Boxing
Bout with Tarver at top of Dawson's list
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It won't take much to make Chad Dawson happy this holiday season.

All the 25-year-old wants to find under his tree is a fight contract...signed by Antonio Tarver.

"We've planned for Tarver. We've signed for Tarver. All we really want is Tarver," said Mike Criscio, Dawson's manager, in a Tuesday phone interview. "We should have had him already, but if he keeps his word this time he'll win his fight in December and we'll get him in April."

Tarver, who'll turn 39 next month, has a scheduled bout with Australian import Danny Green set for Dec. 1. Should he win that, Criscio said the former undisputed light heavyweight kingpin has verbally agreed to meet Dawson, the WBC?s champ at 175 pounds, in the spring.

The two were reportedly close to meeting in a bout that would have been set for Sept. 29, but Criscio said Tarver refused to sign off on the deal after deciding among other things that he didn't want to fight in Connecticut, Dawson's adopted home state.

Dawson went on to schedule a match with unbeaten contender Adrian Diaconu, but that bout was scuttled when the Canadian prospect claimed a bruised right hand. Instead, Dawson met late replacement Epifanio Mendoza and defended his crown with a fourth-round TKO.

And in doing so, he followed instructions to the letter.

"I told him that this fight couldn?t go past four rounds," Criscio said. "I told him he had to go out there and knock the guy out. There was no room for fooling around.

Antonio Tarver
Antonio Tarver has verbally agreed to meet Chad Dawson in the spring.
"He had to go out and be careful and keep his chin down, but get the guy out of there as quickly as possible. (Trainer) Eddie (Mustafa Muhammad) told him five rounds and I told him four, so I guess he listens to me more than Eddie."

It was Dawson's first fight under the primary corner guidance of Mustafa Muhammad, himself a former WBA champion at 175, after a brief relationship with Floyd Mayweather Sr.

Dawson has also worked with Dan Birmingham in the past, but Criscio said the current arrangement has the most potential because of a quality mesh of personalities.

"With Floyd it was all about Floyd. Chad won the title and Floyd talked for 10 minutes and never said a word about Chad," Criscio said. "Eddie's just the opposite. With him it's all about the fighter. He doesn't need to say two words about himself, it's all about his fighter."

Now 25-0 with 17 knockouts, Dawson turned pro in 2001 with a second-round stoppage of Steve Garrett at Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

He won the NABF's light heavyweight crown with a decision over former world title challenger Eric Harding in June 2006, then cashed it in with an upset 12-round verdict over incumbent WBC belt-holder Tomasz Adamek in Kissimmee, Fla. eight months later.

Since, he's defended twice, first with a sixth-round blowout of Jesus Diaz before a hometown crowd at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, and then with Saturday's one-sided rout of Mendoza at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. The fight was broadcast live by Showtime.

"We're not dumb guys. We know where we need to be and we know where the big fights are," said Criscio, who claimed Dawson would head down to potential windfalls at 168 pounds before considering a move up to the cruiserweight or heavyweight divisions. "You have to be there where the big fighters and the big fights are.

"We'd love to fight the winner of the Calzaghe/Kessler fight, or the real dream would be to get in there with Bernard Hopkins. But the funny thing is, whenever he hears the name Chad Dawson he suddenly gets amnesia."

OK, Sam Peter. You wanted it, you got it.

The burly Nigerian finally heads to the ring as an incumbent world champion this weekend, well, sort of...when he meets replacement challenger Jameel McCline for the interim WBC heavyweight crown in a salvaged Don King card at Madison Square Garden.

Peter, who won a pair of title eliminators from James Toney only to have his shot at Oleg Maskaev scrubbed by injury, has been nothing if not a championship-caliber talker since Jose Sulaiman deemed him temporary belt- worthy late last month and subsequently approved McCline as fodder candidate No. 1.

Maskaev is now mandated to face Saturday's winner or relinquish his title claim.

"It doesn't matter who I fight," Peter said. "McCline is a good fighter, a good boxer and good champion, but it doesn't matter. I'll adjust to any style. I am the heavyweight world champion and I'll do whatever it takes to defend my title. I have waited nine months for the chance and I can't wait no more for anybody who doesn't want to defend the heavyweight title. I am here. I have taken over and I am the heavyweight champion of the world.

"I am holding the WBC title. This title is not easy to get. So, I consider myself the best heavyweight in the world right now."

Bravado aside, it's not as if the 27-year-old is entirely without credentials.

He turned pro in 2001 and won 24 straight bouts, 21 by knockout, before dropping a close unanimous decision to now-universally recognized champion Wladimir Klitschko in a match where the Kazakhstan-born giant was floored three times.

Four wins have followed since, including the 12-round pair against Toney -- first by a debated split decision in September 2006 and then by unanimous nod four months later, when he won 31 of a possible 36 rounds on the three scorecards.

McCline, meanwhile, has firmly established himself as a second-tier elite over the last five years, dropping title bouts to Klitschko, Chris Byrd and Nikolay Valuev, in addition to 10-round losses to Calvin Brock and Zuri Lawrence.

Still, hope springs eternal with the 37-year-old Harlem native, who was initially slated to face a comebacking Vitali Klitschko and then fellow second banana DaVarryl Williamson, before being summoned from King's bullpen stable when Maskaev pulled out.

"I was in against Vitali, then Vitali was out. I was in against Williamson and now I'm fighting for the world heavyweight championship against Samuel Peter," he said. "I'm a big, strong and talented heavyweight that can stand up and punch with Peter. I'm coming to win."

Nonetheless...

FitzHitz says: Peter in 6.

Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera...together again.

No, the two Mexican veterans are not adding another chapter to their already legendary three-fight series, but when Barrera steps into the ring with Filipino whirlwind Manny Pacquiao this weekend, he'll be taking a step in the shoes of his long-time rival.

A wholly undeserved step, that is.

Much like Morales and his failed WBC lightweight title shot against David Diaz in August -- which came after four losses in five fights over two years -- Barrera is getting a crack at the pay-per-view Pacquiao buzzsaw as more a parting gift than a potential upset.

A professional for nearly 18 years, the "Baby Faced Assassin" was a one-sided loser his last time out, dropping a unanimous decision to Juan Manuel Marquez while surrendering his WBC super featherweight crown in March at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

And though he'd not lost since an 11th-round beatdown at the fists of Pacquiao in 2003, subsequent scorecard wins over Morales (MD 12) in their third fight and Rocky Juarez (SD 12) in their first get-together were hardly indicative of the 33-year-old's most vintage efforts.

Meanwhile, Manny enters on something of a roll.

Despite multiple reports of conflict and distraction within his camp, the 28- year-old seems at or near his in-ring peak, having won five straight -- four by KO -- since dropping a narrow but unanimous nod to Morales in the first of their trilogy in March 2005.

He took the last two go-rounds with "El Terrible" by stoppage, erasing Morales in 10 and three rounds, respectively, in January and November of 2006. His last fight was in April in San Antonio, Texas, where he KO'd Jorge Solis in eight rounds at the Alamodome.

Give credit to Barrera, though, for at least stirring the pot on his way out.

"He's not a good trainer," he said of Pacquiao cornerman Freddie Roach, who's made pre-fight noise about checking the legality of Barrera's hand wraps. "He shouldn't be worried about me. He should be worried about Manny Pacquiao.

"Look what (Roach) did to Oscar. He helped Oscar lose."

FitzHitz says: Pacquiao in 9.

"I demand a rematch!"

Nine times out of 10, it?s an ego-salving chest thump from a beaten fighter toward his conqueror.

But in the case of Jermain Taylor and Kelly Pavlik, a return bout at either 160 or 168 pounds should be a priority item on every boxing fan's wish list for 2008.

Pavlik's stunning seventh-round barrage not only stripped the previously unbeaten Taylor of his universal recognition as middleweight champion on Saturday night, it also pushed the small-town boy's status needle to the 'hot commodity' side of the all-important marketability gauge. And it's nothing if not good for the sport.

Though already a favorite of the die-hards before his breakout night in Atlantic City, Pavlik's win allows him to immediately capitalize on two qualities that set him apart from the largely non-descript rank and file between the heavyweight and welterweight divisions.

First, he's exciting. Second, he's white. And both truths will presumably propel him toward claiming a larger share of the press and the proceeds the next time around with Taylor, in a bout that was agreed to before the fact as part of an immediate rematch clause in the original contract.

Like hometown hero Ray Mancini before him, Pavlik is a made-for-TV warrior. His consistent aggression is a guaranteed hit with those who lean more toward the violent than the artistic, while the intangibles he showed in shaking off a near knockout loss in the second round will surely draw in any fence- sitters.

Another reason a replay is so compelling...it's no guarantee that it'll happen the same way.

Lest we forget, Taylor was leading at the time of the stoppage and looked to be capable of riding out the fight's second half en route to a decision win. And, had referee Steve Smoger not been quite so patient with Pavlik or had Taylor landed one more power shot before running short on gas in that fateful second round, the revisionist historians would be penning distinctly different seashore epilogues.

Assuming the now once-beaten Arkansas native goes ahead and pursues the rematch, he'd be no more an underdog than Pavlik was entering last weekend. And assuming he'd be able to finish off the second time what he failed to the first, all signs would then point toward a conclusive rubber match along the riveting lines of recent trilogies Bowe-Holyfield, Gatti-Ward and Pacquiao- Morales.

It's almost enough to make you want to go back to Jersey.

Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show, broadcast weekdays from 6 to 9 a.m. on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com).

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