Boxing
Young, strong foe is a referendum for Dawson
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - It's election season again and I'm feeling a mite undecided.

But it's neither donkey nor elephant nor tea-toting party crasher that's got me wishy-washy.

This time around, it's Chad Dawson.

A light heavyweight title claimant since 2007 who became the division's chief executive about 20 months later, the Connecticut resident has spent the bulk of his past couple years bidding a long-overdue farewell to the old guard of the weight class.

The operative word... old.

It's been nearly three years since Dawson stepped into a ring with someone less than a decade his senior, and even then -- for a stay-busy KO of Epifanio Mendoza -- the foe in question still held a two-president birthdate advantage, Ford (1975) to Reagan (1982).

In fact, in 30 pro fights -- 29 wins, 17 KOs, one no-contest -- Dawson has never met a younger man.

That changes this weekend.

And it's the primary reason for my prediction ambivalence.

A newly-minted 28-year-old after celebrating a July birthday, the reigning IBO champion seeks to re-add the WBC belt to his trophy case when he meets Haitian-born Canadian transplant Jean Pascal at the Bell Centre in the latter's new backyard of Montreal, Quebec.

The bout heads an HBO "World Championship Boxing" show Saturday at 10:30 p.m. (et).

There's little debate that on a platform of talent, accomplishment and familiarity, Dawson's a prime-time powerhouse.

His duels with Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson were effective if not artistic, with little doubt of superiority remaining at the close of either.

In 30 pro fights Chad Dawson has never met a younger man, until this weekend.


And a wide scorecard defeat of then-unbeaten WBC champ Tomasz Adamek three years ago looks better with each scalp the Pole claims at heavyweight.

Still, the age thing lingers in an arena where youth is often a tipping point.

Because he's not met a foe in his 20s since 2006 -- and never one near a world-class level -- Dawson could be slightly uneasy when dealing with challenges presented by a solidly-built 27-year-old who's been more dominant, in admittedly lesser tasks, since first emerging in 2007.

Overcoming a workmanlike Johnson is one thing at 40.

Denying a prime and hungry fireplug 13 years younger is quite another.

A violent 12-round mugging of Kingsley Ikeke on ESPN marked Pascal's initial star turn in Montreal, though it was followed four fights and 16 months later by a unanimous decision loss to Carl Froch in a bid for a vacant super middleweight crown in England.

Four subsequent fights have gotten him back on track and allowed him to join the ranks of the 175-pound belted, which he did with a 12-round verdict over Adrian Diaconu in June 2009.

A 10th-round stoppage of Silvio Branco followed in title defense No. 1, leading to another scorecard win -- by slightly larger margins -- over Diaconu in a December rematch.

Now 25-1 with 16 knockouts, he arrives with no lack of momentum, or confidence, but remains a sizable underdog with bettors at World Sports Exchange (wsex.com) -- who can collect $300 for a $100 wager with a Pascal win, while shelling out $400 for a $100 return if Dawson remains unbeaten.

The over/under threshold for the bout's duration is 9.5 rounds.

Among the sure things is that Tavoris Cloud will be an interested bystander.

Six months and three days older than Dawson, the Tallahassee, Florida-based Cloud made a statement for supremacy with a narrow points defeat of -- surprise! -- the very same Glen Johnson on the undercard of Devon Alexander's homecoming last week in St. Louis.

It was the first defense of the vacant IBF title he'd beaten Clinton Woods for a year earlier.

Beibut Shumenov is the WBA's champion in the division.

Juergen Braehmer holds the WBO belt.

"I definitely want to fight Chad Dawson," Cloud said.

"I was a little rusty (Saturday), so I will be better next time. I am a bad man. I'm going to be a unified world champion and undisputed champion."

Mean time, Pascal's got other plans for Decision 2010.

"This is my country, my town and my belt," he said. "I hope Chad Dawson is coming to fight like a champion, but if he thinks he is going to run like a chicken and leave with my title he is making a big mistake."

TV TOPICS
(Some fights may not be televised)

FRIDAY

ESPN2 -- Ontario, CA
Chris Arreola (28-2) vs. Manuel Quezada (29-5)
Chad Bennett (24-4-3) vs. Gary Bergeron (12-5)

TeleFutura -- Pico Rivera, CA
Eloy Perez (17-0-2) vs. Derrick Campos (20-8)
Carlos Molina (12-0) vs. Glenn Gonzales (8-1-1)

Telemundo -- Tampa, FL
Jesus Pabon (14-1) vs. Ernesto Zepeda (39-13-4)

SATURDAY

FOX Espanol -- Laredo, TX
Ji Hoon Kim (21-5) vs. Miguel Vazquez (25-3) -- vacant IBF lightweight title
Miguel Angel Garcia (22-0) vs. Cornelius Lock (19-5-1)
Hekkie Budler (16-0) vs. Evaristo Primero (14-13-1)

HBO -- Montreal, QC
Chad Dawson (29-0) vs. Jean Pascal (25-1) -- IBO/WBC light heavyweight titles

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.