Dawson wins but fails to entertain
HARTFORD, Conn. -- Whatever lingering questions anyone had about the veracity of light heavyweight Chad Dawson's decision win against Glen Johnson after their rousing slugfest in April 2008, they've been answered.
Dawson had won their initial meeting via unanimous decision, 116-112 on each of the three judges' scorecards to retain a light heavyweight world title. But Dawson faded late and there were questions left behind, especially from the Johnson camp, which claimed it was a robbery.
Now, forget about all that. Dawson left no doubt at the XL Center on Saturday night as he claimed a clear unanimous decision and a vacant interim title.
The problem was that for all his talent, Dawson didn't do much to create any excitement or demand for future fights.
The scores were a bit closer than they should have been on two scorecards, 115-113 rendered by judges Duane Ford and Michael Pernick. Judge Glenn Feldman, however, had it 117-111. ESPN.com also scored it for Dawson, 118-110.
Dawson's 27-year-old legs, faster hands and an array of skills were too much for the aggressive, but highly ineffective 40-year-old Johnson.
Johnson (49-13-2, 33 KOs), who had a big problem with the first decision, was more at ease after this one.
"I'm not sure I won the fight," said Johnson, who was bidding to become the oldest man, at 40 years, 319 days, to claim a version of the light heavyweight title. "I thought I did enough, especially in the late rounds. He started out running and my whole plan was to wear him out at the end with body shots. I felt I was doing that and landing on the inside, especially late in the fight. My whole game was to put pressure on him from the start. I knew he would run. I thought I could run him out of gas, which I thought he was at the end."
Dawson picked up that interim title and he is supposed to face the winner of the Dec. 11 rematch in Montreal between full titleholder Jean Pascal and former titlist Adrian Diaconu. That's the fight Dawson promoter Gary Shaw said they would pursue.
"Obviously, we'd like the winner of Roy Jones-Bernard Hopkins," Shaw said. "Most likely, we'll go after Pascal [if he wins] to clear it up in the WBC so there is no more interim title."
But if that fight happens, it very well could be headed to Montreal, where Pascal and Diaconu are based.
Dawson, for all of his talent, does not have the kind of exciting style -- Johnson I notwithstanding -- to excite many American fans, nor is he a big draw.
Dawson is from New Haven and his handlers brought the fight to Hartford hoping to attract the locals to support the state's No. 1 fighter. But they didn't turn out. There was little buzz for the fight and just 5,230 showed up.
Dawson (29-0, 17 KOs), a southpaw, did control most of the fight. He displayed a fast right jab, often tripling it up. He mixed in hard left hands while Johnson had difficulty landing cleanly.
The outcome left Johnson's future in doubt.
"I don't know if I will retire or not," Johnson said. "I'm going to see what phone calls I get. If there is something that makes sense, I'll fight again. If nothing comes up worthwhile, I'll retire."
Throughout the fight, Dawson would land shots and appear to at least stun Johnson, but there was never much of an effort to follow up and go for the kill.
"I just tried to use all the tools to my advantage," Dawson said. "I felt like I tried to land the big punches when I had to. I knew I couldn't stay in there and get hit. I had to keep moving, sticking and moving and that's what was the difference in the fight."
He was right about that, but not quite with his next statement.
"It was important to put on a show for my hometown fans," Dawson said.
Dawson, 27, has the résumé of a top fighter with two wins apiece against former champions Johnson and Antonio Tarver plus a decision win against then-light heavyweight titlist Tomasz Adamek, who went on to win the cruiserweight championship and more recently make a splashy debut at heavyweight.
The problem was that, again, for all his talent, Dawson didn't put on much of a show. There were numerous times during the bout when the crowd booed the lack of action, which certainly wasn't because of Johnson's effort. He stormed after Dawson all night.
"I think he's a tremendous talent but he needs to be more cognizant of being an entertainer," said promoter Lou DiBella, who co-promotes Johnson but is an admirer of Dawson's talent. "He has the ability to be a whole lot more pleasing than he is. I think maybe he will be but he needs to make adjustments. When you're in your hometown and the fans are booing you that says something."
Bottom line: It was a dominant performance, but not a particularly pleasing one.
"I think that's who Chad Dawson is," Shaw said. "I don't think he is going to change. He's one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world but just like there are some that don't like the style of Floyd Mayweather or a Pernell Whitaker, Chad dominates. Sometimes he doesn't get credit because a lot of judges look for the aggressor when they should be scoring on contact. So Chad's going to unfortunately going to be in some close fights."
Dawson's attributes are impressive. The fast hands, size and speed make him easily the most impressive talent at 175 pounds.
He just doesn't use it all consistently.
"He has lightning fast hands so I don't understand why he doesn't throw more or walk someone down," Shaw said. "I don't think he still has the confidence he can take people out and I really do think he can. If he throws the combinations he can hurt anybody."
Yet for all of Dawson's talent, he didn't.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.