-2, 7 KOs) scored a unanimous decision over crafty veteran Dario Esalas (31-15, 25 KOs) after eight rounds. It was Williams’s third fight since returning from a two-year jail stint in Ohio. The judges scored it 80-71 and 79-72 twice.
Williams looked sharp at times, but was bothered by the return shots to the body by heavy-hitting Esalas.
Lancaster’s Chris Avalos (7-0, 5 KOs) used his height advantage to keep Colorado’s gutsy Ernie Marquez (7-5, 3 KOs) from using his inside fighting skills in a six round bantamweight bout. There were no knockdowns in the fight and the judges scored it a majority decision in favor of Avalos 57-57, 59-55 twice.
Albuquerque’s Archie Marquez (4-0, 4 KOs) knocked out St. Paul’s Samuel Morales (3-1) with a right to the body in the fourth and final round at 2:14. Morales didn’t beat the count and suffered his first loss. Marquez remains undefeated.
Anthony Dirrell (13-0, 11 KOs), who missed two years due to cancer, returned to the ring and was dropped with a one-two combination in the first round. After taking a six-count, Dirrell got up and out-boxed Canada’s Andy Mavros (6-2, 2 KOs) in a four round super middleweight bout. The judges scored it 39-37 for Dirrell.
England’s Said Harrak (3-0) scored a first round knockout over Wisconsin’s Alex Stringer (0-3-1) at 2:18 of the first round of a welterweight contest.