Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 | 2 a.m.
- Principals: Antonio Tarver (27-4, 19 KOs) vs. Chad Dawson (26-0, 17 KOs), 12 scheduled rounds
- At stake: Tarver’s IBF light heavyweight world championship
- Time/site: Saturday at the Pearl at the Palms; doors open 3 p.m., first undercard bout 4:15 p.m.
- Tickets: $153 to $753; www.ticketmaster.com or the Pearl box office
- TV: Showtime (Cox cable channel 240)
- Betting line: Dawson minus 260; over 11 1/2 rounds minus 240
One boxer is nicknamed “Bad,” the other fighter just feeds off his bad guy image.
“I beat Superman, so where do you go from there? You’re the villain,” said International Boxing Federation light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver. “So I welcome that role.”
Indeed, the 39-year-old Tarver, who was the first fighter to knock out Roy Jones Jr. (“Superman”), hasn’t been bashful about bashing his opponent for tonight’s title fight at the Palms, former World Boxing Council champ “Bad” Chad Dawson.
“I’ve got a lot of Chad Dawson’s on my resume. He don’t have one Antonio Tarver,” said Tarver (27-4, 19 KOs), during a brash national teleconference between the two last week.
Not this time.
“I just want to shut that big mouth up,” said Dawson, who has nicknamed his opponent “Anphonyo Tarver” and “14-carat chump.”
“The guy’s been ducking me. Everybody knows it. He finally stopped making excuses, and it’s time we settle this.”
Tonight’s fight -- the first undercard bout begins at 4:15 p.m. at the Pearl at the Palms -- will be part of a doubleheader on Showtime (Cox cable hannel 240). The telecast will open with delayed coverage of Las Vegas’ Samuel Peter’s WBC heavyweight title defense against Vitali Klitschko from Berlin.
The pair’s war of words actually began when the two southpaws competed on the same card last April. It picked up steam last month during a promotion in Los Angeles, and after the teleconference and separate interviews in Las Vegas, the trash talk had escalated into a “personal” dispute.
But for a split second Wednesday it looked as if members of the news media might get a reprieve from the verbal jabs as promoter Gary Shaw began the boxers’ introductions by saying: “This will be one of the shorter press conferences …”
“… because both fighters can certainly speak for themselves.”
And of course they both did, and so too did their respective camps.
Dawson’s manager, Mike Criscio, pulled out a bundled stack of $50,000 and asked if Tarver cared to make a wager. An outspoken member of the “Magic Man’s” entourage upped the ante to 100-grand. Criscio, whose fighter is a minus-240 favorite at the Palms’ sports book, responded with a matching bundle from his bag.
Tarver, who’s set to make seven figures if he wins, didn’t go through with wager, but he did make a scene of his own when he approached Dawson with a pencil and pad of paper — signaling that the fighter from New Haven, Conn., will have to write down his words after Saturday.
“I’ve been here before. I’ve been a fixture in this sport for 11 years,” Tarver said. “Dawson hasn’t done anything. He’ll have a game plan, but all that crap is going to be thrown out the window once he gets hit in the mouth.”
Dawson, whose been training with former light heavyweight champ Eddie Mustafa Muhammad in Las Vegas for the past eight weeks, smiled and said: “I’m definitely going to prove a point that I’m the best light heavyweight in the world. I’m going to prove a point that Tarver is not a better fighter than me. And I’m going to prove a point that he is done and it’s over.”
Tonight the talk will be over and fight fans finally get to see a bout more than a year and a half in the making.
“This is for truly the two best light heavyweights in the world fighting for the IBF/IBO title,” Shaw said. “We said all along that this fight would be made at the appropriate time, and the appropriate time is Oct. 11.”
Dawson, who had to relinquish his WBC belt to make this bout happen, actually wanted to face Tarver after he claimed his title against Tomasz Adamek in February 2007 and again after defending his title against Jesus Ruiz in June of last year.
But Tarver, who has been on the same card as Dawson in two of their last three fights, finally agreed to the challenge when Dawson slipped past Glen Johnson in April.
Johnson defeated Tarver by split decision in 2004. But Tarver avenged the loss, like he has against each of the men who have handed him defeat except for Bernard Hopkins, six months later.
“I really truly feel that they haven’t seen the best of me yet. I think Dawson is the kind of fighter who can bring it out in me,” Tarver said.
If nothing else, Dawson’s uncharacteristic banter has brought out the more familiar villainous side of Tarver — who in addition to his two victories over Jones Jr., also took down American icon “Rocky Balboa” when his character Mason “The Line” Dixon was given the split decision victory in the 2006 movie by the same name.
“You ain’t ever seen a bad guy like me,” Tarver said behind a roar of laughter.
Andy Samuelson is a sports writer/editor for the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-948-7837.