Dawson wins, but doesn't excel
LAS VEGAS – Chad Dawson scored another lopsided victory over Antonio Tarver in a light heavyweight championship fight, but it was Tarver who came out of the fight having burnished his reputation the most.
The unbeaten Dawson won nine of the 12 rounds on the scorecards of judges Duane Ford and Patricia Morse-Jarman and took eight of the 12 on Alan Davis' scorecard, but his performance Saturday before 2,156 at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in their fight for the International Boxing Federation title did little to impress anyone outside of his innermost circle.
Not surprisingly, Tarver and his camp left the ring angry, believing the 40-year-old had pulled out the win and regained the belt he had lost to Dawson across town in October.
That was a fantasy, but Dawson never seemed to fight with a sense of urgency. He was clearly faster, stronger and better than Tarver, but allowed Tarver to stay in the fight by inexplicably taking stretches off.
"I don't feel like a loser tonight; I truly don't," Tarver said. "I let it all hang out in the ring. I did some things that I haven't done in a long time. I fought 12 hard rounds and I was in it every round. We gave as good as we took. I felt my defense was once again superior. I let my hands go and when I let my hands go, I can compete with any fighter in the world."
When he let his hands go, Dawson dictated the action, but he caused himself unnecessary worry by disappearing for long stretches.
Twice in the fight, promoter Gary Shaw left his seat and walked over to Dawson's corner to shout instructions at him.
"I thought Chad was in a defensive posture when he needed to be in an offensive posture," Shaw said. "I didn't think he was throwing enough jabs and I didn't think he was throwing enough uppercuts. That's what I said the first time I went over. The second time, I told him he needed to box. It didn't make sense. He needed to box and turn the fighter."
Dawson told Shaw in the ring when the fight ended that didn't feel well, which made it harder to understand why he didn't pick up the pace when he appeared to have Tarver in a bit of trouble.
Tarver landed several shots that seemed to, at the least, sting Dawson, though he didn't land nearly enough to ever be seriously in the fight.
But he deserves credit for making a better fight of it Saturday than the 7-1 odds in favor of Dawson suggested it would be. He didn't have much on most of his punches and it wasn't like he made Dawson sweat, but he at least could walk out of the ring feeling he'd performed at or near his best.
Dawson's performance just elicited shrugs. He won, but it was not much more than that.
"I absolutely worry when people think that way," Shaw said. "When I hugged him after the fight, he whispered in my ear and said he didn't feel well. He's not a guy who makes excuses, so I'm not sure what was up. One of the questions is, he's a training freak and you have to wonder if he trained too hard. He seemed to get tired in the last three rounds."
Dawson came into the fight hoping to improve his reputation and gain some recognition as one of the two or three best boxers in the world. It's hard to imagine that Manny Pacquiao is going to worry about losing votes to Dawson in the pound-for-pound derby after that performance, though.
"I give it to Antonio Tarver, because he took me into deep waters tonight," Dawson said.
After the first fight, when Dawson similarly dominated Tarver to win the title, there was plenty of discussion about whether Dawson deserved to be regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
No less an authority than Floyd Mayweather Jr. insisted he was.
There were no such proclamations Saturday. And without a logical opponent in the light heavyweight division – Shaw seemed resigned to the fact that Bernard Hopkins would price himself out of a fight – it's hard to imagine where Dawson's going to be able to go to regain his momentum.
Shaw flatly ruled out a rematch against Glen Johnson, the 2004 Fighter of the Year whom some believed deserved to win a decision over Dawson on April 12, 2008, when they met for the WBC title.
He suggested that he could fight some of the top super middleweights, including Jermain Taylor, who is coming off a knockout loss to Carl Froch.
No one is going to line up to see that fight, particularly if Dawson fights the way he did on Saturday.
"I don't [expletive] my fighter and his trainers," Shaw said. "This stuff where he was crouching down and going side to side, that's crazy [expletive]. It's OK if you're a 130-pounder, but you're a light heavyweight. You have to take the fight to him. You have to do it even for TV, to be a fan-friendly fighter.
"I have a lot of respect for Pernell Whitaker, but to be honest with you, I have so much respect for Pernell Whitaker, but I'm not sure TV would buy him in 2009. When he did that crouching [stuff], he made himself so small, he made himself a target and Tarver can still punch."
It was a win, but Dawson certainly didn't have the look of a winner Saturday. He's still an elite fighter, but he gained more doubters than supporters with his effort against Tarver.