Antonio Tarver was a little better Saturday night than last time, but the scorecards were about the same — a resounding Chad Dawson decision win in a rematch between two top light heavyweights. If you didn’t like Dawson yet, this probably wasn’t going to change your mind. He’s not going to suddenly transmogrify into a mega-puncher, even though he was clearly trying to land something that would really hurt Tarver. Me, I like Dawson a good deal. He has raw physical talent, excellent boxing skill and he’s not some runner in the ring; he comes to fight.
Even though I like Dawson how I do, I still don’t think this rematch should have been broadcast by anyone. Sometimes a rematch surprises you, but there was next to nothing that indicated beforehand Tarver was going to reverse his fortunes. I said Tarver was going to have to be significantly better than before, and Dawson significantly worse. Tarver was significantly better, but not enough, and Dawson was better in some ways and worse in others. The fundamental dynamic was the same, and it played out that way: Dawson, 26, was younger, faster and better than Tarver, and Tarver, 40, was older, slower and not as good as Dawson.
Tarver thought he merely got outworked in the first fight, so he succeeded in his goal of outworking Dawson this time around. He threw 749 punches to Dawson’s 677. Unfortunately for Tarver, that little “Dawson is better than Tarver” part came into play, because Dawson outlanded Tarver 209 to 121. I gave three rounds to Tarver — the 3rd, 7th and 11th. Tarver’s outwork-plan worked well in the 3rd, and in the 7th, he appeared to shake up Dawson a little with a combo. In the 11th, he controlled more of the round.
Otherwise, Dawson was more accurate in part because of his speed and in part because of his defense. Tarver is a good defensive fighter, and you’re never going to land very many punches against him, while Dawson was the better defensive fighter. Dawson did about as well as one could on offense against Antonio. And for the most part, he was backing Tarver up. In the 4th, he managed to shake up Tarver himself with a left hook. If there was one area where Dawson was better, it was in the biggest chink in his armor, that being his ability to take a shot. Tarver, a pretty good puncher, connected on a number of very clean, showy shots, but Dawson really never was in much trouble. Maybe Tarver getting older has sapped his power, but some of those punches looked very powerful to me. Dawson taking those shots well allowed him to be more aggressive. In so doing, he also was clearly aware that he needed a big statement to get the fights he wanted, and he was trying to put Tarver on his ass. It led him to abandon his jab at times, sure, and maybe he’d have won even more definitively if he hadn’t. But it was worth a try.
In the end, the scores were 116-112, 117-111 and 117-111 for Dawson. Tarver looked all flummoxed, like he thought he got robbed. His corner was telling him he was winning after 6th, so maybe that’s where he got that dumb idea. But by the 8th, his corner was telling him he needed to win the next four, and he simply couldn’t BELIEVE it! Turn it up he did, and that, as much as HBO’s questions about Dawson’s late-fight stamina, had something to do with him arguably winning some of those late rounds. I don’t think Tarver thinks he loses any fight ever. Maybe he’d fight with yet more urgency if his corner were to tell him he was losing early.
But I don’t have any idea where Tarver goes from here. He’s still got some gas in his tank, obviously, but if Dawson’s not a thrill a minute, Tarver’s thrill ratio is a good bit lower, I think. Once again, he probably beats a lot of light heavyweights with a performance like the one he gave Saturday night. I just can’t imagine how he ends up with another big fight on the teevee. I know I don’t sit around pining for the next Tarver fight. He can fight on if he wants and I’ll tune in just because I watch everything.
Dawson tried to muck with his DNA tonight, and nothing much came of it. If he’s to have more power, I think he’s going to have to move down to super middleweight. Maybe, too, his late-fight stamina is an issue that warrants attention, as the HBO team harped. Otherwise, I think the Dawson who’s in front of us is substantially the Dawson we’re going to get. He’s been improving fight after fight, and he was more or less the same Dawson Saturday. Like I said before, I think he’d beat Bernard Hopkins if he got a chance at him, but I don’t see Hopkins-Dawson being a fight that HBO will be stampeding toward, at least not enough to pay Hopkins what he thinks he’s worth. I maintain as well that he owes Glen Johnson a rematch. But if I were him, I’d move it on down to super middle, where he has a greater chance of putting on the kind of show his skeptics want him to. I like Dawson’s chances against any super middle other than probably Mikkel Kessler, who hits very hard and would test even the seemingly sturdier than before Dawson chin. But I’m in the pro-Dawson camp. This fight wasn’t for me. I’lll be interested to see what the Dawson skeptics think after this.