DAWSON DOMINATES TARVER FOR LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT TITLE
The undefeated Chad Dawson won the biggest fight of his career when he thoroughly dominated IBF Light Heavyweight Champion Antonio Tarver on Saturday night.
The bout was a long time coming and would serve as either a changing of the guard in the light heavyweight division with a Dawson win or a cementing of the current order with a Tarver victory. After twice fighting on the same card over the last year and a half, Dawson and Tarver were finally coming head to head in a fight that simply put needed to happen.
Tarver has never been at a loss for words when it comes to promoting a fight, but, perhaps offended that he had been bet into the role of the underdog against a man he claimed to see as unworthy of sharing the ring with him, the IBF Champion let his mouth run non-stop in the fight buildup. Dawson, on the other hand, promised to let his fists do the talking, and he spoke volumes with them when the fight unfolded in the ring.
While both men are southpaws, Dawson is considered the more offensive minded fighter. He used this style to go after Tarver with lunging right hooks and get the action started in round one. Working behind his right jab, Dawson focused on Tarver’s body, banging shots to the champion’s side whenever Tarver turned to avoid a big punch. Tarver waited until the end of the round to begin throwing his left hand, dropping the first round to the busier challenger.
After throwing a left hand in round two, Tarver ate a blistering counter right hook across the jaw that turned his head. Dawson added a pair of right uppercuts before opening up on a covering Tarver with a flurry to the body and head. An uppercut-left hand combination through the gloves followed, and Tarver, throwing one punch at a time, had no rebuttal thus far. Dawson beat Tarver back with more punches, most of them landing to the gloves, but keeping Tarver from working.
Tarver tried to corner a moving Dawson in round three and caught a big right hook on the mouth for his trouble. Dawson followed with two more right hooks and a pair of jabs through the gloves that snapped Tarver’s head back. Just when it looked as though Tarver was being outclassed, however, he surprised Dawson with an uppercut past the guard. Dawson quickly held on, but the champion smacked him with an overhand left. Tarver hit Dawson with a jab to the nose and drilled him with a big left on the ropes to continue the assault. Though he took these punches much better than he did Glen Johnson’s right hand back in April, Dawson spent the rest of the round in retreat and gave Tarver his first round.
After taking another left from Tarver to start round four, Dawson shoved the champion away and drew a warning from Referee Jay Nady for being too physical. Dawson went after Tarver from that point on, landing quality body punches and slapping left hands upstairs into and around a retreating Tarver’s gloves to take back a fight that was slipping in Tarver’s favor if only for a round. Just before round’s end, Dawson caught Tarver pulling away with a grazing right-left, but it was enough to make Tarver stumble. Dawson beat Tarver to the body and knocked him back with another right-left combination just before the bell.
In the opening moments of round five, Dawson fired a right hook into Tarver’s glove, followed by a left hand to the chin that sent the champion reeling backwards on unsteady legs. Dawson quickly leapt on Tarver with combinations, showing brilliant hand speed as he fired everything in his arsenal at Tarver despite not landing all that much. Still, Tarver was landing next to nothing and getting hit all the way up until the bell at the end of each round.
Tarver wasn’t finished yet and made his move in round six, landing a solid straight left on Dawson against the ropes. Another one caught Dawson on the cheek as he danced around the ring, trying to tire the champion out. When Dawson came to the center of the ring to slug it out, he ate another big left. Tarver then went on the offensive, beating shots from both hands into a covering Dawson’s gloves. After taking another left, lowered his gloves and nodded at Tarver as if to tell the champion, “You’re falling into my trap.” Dawson continued covering up, finally dropping his gloves, shaking his head and shouting at Tarver to get the crowd riled up. In a complete turnaround from the press conferences, Dawson started trash talking Tarver in the middle of the ring and continued to do so after taking an uppercut through the gloves. Tarver won the round big but was losing the psychological battle even bigger.
Known for losing stamina in the second half of the fight, Tarver already looked spent in his corner between rounds. Dawson saw the weakening 39-year-old champion in front of him and astutely went to work, beating Tarver’s slender body with both hands throughout the rest of the fight. The challenger was all over Tarver against the ropes, giving the champion no room to breathe, let alone answer with his own punches. Dawson was just too young, too versatile and too hungry to lose this, the biggest fight of his career. The end of round nine was particularly brutal for Tarver, who took shots to the body as well as a snapping uppercut and right hook – being rained on by punches from all angles.
Though he never quit fighting, Tarver looked to be in slow motion compared to the challenger, who began mixing straight left hands – a punch he neglected for most of the fight – into his attack. Dawson knew the trick to beating Tarver was to make him fight at an intense pace. Sure enough, Tarver was incapable of matching that pace by the halfway point of the fight, becoming little more than a moving target for Dawson in the last four rounds.
With the fight in the bag, Dawson still had a point to prove to the champion in the twelfth and final round. He beat on Tarver like a drum with combinations, reloaded and beat some more. Needing a knockout to win, Tarver went for a homerun left hand against the ropes but got drilled by a big right hook from Dawson that sent him bending over backwards and catching himself with his hands on the canvas – a clear knockdown in an already decided fight.
Tarver claimed to have slipped, but Nady made the right call in ruling a knockdown. This seemed to only increase Tarver’s drive as he kept trying for the knockout and managed to land some heavy punches but never anything big enough to put Dawson in serious danger. Both men played to the crowd at the final bell, though it was clear that a new champion was about to be crowned.
118-109 and 117-110 twice were the official, highly accurate scores that reflected a wide unanimous decision win for Dawson. No one was surprised by the outcome, though Tarver did refuse to retract any statements made before the fight. It was a tough pill to swallow for the “Magic Man,” who spent more time deriding Dawson than any of his previous opponents. In the end, Dawson made him eat every last word and even got in a few words of his own amidst raining punches on Tarver’s aging body.
As for Dawson, the sky is the limit. He delivered his best performance in his biggest fight – something all the true greats do to separate themselves from the rest of the pack. In his first truly big time fight, Roy Jones Jr. dominated James Toney in similar fashion. Bernard Hopkins dominated and stopped Felix Trinidad when he finally reached the big time. Floyd Mayweather Jr. thoroughly obliterated Arturo Gatti in his first pay-per-view bout. Speaking of Mayweather, who was at the fight, the recently retired pound-for-pound king of boxing dubbed Dawson the best fighter in the world. Truly, there can be no bigger compliment than to have the best in the sport pass the torch to you. Dawson is now big time, and big fights undoubtedly await.