Thursday, May 7, 2009

Chad Dawson Steps into the Spotlight

Chad Dawson, king of the light heavyweights according to the International Boxing Federation, is willing to do whatever it takes to make an impression.

How else do you explain the fact that when he was 10 years old and first laced on a pair of boxing gloves that he decided he was going to be a lefty – just like his father?

“I got my style from my father, my father was a southpaw,” explains Dawson, also known as “Bad” Chad. I'm originally a right-handed fighter, but I fight lefty just to emulate my father.

So far the decision to be a southpaw has been a good one. Dawson once sat atop the World Boxing Council light heavyweights before he abdicated the throne in favor of a fight last year against Tarver, the International Boxing Federation titlist. Dawson handed the fast talking former champ a twelve round beat down to annex the belt and become generally regarded as the world's best 175-pounder. Before that he squeaked out a close win over former champ Glen Johnson in another signature win.

“Boxing is in need of young superstars,” says Dawson who would be happy to assume that position. He tells the story of a phone call he received from one of the game's best just before he squared off against Tarver last October.

Tarver was no match for Dawson in their first fight. He will have the opportunity to redeem himself in the rematch.

“I got a call from Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and that just boosted my confidence right there. He told me I was one of the best in the world, if not the best. He told me to go out there and use my boxing skills and my hand speed and everything and I'd come out with the victory and that's what I did.”

Dawson did such a good job of using all of his skills that he not only beat Tarver handily, but he launched himself onto some of boxing's pound-for-pound lists.
It was a life-changing win for the young, undefeated fighter who hails from New Haven, Connecticut. The veteran Tarver is a man known to try and tear down his opponents with his words as well as his fists and the onslaught of adjectives is sometimes as difficult to ward off as are his punches.

“Talking is just words,” says the pragmatic Dawson. “You've gotta' get in the ring, you've gotta' use your hands and that night my hands were better and I was just a better fighter like I knew all along.”

So as he prepares to step into the ring again with "The Magic Man" tomorrow night at the Hardrock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Dawson is able to put the Tarver experience into its proper perspective.

“Everybody knows that Tarver, he's a great talker,” says the 26 year-old Dawson who has a record of 27-0, 17 knockouts. He promotes himself very well and I take nothing from him. He came out and he fought a helluva' fight. I was just a little too much for him on that night. Tarver was a great champion, but he's had his time. Like I've said before, it's my time now. There's a new king in town.”

To be sure, the victory over Tarver was a complete one as Dawson, at times, battered the older man. So when word came that Tarver would exorcise his contractual option for the rematch it left many within the industry scratching their heads. Even more perplexing is that HBO is coming up with big dollars to televise the fight ostensibly because they want to get into the business of being part of Chad Dawson.

Many fans were left asking, “What the ...?” when the rematch was announced. But Dawson says this fight could end up being more competitive than the first.

“Tarver and Dawson two is different the second time around because I know that Antonio Tarver is going to be coming out and he's going to try his best to come out with a victory in this fight,” says Dawson. “My whole game plan is to keep training hard and keep working hard and everything will work out again.”

Tarver, now 40 years old, will likely mount a stronger assault on Saturday night than he did the first time around. But Dawson's speed, confidence and youth will presumably blunt the efforts of the former 3-time champ. Even though Tarver has won every rematch he has ever engaged in, Dawson doesn't expect that is going to happen against him.

“There were times I felt like saying, 'Look man, you're not hurting me,'” says Dawson in recalling the first fight. “He was trying his hardest to hurt me, but I put in the work. You put in the work and it's going to show. Like I've said before, I believe that fights are won in the gym and I won that fight in the gym.”

Tarver and Dawson met for the cameras one more time on Thursday afternoon in Las Vegas.

While Tarver is a loquacious individual who uses words to motivate himself and denigrate his opposition, Dawson says those words motivate him just as much and the more Tarver talks the worse it will be for him.

“It's personal in the way that I wanted to go out after Tarver told me I wasn't on the same level as him and that I didn't deserve to be in the same ring with him. He told me there was nothing on my resume that could compare to him and him being a hero. So, I wanted to go out and not just beat him, but embarrass him and show him I was the better boxer and the better fighter. I wanted to show him I could do anything he could do, but better.”

Dawson accomplished that and then some. With the decisive win over Tarver he vaulted himself onto the bottom half of some pound-for-pound rankings. Heading into this fight he is a heavy betting favorite and there are very few of the opinion that Tarver will have much of a chance against him. In fact, the only real challenge Dawson has at 175 pound would be Bernard Hopkins.

However, Hopkins is reluctant to get into a ring with Dawson and instead prefers to call out fighters that have a lesser chance to beat him. Hopkins claims the money a Dawson fight would bring him isn't enough to justify the risk. But if the Hopkins fight never happens, Dawson doesn't seem hung up on it because his vision for himself is larger than that.

"I want big fights, I want big names,” says Dawson. “I do believe that I'm one of the best in boxing right now, but that's for the critics and the fans to decide. I want to be recognized as one of the best pound-for-pound in the world. I really can't ask for more than that. I'm just happy to be in the position that I'm in. I want everyone to open their eyes and look at me as if I'm one of the best in the world. Two years ago nobody knew who I was. Now it feels good to walk down the hall and have people know who I am.”

May 2009

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