Tarver-Dawson the one fight fans have been waiting for
After 16 months of trading barbs and talking smack, Antonio Tarver and Chad Dawson will settle their differences in the ring Saturday.
Originally Published: October 10, 2008By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com
LAS VEGAS -- After a long and winding road, light heavyweight titleholder Antonio Tarver and Chad Dawson will finally face each other.They have veered toward each other and away, trash talking all the way, but the much-anticipated bout at the Palms Casino on Saturday (Showtime, 9 p.m. ET/PT) is the culmination of a rocky 16-month road to finally get them into the ring together. Opening the telecast, Showtime will carry same-day taped coverage of the fight between heavyweight titleholder Samuel Peter (30-1, 23 KOs) and unretiring former titleholder Vitali Klitschko (35-2, 34 KOs) from Berlin. But the live bout between Tarver and Dawson is one fight fans have been asking for. After such a long buildup, it's no wonder. Showtime showed rock-solid support for Tarver (27-4, 19 KOs) and Dawson (26-0, 17 KOs), steadfastly standing behind them by giving them fight after fight against other opponents -- sometimes suffering scathing criticism in the process -- in the hope their showdown would come to fruition. Gary Shaw, who promotes Dawson and has worked closely with Tarver, also has spent endless hours trying to put this one together, and he is quite pleased that it has finally arrived. "It's very satisfying to bring something to fruition that you've worked hard on that people said would never happen," Shaw said. "There was some give and take, but in the end it all worked out. "[Tarver adviser] Al Haymon was helpful and, obviously, [Showtime boxing chief] Ken Hershman did everything to keep it on track. It's no secret Showtime was heavily invested in this fight with what they did with Tarver and Dawson."
Dawson says he doesn't regret his decision to give up his belt because he had wanted Tarver so badly for so long. "This was not about titles," Dawson, 26, said. "There are so many titles out there you don't know who the champion is. But he says he's the best and I say I'm the best, so let's fight. I wasn't going to go to Romania to fight Diaconu instead of fighting Tarver. That wasn't happening. This is the fight I wanted. I didn't want to give up my title, but that's what it took to make this happen. "For awhile, it looked like it wouldn't happen, but I think he just ran out of time and ran out of excuses." Tarver, 39, is still as brash as he was after two wins in three fights with Roy Jones Jr. He said he never ducked Dawson. He just wanted Dawson to earn the fight with him. "Everything takes time," Tarver said. "Chad was a young guy coming up. He won the title and what was he supposed to do after he beat Adamek? Jump and fight me? Come on, man, there's a lot of more fights he could have fought. But instead they pad his record and gave him two soft touches [but] he went and fought Glen Johnson and now it's time. I wasn't never ducking Dawson. It is what it is. His time has come." Shaw backed up Tarver's claim, but Dawson doesn't buy it. "Tarver kept saying that Dawson's résumé was not worthwhile to fight him and until he put something on his résumé, he wouldn't fight him," Shaw said. "But Glen Johnson was something on his résumé. After that Tarver said, 'Now, I will fight him.' That's why the Glen Johnson fight was made. He was pivotal, without knowing it, to making this fight." Said Dawson: "Tarver said he hasn't been ducking me. That's flat-out BS. He's afraid of the beating I'm going to give him. He's been afraid all along. I'm going to shut his big mouth up." Their hostility toward each other has been evident since the April doubleheader when, after the tough fight with Johnson, Tarver referred to Dawson as a "wounded duck" and called him "easy pickings." They've fired verbal bombs at each other since and have gone at each other on a teleconference with reporters and at this week's news conference. "I've been a fixture in this sport for 11 years," Tarver said. "I've been here before. Dawson hasn't done anything. He'll have a game plan, but all that crap is going to be thrown out the window once he gets hit in the mouth."
Tom Casino/ShowtimeChad Dawson, above, would much rather trade punches than barbs with Antonio Tarver.
And this, also from Tarver: "Everyone knows Dawson doesn't have much of a chin. He's going to regret agreeing to this fight once he gets hit in the face a few times. He won't know about the power until he feels it. You can watch all the film in the world, but until you meet me in the ring, you have no idea what you're getting yourself into." Dawson hasn't backed down. He looked right at Tarver while blasting him at the news conference. "This fight has gotten personal," Dawson said. "I don't like that dude. I won't like him after the fight and I won't like him two years from now. He irritates everyone. All people keep telling me is to shut his mouth up. That's what I intend to do." And after Tarver took off his shirt for the pose down, Dawson offered, "Who told him to take his shirt off for the face off? Look at my body and look at his. He's not cut like me. All I saw was old-man flab. "Getting rid of Tarver is not just my mission, it's a public service." Maybe so, but the real public service is that the fight, despite so many bumps along the way, finally was made. Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Tom Casino/Showtime No old-man flab here: Chad Dawson is fit and ready Antonio Tarver on Saturday.