Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver brought his “A” game this time but it still was not enough against IBF and IBO light heavyweight titleholder Chad Dawson who took another decision on Saturday in the battle of southpaws.

The rematch between Dawson and Tarver (27-6, 19 KOs) saw the older fighter more aggressive and land more blows than in the first fight, but at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas it still wasn’t enough according to the judges.

In their first fight back in October, it was Dawson’s speed and youth that proved much too much for the older Tarver, 40, who seemed resigned to land one big punch and end the fight. Instead, Tarver was dropped toward the end of the fight and was blown out by his younger counter part.

The rematch saw Tarver throw more punches, move Dawson backward at times, and come better prepared.

But Dawson’s speed in the beginning and combination punching allowed him to find the openings in Tarvers gloved defense. Every time Dawson unloaded his flurries Tarver hid behind his gloves and seldom fired back until it was safe.

Around the third round, after Buddy McGirt bellowed in his ear to stand his ground,

Tarver finally began to understand that he was not going to win by covering up. The punches began rolling out and have Dawson something to think about. But not much.

“He pushed the fight,” said Dawson (28-0, 17 KOs).

In the seventh round Tarver landed some left hands that connected solidly. In the eighth round a roundhouse left found Dawson’s jaw, but all in all, it was Dawson whose punches seemed to snap more than Tarvers.

For most of the fight Dawson used his right jab like a snapping cobra that pierced Tarver’s guard repeatedly. It seemed he could land the punch whenever he desired. That jab was the champion’s primary weapon and he resorted to it whenever the outcome of a round was in doubt. For good measure, lefts and rights to the body also scored in abundance for Dawson.

Tarver had hoped he did enough to win the fight, he did more, but it wasn’t nearly enough. Dawson applauded Tarver’s effort.

“Antonio Tarver did a good job,” said Dawson who remains undefeated. “He took me out of my game plan.”

All three judges had Dawson winning comfortably 116-112, 117-111 twice.

“He fought a hell of a fight,” Dawson said of Tarver. “He pushed the fight.”

Who’s next for Dawson? Who can push the slender light heavyweight out of Hartford?

HBO’s Max Kellerman suggested Glen Johnson who nearly beat Dawson when they fought. But Johnson couldn’t sell out a YMCA gym.

Bernard Hopkins told ESPN this past Friday that he’s willing to fight Dawson but that money being offered is ridiculous.

Dawson may be the best light heavyweight in the world but needs a popular opponent to excite the fans.

Female bout

New York’s Melissa Hernandez out-slicked Missouri’s Jeri Sitzes who gave a good showing but wasn’t able to match the skill level according to the judges in the featherweight match.