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Tarver eager for rematch

Magic Man’ says he’s got a powerful game plan for Dawson

Tarver workout

Steve Marcus

Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, left, works on his timing with assistant trainer Joe Ponce as trainer Buddy McGirt during a workout Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Tarver will fight Chad Dawson for the IBF title Saturday night at the Hard Rock.

Tarver workout

Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, left, works on his timing with assistant trainer Joe Ponce at Bones Adam's Boxing Gym in Las Vegas Wednesday, May 6, 2009. Tarver will attempt to regain the IBF title he lost to Chad Dawson when the boxers meet for a rematch at the Hard Rock on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

Beyond the Sun

The talk is a lot tamer this time around from Antonio Tarver.

That tends to happen when you’ve had your head handed to you like the former light heavyweight champ did last fall, in a lopsided loss to Chad Dawson.

But a rematch clause in their first contract allows a confident Tarver the opportunity to take his title back and keep his second-time around streak intact.

“When I look back at the fight, I feel I beat myself, it was nothing that Chad did,” Tarver said Wednesday, at an open workout at Bones Adam’s boxing gym.

“We corrected our wrongs and you’ll see the difference Saturday night. When I’m determined I’m a hard guy to beat, history proves that.”

Indeed the 40-year-old Tarver — who had garnered more fame lately from his role as Mason “The Line” Dixon in "Rocky Balboa," than his work in the ring — has never lost in a rematch.

The “Magic Man” (27-5, 19 KOs) avenged his first loss to Eric Harding with a fifth-round TKO in 2002. He bounced back from his decision loss to Roy Jones Jr. with an impressive second round TKO. Just for good measure he followed that up with a unanimous decision over the legend a year later.

Glen Johnson beat Tarver by split decision only to have Tarver come right back and win their next fight by unanimous decision. The only setback Tarver didn’t defend was his 2006 loss to Bernard Hopkins. But the two only fought once.

“I’m focused, I’m determined and I know what’s at stake. I get up for fights like this,” said Tarver, of his Saturday night showdown with the undefeated Dawson at The Joint at the Hard Rock.

Tarver insisted that he was ready for their first rumble, but made a few slip-ups in his game plan.

“Basically I’m gonna let my hands go this time,” Tarver said. “I’m not gonna be in a defensive posture.

“I’m gonna let my offense be my defense and I’m gonna fight — that’s the bottom line.”

The 26-year-old Dawson (27-0, 17 KOs), the much more reserved fighter in the build-up to their first promotion, has said he’s looking forward to knocking Tarver out this time around.

“Winning my first world title was a career highlight, but beating Tarver last year was a personal joy, one I look forward to repeating on May 9,” Dawson said. “I’ve beaten the best in my division. I am the king of the light heavyweights.”

Tarver says if anyone is getting KO'd, it's gonna be Dawson. He said he can utilize power which he didn’t show in October’s match that the judges gave a 118-109, 117-110 (twice) decision favoring Dawson.

“I’m gonna put this guy in uncomfortable situations and I’m gonna touch him,” Tarver said with a smile. “I have the power.

“I’m gonna touch him on the arms, touch him on the body. If I crack him or hurt him, I’m knocking him out. Period.”

What Tarver didn’t have in his loss to Dawson was longtime trainer Buddy McGirt.

But the Vero Beach resident has reunited with Tarver, a native Floridian, who he couldn’t train last time because he was in camp with another fighter, and likes the results he’s seen.

“His motivation and his attitude are a lot different. I’ve see him do things that he hasn’t done for a long time, and that’s isolate himself from everybody,” McGirt said.

“One thing about Antonio is he knows what he has to do, to get what he has to get done. And he’s definitely done that for this fight.”

Win or lose, Tarver said this would not be the end of the line.

“It’s never enough. I don’t think I’ve accomplished enough yet. I’ve done some great things in boxing,” Tarver said. “But the sky is still the limit. I’m a champion and I still feel I’m the best. I have a lot to prove on Saturday night.”

Andy Samuelson can be reached at [email protected] or 702-948-7837.

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