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April 22, 2019

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Domineering win unleashes Dawson’s ambitions


Steve Marcus

Chad Dawson celebrates his victory over Antonio Tarver in their IBF/IBO light heavyweight title fight at the Palms on Saturday October 11, 2008.

Unanimous Champ

Chad Dawson beat Antonio Tarver in a unanimous decision Saturday night to claim the IBF/IBO light heavyweight world championship.

Tarver vs. Dawson

Chad Dawson connects on IBF light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver during their title fight at the Palms Saturday October 11, 2008. Dawson scored a 12-round unanimous decision. Launch slideshow »

This weekend was the first time Chad Dawson’s name was cited, at least in public, along with Manny Pacquiao’s, in a discussion of the best boxers in the world in any weight class.

It won’t be the last.

It seems disingenuous to use a term like “coming-out party” in connection with a man who had already owned, and defended on multiple occasions, a major world championship belt.

Yet a star-is-born aura permeated the Pearl at the Palms after Dawson shook up boxing’s prevailing hierarchy by trouncing Antonio Tarver in a lopsided 12-round unanimous decision Saturday night.

Dawson captured the IBF/IBO light heavyweight world championship with the victory and later made it clear he has his eye on richer treasures in the coming years.

An early clue that a special night was in the works came before the bout when Floyd Mayweather Jr. placed a phone call to Dawson.

Ostensibly retired as a fighter, Mayweather might be considered boxing’s pound-for-pound champion emeritus, to use an unfortunate Latin term that has somehow managed to creep into the sport of late.

Mayweather told Dawson he has the skills to become pound-for-pound champ himself.

This must have been something like Jefferson handpicking Madison, or Woody Guthrie saying he digs a young folkie named Bob Dylan (whose “Gotta Serve Somebody” played as fans filed out of the Pearl).

Mayweather’s endorsement was still echoing in his mind as he entered the ring, Dawson said.

“It’s a big compliment for me,” Dawson said.

Trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, the maestro of Dawson’s rigorous two-month training camp at Mount Charleston, wasn’t surprised Mayweather offered his imprimatur.

After all, greatness is attracted to greatness, Muhammad said. Muhammad, a former light heavyweight world champion, also lightly chided boxing’s so-called expert observers for not recognizing Dawson’s exceptional talents even sooner.

Though he went off as a solid betting favorite in the Palms sports book, Dawson’s name had never carried enough elan to make him a prominent headliner. Before Saturday’s showdown, Tarver claimed — perhaps with some justification — that Dawson was incapable of driving a big-time promotion before his victory against former world champ Glen Johnson in April.

Dawson’s dominant victory, however, ushered in a new era for him and for the sport’s elite ranks.

The judges’ scorecards favored Dawson overwhelmingly: 118-109 and 117-110 twice. The Sun’s card awarded Tarver just one round and had Dawson winning by 119-108.

But it wasn’t just Dawson’s technical skills — his vaunted hand speed, his precision punching — that made his performance so memorable.

Dawson fought with imagination and authentic artistry. He put together creative combinations of stinging punches that kept Tarver off-balance almost the entire night. At the same time Dawson quashed his opponent’s attempts to launch any kind of attack with a slippery defense that was wickedly effective if not flashy.

The style will serve Dawson well as he takes on boxing’s big shots, and potential opponents, such as Roy Jones Jr., Joe Calzaghe, Bernard Hopkins or Kelly Pavlik. Dawson’s promoter, Gary Shaw, said he hopes to make megafights with any or all of them, or anyone else who wants to challenge for supremacy at 175 pounds.

“There’s a new king in town,” Dawson (27-0, 17 knockouts) said. “Tarver was a great champion. He had his time. Now it’s my time.

“Right now I’m on top of the world.”

His goal, his “dream,” Dawson said, is to become the consensus No. 1 fighter in the world, pound-for-pound. His timeline: the next year or so.

“I’m ready,” Dawson said.

Tarver (27-5, 19 KOs), who has played for all they’re worth one huge punch against Jones in a 2004 title bout, a movie role in “Rocky Balboa” and a motor mouth, faces a flat-lining career as a top-level pro fighter.

In an odd move, Tarver made some noise about exercising a rematch clause in his contract with Dawson, though he’s about the only one interested in an encore.

More likely, ventures in promoting or showbiz could await Tarver. To his credit, he still has never been knocked out by an opponent.

“I tried to gut it out and go for the knockout, but it didn’t come,” Tarver said.

Another one-sided fight preceded the main event at the Pearl. Vitali Klitschko’s stoppage of Sam Peter in a heavyweight title match from Germany was shown on the theater’s jumbo screens as part of a Showtime double feature.

Klitschko — the erstwhile champion emeritus of the WBC — became just plain champion when Peter in effect said “nicht mehr” after eight rounds, to the delight of the pro-Klitschko crowd in Berlin.

Fighting from the outset with his left hand down by his side, by the end Klitschko, in complete control of the fight, had both hands down. He sure didn’t learn that technique from the classic 1978 instructional guide “Boxing for Beginners” by Al Bernstein ... who was at the Palms calling the action for Showtime.

The unsatisfying ending in the heavyweight clash cast a temporary pall over the Pearl, which stands out as an elegant and intimate venue for boxing.

It was up to Dawson to revive the crowd, and the 26-year-old from New Haven, Conn., treated the fans to a career-making rendition.

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