- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Light heavyweight Chad Dawson had a choice to make:
• Go to Romania to make his fourth title defense against interim belt holder Adrian "The Shark" Diaconu, the mandatory challenger, for a career-best purse of $1,088,274.
• Give up his title and take his chances that promoter Gary Shaw and Showtime can put the finishing touches on a deal that would see Dawson challenge Antonio Tarver for his belt in October in the United States for a similar payday.
Dawson chose the second option, vacating his WBC 175-pound title on Friday rather than make the mandated defense against Diaconu.
The move signaled that the Tarver (27-4, 19 KOs) and Dawson (26-0, 17 KOs) camps are close to a deal to make a high-profile fight that has been brewing for more than a year.
"We are still in [the] negotiation stage," Shaw told ESPN.com. He added that he hoped the deal would be finalized next week.
If the deal is completed, Tarver, 39, would defend his IBF version of the title against Dawson on Oct. 11, although Shaw said he had not locked in a site. Tarver, the former recognized division champion, picked up a belt when he outpointed Clinton Woods on April 12 on a card he shared with Dawson's last defense against Glen Johnson.
With Dawson's decision, Diaconu was elevated to full WBC titleholder, Jose Sulaiman, the organization's president, announced.
Ganker Promotions, which handles Diaconu, won a June 13 purse bid for the right to promote Dawson-Diaconu, a fight it would have staged in Romania this fall.
Dawson, 25, of New Haven, Conn., and his team elected not to go through with it, instead focusing on finalizing the deal to fight Tarver.
"Chad Dawson contacted the WBC to inform [us] that he will not fight against Adrian Diaconu and therefore, he is relinquishing the title, even when both fighters had gone to a purse offer that was won by the Romanian promoter Gangker Promotions," Sulaiman said in a statement. "The WBC feels very disillusioned with Dawson's decision, as he was going to make the highest purse of his life against Diaconu, as well as the WBC always supporting Dawson."
Dawson was supposed to defend against Diaconu in Sacramento, Calif., last September on Showtime, but Diaconu withdrew shortly before the fight because of a hand injury. Dawson wound up knocking out late substitute Epifanio Mendoza in the fourth round.
The WBC approved an optional defense for Dawson against Glen Johnson on April 12 and allowed Diaconu to fight for an interim title a week later, which he won via decision against American Chris Henry. The interim bouts were allowed because Dawson and Diaconu both agreed to face each other next.
"It happens that he found the way not to fight Diaconu again," Sulaiman said.
One of the key reasons is because Showtime was not interested in buying a rescheduled Dawson-Diaconu fight at the expense of getting the match it has wanted all along: Tarver-Dawson.
If Tarver-Dawson is finalized for Oct. 11, Showtime is also making plans to include same-day taped coverage of Samuel Peter's heavyweight title defense against unretiring Vitali Klitschko on the broadcast. That fight also likely will take place Oct. 11 in Europe.
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.