New TV deserves apology after Dawson-Tarver dud
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
I'd like to issue a formal apology to my new big-screen television.
After weeks in the showroom of a local warehouse club showing loops of Major League Baseball and National Football League highlights, I plucked its 40 inches off the shelf, loaded it across the back seat of the old Chevy Malibu and brought it home to the new living room.
Logistics prevented me from getting it for the Pacquiao-Hatton show last weekend, so I instead bided my time, checked the sports calendar and figured Saturday night's HBO show from Las Vegas would serve as a credible debut for its satellite HD prowess.
I was wrong.
In spite of a record of mayhem on Antonio Tarver's rematch resume and promises of a more impressive and violent encore from first go-round winner Chad Dawson, their re-do wound up a dreary 36 minutes in which one man had too little and the other did too little.
Sure, Dawson's capture of eight or nine rounds on every ringside scorecard let him walk out with the IBF and IBO light heavyweight belts he walked in with, but it did precious little to make anyone believe he's actually earned the pound-for-pound status he covets.
Chad Dawson is now 28-0.
In fact, short of a drop to 168 pounds for the match with multi-division mercenary Paul Williams he wondered aloud about in our chat a few months ago, all roads at 175 pounds lead straight to the bout Dawson seems to want least -- a rematch with veteran brawler Glen Johnson.
The two squared off in a 12-round semifinal to Tarver's defeat of Clinton Woods last spring in Tampa, a match I scored 7-5 for Dawson amid a table of media colleagues who went along with the St. Pete Times Forum crowd and tabbed Johnson the winner.
It was hardly a crime, regardless, and surely deserving of reprise.
And truthfully, it's only another match with Johnson that can force Dawson to answer the questions it seems no other belt-holder or wannabe champion at 175 is capable of asking the soft-spoken, 28-0 family man from New Haven, Conn.
It was immediately evident that Tarver, while looking better and more focused than their first encounter, lacked the speed and power to do more than irritate as Dawson worked some combinations, piled up some points and coasted to the finish line.
It'll likely be the "Magic Man's" last turn in the spotlight, unless he decides to engage three-time foe Roy Jones Jr. in some sort of 40-something challenge match, with the winner to either fight an MMA superstar or co-star in another awful movie with Stallone.
A circus either way; anyone for Tango and Cash: The Sequel?
Ironically, whether you thought he deserved the decision or not, the qualities Dawson was forced to draw upon against Johnson -- courage, toughness, resilience, etc. -- are exactly those he'll need to supplement his athleticism and speed a climb to P4P significance.
After all, what better way to state a claim for a spot in the public consciousness than a convincing defeat of a difficult past foe that provided the only real challenge to your superiority in six championship-level fights?
Meanwhile, none of the other pretenders/claimants at light heavyweight -- Hugo Garay, Adrian Diaconu or Zsolt Erdei -- can match Johnson's career resume or have the mainstream name value to do more than fill a forgettable line on Dawsons victim list.
A move to cruiser is moot, because Dawson already holds a win over consensus king Tomasz Adamek from the Pole's days at light heavy, and he's frequently claimed losing the requisite seven pounds to get to super middle is far more feasible than climbing the scale from 175.
Landscapes there would surely be more lucrative, providing big-bout foils in suddenly noteworthy Englishman Carl Froch and always tough Dane Mikkel Kessler, as well as TV-friendly Americans in Jermain Taylor and rising ex- amateur stars Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell.
Not to mention the omnipresent Bernard Hopkins, wherever he turns up again.
And wherever he lands, Dawson would be wise to invest in a crash course in snappy post-fight rhetoric, a skill that's helped many a fighter draw the ire of an otherwise unwilling or little-discussed opponent.
He was perfectly pedestrian in that spot Saturday post-Tarver, offering to Max Kellerman a tired run of "I take my hat off to him," and "I'll have to go look at the tape" cliches that sapped any buzz the wide win might have generated -- along with any inkling Joe Calzaghe might have had to dial him up.
Not to mention any enthusiasm HBO had left after swiping him away from rival Showtime.
Even if it's not the 'trying to drive his nose up into his brain' menace of Tyson days gone by, answers slightly more insightful than 'he tried hard' and 'it is what it is' could generate the all-important water-cooler chat and 'I've got to fight that guy' sentiment Dawson's words heretofore haven't created.
It may be abhorrent to the purists out there, but an inalienable truth of modern times is that athletes -- particularly fighters -- looking to score the highest level of crossover recognition must possess a certain something to set them apart from the rabble.
Some, like Tyson two decades ago and Pacquiao now, have it in the ring. A visceral fury that turns fights into must-see events for the hater and the casual fan.
Others, like Mayweather, have it outside the ropes. A perfectly charming/villainous personality that compensates for a tedious style and makes people watch just to see them get beat.
Still others achieve it by latching on as a sidecar to a superstar opponent. Drawing a wildcard berth into big events their own fistic acumen or star- quality might not have provided alone.
A generation ago it was Joe Frazier. Today it's Juan Manuel Marquez.
As for Dawson, he remains behind the 8-ball.
Without signature carnage in the ring or particular eloquence outside it, he's left to reach the top rung based on dramatic competition. And, short of a compelling Johnson rematch or a big move elsewhere to seek new quarry, his options for the latter appear, well...bad.
As for me, does anyone know how to get a Toshiba back into a box?
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This week's title-fight schedule:
WBC cruiserweight title -- Rome, Italy Giacobbe Fragomeni (champion) vs. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (No. 1 contender) Fragomeni (26-1, 10 KO): First title defense; Won five straight since lone loss in 2006 Wlodarczyk (41-2, 31 KO): Held IBF title in 2006-07; Won three of four fights outside Poland
FitzHitz says: Wlodarczyk in 10
WBO junior heavyweight title -- Buenos Aires, Argentina Victor Emilio Ramirez (champion) vs. Ali Ismailov (No. 11 contender) Ramirez (14-1, 12 KO): First title defense; Deemed champion when David Haye left division Ismailov (15-1-1, 11 KO): First title fight; First fight outside Europe
FitzHitz says: Ramirez in 9
Last week's picks: 1-0 (100 percent)
Overall picks record: 90-35 (72 percent)
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.