Friday, May 29, 2009

Like Bowe, Chad Dawson Won't Be Dictated To

Chad Dawson is king at 175 pounds and he simply wants to engage in the best and most lucrative fights that can be made.

In December 1992, then World Boxing Council heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, along with his garish manager Rock Newman, unstrapped the green belt of the WBC from around his waist and ceremoniously dumped it into a trash can.

It was either that or face Lennox Lewis, who had knocked Bowe out in the finals of the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

It was a symbolic move meant to send a message to the WBC. The message was that Bowe was bigger than any chintzy belt and that he would dictate the terms of who he was going to be fighting and when. In spite of the ravings of an absolutist sanctioning organization, Bowe was the champ, he was not going to fight Lewis, and that was that.

Nearly 17 years later, Chad Dawson, the now former WBC and IBF light heavyweight titlist, has twice done much the same thing as Bowe did.

While Dawson didn't unstrap his belts in front of the worldwide press and fling them into a garbage can of indifference, he has essentially told both the WBC (and now the IBF) that he will decide who and when he fights and that no matter what the alphabet soup racketeers say - he is the champ and that is that.

Dawson's hand has been forced twice. When he was the WBC belt-holder they were mandating that he fight somebody named Adrian Diaconu. All Dawson wanted to do was fight the well-known Antonio Tarver in what was an attractive match-up on paper. Dawson told the WBC that he didn't want their belt anymore and that he would instead fight Tarver without their blessing.

Dawson (left) and Antonio Tarver have fought twice and each time Dawson has come out on the winning end.

Dawson beat Tarver, won the IBF title in the process and then fought and beat Tarver earlier this month for the second time. Both were lucrative fights from a monetary standpoint and they were broadcast on Showtime and HBO. From Dawson's vantage point, the Tarver fights were a win-win situation because of the money and notoriety involved in beating such a high-profile opponent.

Earlier this week, Dawson's hand was forced again when he was essentially compelled to vacate the IBF title in lieu of meeting undefeated #1 contender Tavoris Cloud.

Instead, Dawson has decided he wants to meet former titlist Glen Johnson who he has defeated previously in what was a close fight. The bout with Johnson represents much more money than a fight with Cloud would and if Dawson wins it helps him avenge what some saw as a disputed win over Johnson the first time around.

But Cloud does appear deserving of a title shot, at least on paper. He has a glitzy record of 19-0, 18 knockouts and is only 27 years-old. However, except for a 2008 win over former titlist Julio Cesar Gonzalez, Cloud's record is littered with a collection of fighters from the mid-west circuit. Even Reggie Strickland, one of the most losing fighters in all of boxing history, dots his ledger. Cloud is untested and unproven. As a result, the television networks would not approve the fight for its airwaves.

On Wednesday, Dawson's promoter Gary Shaw plainly and succinctly explained the circumstances to the IBF in a letter to that organization; “On behalf of Chad and his team, I would like to express our sincere appreciation for allowing Chad to fight for and defend the IBF light heavyweight title. It is an honor he will always cherish.

However, inasmuch as the IBF has rejected our request for an exception from immediately defending the title against mandatory challenger Tavoris Cloud, a request made because no major television network had an interest in purchasing the rights to that fight, Chad must vacate the IBF light heavyweight title effective immediately.”

For Dawson, the dumping of the hard-won title belts has been bittersweet. But in a day and age where there are 17 weight divisions with 4 “world champions” per division, the significance of a “championship” doesn't mean as much as it once did. What has become clear since the sanctioning bodies began handing out belts as though they were cotton candy is that it is the fighter that makes the title belt – and not the other way around.

To some extent, the day Riddick Bowe dropped that belt into the garbage can represented an emancipation of sorts. Fighters finally got to see that they could tell the alphabet marauders to take their belts and shove them - and that life would go on.

The 26 year-old Dawson and his team seem to have learned that lesson well as “Bad” Chad has run his record to 28-0, 17 knockouts and has barely missed a step while defeating former world champions and amassing title belts.

“I gotta' do what I gotta' do to get that money,” explains Dawson who resides in Hamden, Connecticut with his wife and family in a large, newly built Cape Cod styled home.

“Tavoris Cloud? He's been talking a lot of crap lately. I don't know who he really is to be honest with you. Nobody knows who he really is. I guess he just wants to make some money off me. I don't know. He's talking trash like he can beat me. Nobody knows who this guy even is. He's from Chicago and who is he? He's really not sayin' nothin' so...”

So rather than face an unknown for small change, Dawson had to tell the IBF he was no longer interested in their belt.

Glen Johnson (left) and Dawson engaged in a spirited battle the first time around. Some thought Johnson did enough to win, hence the rematch.

“I'm looking for bigger fights than Tavoris Cloud,” he says. “I'm looking for fights like Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe. I'm not looking for a guy with a suped up record who has beaten nobody. You go look at his record and you'll see he's fought nobodies and beaten nobodies. Why should I give him a shot? He has to prove himself just like I've proven myself.”

Dawson, a multi-talented southpaw with decent power and above average boxing ability makes a good point. But Cloud has been the #1 IBF contender since last August and whether he is deserving of a shot or not, that really wasn't Dawson's choice to make as long as he held the IBF belt.

For his part, Dawson claims he has no problem in facing Cloud, just not right now.

“He'll get his opportunity, but don't rush it,” Dawson said. “I'm the champion and everybody wants what I got. I've got to take everybody on one at a time. I can't take on the whole world at one time. He's got to hold his horses. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn't, it doesn't. I'm the champion and I deserve to be treated like the champion and he's going to have to wait his turn. Just like I waited for my shot he's going to have to wait for his shot.”

To be sure, Dawson seems to have a great future ahead of him. With his talent and desire and at an age where his prime could be a year or two away, he could be listed highly in the pound-for-pound rankings in the very near future. Dawson is confident in his position as the world's best 175 pound fighter, regardless of whether or not he has a world title belt to hold up his trunks.

“I've beaten the best light heavyweights in the world already,” he says. “I've beaten Glen Johnson, I've beaten Eric Harding, I've beaten Antonio Tarver. Cloud hasn't beaten anybody with the credibility of those guys - therefore, he has to wait.”

So, despite the fact that he is once again a champion without a title and a boxer without a belt, Dawson is of he opinion that none of that matters.

“The boxing world knows that I am the best light heavyweight in the world,” he proudly states.

And they also know he's not afraid to dump belts.

May 2009

No comments: