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Brett Okamoto

Boxing: It's Bad Chad - again

11 May 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Deja vu?

Different night, same outcome. Chad Dawson is still the IBF/IBO light heavyweight champion after defeating Antonio Tarver by unanimous decision, the same result of the fight last October that saw the title switch hands from Tarver to Dawson.

Tarver fought back more than in the last meeting between the two. The 40-year-old was more active than the 26-year-old Dawson, throwing 749 punches to Dawson's 677. Dawson still landed more however, 209 to 121.

Dawson ended up winning 117-111 on two judges' scorecards and 116-112 on the other.

After Dawson earned the respect of the older champion in their first meeting, it may have been Tarver who did the same to the younger fighter in the rematch, keeping Dawson off his game and even stealing a few rounds from him in the process.

"When I got back to the locker room I knew I didn't have a good night," Dawson said. "It wasn't my best performance. I don't know if it was because Antonio Tarver was so good or if I just had a bad night. He came in much better shape than I've seen him in. He threw a lot more punches than in our last fight and I think I may have gotten too comfortable at times. I was waiting to get that one good shot in there, but it never came."

Should his off night worry those who are now looking for Dawson to take on some of the biggest names in boxing?

"When it's time for me to get up for big fights, I get up for big fights," Dawson said. "I'm definitely ready."

Dawson has openly pursued a fight with Bernard Hopkins, the only man ranked above him in the IBO light heavyweight rankings, but has been unsuccessful in luring in the future hall of famer.

According to his promoter Gary Shaw, the undefeated title holder may have to dip down in weight to the 168-pound division in his quest for a big-name major event.

"Let's be honest, I don't think Bernard Hopkins is going to fight Chad Dawson," Shaw said. "If he did, we would have heard from him. If all else fails, we can come down to 168. Chad has no problem making 168. I like to see him fighting as a light heavyweight, but we might dip down to find a big fight - Mikkel Kessler, Jermaine Taylor, maybe Kelly Pavlik."

For the aging "Magic Man" Tarver, the future remains uncertain. However after the strong performance Saturday night, he admitted it would be hard to leave.

"I felt like I did a great job tonight, Chad is a champion but I stand here and truly do not feel like a loser," Tarver said. "I need to get together with (manager) Al Haymon to see what my future holds, but if there's nothing after this I can say that I truly went out on top.

"I've got to say there's still a lot of magic in these hands. I went 12 rounds today and don't have a bump on me. That speaks volumes."

Round-by-Round Updates (7:25 p.m.)

Twelfth Round:Dawson sets a frenetic early pace and lands some heavy body shots. The crowd chants for Tarver, hoping to see a major upset at the Hard Rock, but Dawson keeps his cool and maintains control, ducking Tarver's shots and forcing a couple of clinches. Dawson, moving forward, is landing most of the damaging blows. He continues to avert Tarver's attack to his body. Both men are clinching as Tarver looks to land a last-minute miracle shot, to no avail.

Eleventh Round:Dawson throws a series of heavy right hands that are partially blocked by Tarver but serve to establish control of the center of the ring. Tarver tries to fire back and does land a good jab, but Dawson eludes most of Tarver's attempts. Dawson continues to take a measured approach, and the later rounds of the bout are looking like a skirmish between two classic counterpunchers. Tarver jabs; Dawson covers up. Tarver mounts a solid rally, throwing in a few uppercuts, and Dawson fights back with a powerful right hand. It ends in a clinch and with Tarver eluding a Dawson shot.

Tenth Round:Dawson again displays his devotion to a technical, tactical strategy, doing enough offensively to maintain control of the tempo. Tarver is mostly unable to penetrate Dawson's good, even flashy, defense. Tarver blocks a couple of Dawson's jabs, then lands a right hand that throws off Dawson's attack for a moment. Fairly long periods of inactivity by both men are interspersed with flurries of shots, with Dawson getting the best of most of the exchanges.

Ninth Round:Dawson has been relying mostly on flurries of activity rather than a sustained offensive attack, but he regains his fast-paced form with a big combination that drives Tarver against the ropes. After more clinching and wrestling, Dawson ducks a couple of punches from Tarver that developed slowly, then works in a few jabs of his own. Dawson goes deeply into defensive mode, eluding punches, ducking and feinting, but still failing to inflict any serious damage on his opponent, thereby giving Tarver fans some hope. Dawson lands a good, short left then buzzes Tarver with a couple of uppercuts to put the finishing touches on a very solid round for him.

Eighth Round:As if to answer the question of whether he can capitalize on his encouraging rally from the last round, he comes out on the offensive. Dawson showcases his defensive skills, slipping and sliding away from Dawson's blows before the fighters end in a clinch. A big right hook from Dawson is partially blocked by Tarver. The fighters feel each other out a little before Dawson mounts an attack, forcing Tarver to cover up and retreat. Neither man is as busy as he was earlier in the fight, as feints and counterpunches rule the action. Tarver lands an overhead straight left for the best punch of the round. Dawson wrestles Tarver in a late, extended clinch.

Seventh Round:Tarver forces an early clinch and Dawson pushes his opponent away, then lands several jabs to maintain control of the bout. Tarver snaps Dawson's head back a bit with a jab of his own. Dawson connects with a couple of solid body shots, still working off the jab. Both men are in counterpunching mode much of the time. Dawson lands a series of unanswered rights and a left hook, keeping Tarver off-balance. An uninspired attempt to rally by Tarver ends in a clinch. Dawson continues to land to Tarver's body, but Tarver responds with a rally of his own, jarring Dawson. Tarver's fans stand up and roar their support.

Sixth Round:Maybe Gary Shaw should yell at Dawson again, because his outburst seemed to light a fire under his fighter. Dawson takes control early, continuing to fire off straight lefts after the jab, including one that backs Tarver up against the ropes. Another left sends Tarver reeling slightly backward, and Dawson continues to attack with both hands. Tarver is moving at a slower pace than in previous rounds, and is covering up more. Dawson gets the best of a tight exchange in the middle of the ring. The pace of the bout returns to that of a tactical matchup. Dawson resorts to counterpunching rather than forcing the action, though he did enough to win the round.

Fifth Round:The crowd at the Joint responds with a roar to the action-filled fourth round, and Dawson comes out of the corner with more of the same, putting together a series of righ hands. Tarver responds with a rally of his own and takes control of the tempo, at least for the time being. Tarver lands an uppercut and Dawson shakes his head as if it did not hurt, which means it did. Dawson unleashes a jab-left hook-uppercut combination, but Tarver stops the rally short with a good uppercut of his own. Dawson comes out of yet another clinch and lands a dangerous-looking straight left. Much more clinching is evident here than in Dawson-Tarver I last fall. Both men had their moments in this round.

Fourth Round:Dawson's promoter, Gary Shaw, approaches the ring apron before the round and yells at Dawson to "finish" the fight. Dawson responds with a furious rally in the early part of the round, demonstrating his best firepower of the bout. Dawson continues to keep Tarver on the defensive, landing heavy jabs and working in some left hooks and uppercuts. Dawson knocks Tarver's head back with a clean jab, straight through the gloves. Tarver, in defensive mode, begins to look tired as Dawson continues to pound away. Dawson's best round so far.

Third Round:Tarver is attempting to control the pace of the fight as well as the center of the ring, and he is finding some success but only in short bursts. The harder, more meaningful shots are still coming from Dawson, who is also demonstrating an ability to block may of Tarver's punches. Tarver unleashes a flurry, but most of them are blocked by Dawson. Tarver keeps coming and lands a couple of hard shots in a combination. Dawson, showing an unusual style, is covering up and moving forward at the same time. Dawson responds to a series of Tarver jabs with a roundhouse right to the body, and there's another clinch. Tarver appears busy and active.

Second Round:The fight is developing into a tactical battle early, with both men trying to work behind the jab and doing a decent job of blocking the other guy's punches. Dawson splits the gloves of Tarver several times with his jab, and follows up with a couple of solid combinations. Tarver fires back with a left but Dawson is showing he can be elusive as well as his defensive-minded opponent. Dawson momentarily overwhelms Tarver with a series of unanswered punches, using both hands, and Tarver is forced to cover his face with his gloves.

First Round:After a feeling-out process early, Tarver lands a couple of right hooks. Dawson tries to establish the jab. Tarver lands a strong jab cleanly to Dawson's chin. Tarver attempts to stay busy, but is forced to back up when Dawson rallies with a combination. Unlike the first fight between these two, several exchanges have ended in a clinch. Tarver looks busier but Dawson is landing harder shots.

Main event

Here we go again.

Antonio Tarver wasted no time taking advantage of the rematch clause inserted in the contract for his first fight with Chad Dawson. Now we'll see if he can take advantage of tonight by reclaiming the IBF/IBO light heavyweight title.

The Joint is anything but full, with a whole section of unoccupied seats taking up a corner of the lower level. It should be enough to fill the arena with a bit of noise though.

Mike Tyson is announced to be ringside along with a few other former boxing world champions including James Toney, Oliver McCall, Fernando Vargas and Kevin Kelley. Michael Buffer also announced that this week marks the anniversary of the death of boxing legend Diego "Chico" Corrales.

Tarver enters first. He's wearing black and white and the same grin he has all week long. There may be a lot of pressure for this 40-year-old to perform well, but he's still enjoying himself.

Dawson jogs in during his entrance. Everything about him personifies an undefeated boxer, however he does allow himself to smile and kiss a glove to his two sons watching ringside.

Dawson vs. Tarver, the rematch is on.

Undercard results (4:30 p.m.)

Jose Guzman vs. Jose Lugo

Guzman opened strong but Lugo fought back, stealing some of the later rounds. It wasn't enough to get him the win though, as Guzman took the fight by majority decision.

Melissa Hernandez vs. Jeri Sitzes

Hernandez earned the 10th win of her career, this time by unanimous decision after six rounds with Sitzes.

Bowie Tupou vs. Chris Koval

Tupou added another victory to his undefeated record by scoring a TKO victory over Koval 15 seconds into the third round with a straight right hand.

David Whiittom vs. Ismayl Sillakh

Whiittom had his moments, but it was Sillakh that dominated most of the fight, winning every round on every judges scorecard before landing a TKO victory 2:25 into the sixth round.

Anna Donatella Hultin vs. Jasica Rojo

Making her professional debut, Hultin was impressive throughout, winning by TKO over Rojo 1:08 into the fourth round.

Said El Harrack vs. Hugo Correa

El Harrak won in explosive fashion, knocking down Correa shortly after the opening bell. Referee Joe Cortez called the fight just 1:55 into the first round, awarding the TKO win to Harrak.

Jose Pacheco vs. Omar Valencia

Pacheco and Valencia fought a very aggressive, even fight that ended with a split draw.


The rematch.

It's been the primary focus leading to tonight's 12-round IBO/IBF heavyweight title fight between Chad Dawson and Antonio Tarver. Namely, will anyone be interested in the fight considering how dominant Dawson looked in a previous unanimous decision win over Tarver last October?

Actually, few were interested in the first meeting, when the 26-year-old Dawson dismantled the 39-year-old Tarver in impressive fashion. Accoring to Nevada State Athletic Commission records, only 911 tickets were sold to that fight and Showtime's broadcast reached just 376,000 viewers.

This time around, the fight is in the brand-spanking new arena known as The Joint, located at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. It's also being televised on HBO Sports. A small crowd had gathered at the ticket line early enough to catch the undercard, but even if the new conditions of this fight attracts more interest than the first did last year, it would be surprising if the house was packed tonight.

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