- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver has excelled in rematches during his career, going 3-0. After losing to Eric Harding, Roy Jones Jr. and Glen Johnson, Tarver bounced back to win the sequel.
Now, Tarver will see if he can stay perfect in a rematch with Chad Dawson when they meet again March 14 on HBO's "World Championship Boxing."
Although Tarver fought as well as he has in years, Dawson dominated him to claim a light heavyweight belt in a lopsided unanimous decision on Oct. 11 in Las Vegas in their long-awaited fight.
Dawson dropped Tarver in the 12th round and won 118-109, 117-110 and 117-110 on the official scorecards. But Tarver, who turned 40 last month, had a rematch clause in his contract and promoter Gary Shaw told ESPN.com Wednesday night that he has finalized the fight.
The bout will take place at a site to be determined, but Shaw said two of the venues in the running are the Foxwoods resort in Dawson's home state of Connecticut and The Palms resort in Las Vegas, which hosted the first fight.
Although Dawson (27-0, 17 KOs) was obligated to give Tarver (27-5, 19 KOs) a rematch, it didn't have to be immediate. However, without a bigger fight on the horizon, Shaw said they decided to do the rematch now.
"In discussing the options with Chad, we wanted to get this out of the way so if an opportunity came up to fight Bernard Hopkins or Joe Calzaghe, or somebody like that, we wouldn't have this fight with Tarver staring us in the face. So Chad said, 'You know what? Let me fight Tarver and get it over with. Let me knock him out this time and then I will have those options in front of me.'
"Chad wants to do this, so he is very up for the rematch, and I'm sure Antonio is happy we are living by our contract."
One of the intriguing aspects of the match is that it will take place on HBO, instead of Showtime, which has been associated with Dawson for years, nurturing him from a prospect on its "ShoBox: The New Generation" series to a world champion on its cornerstone series "Showtime Championship Boxing."
However, HBO, with a bigger budget, offered Dawson, a 26-year-old entering his prime, a two-fight deal that Showtime didn't match.
"[Showtime] had an opportunity to, let's say, re-sign Chad," Shaw said. "HBO has a big interest in Chad and when all the negotiations were over, it was best for Chad at this point to go to HBO. [Showtime boxing chief] Ken Hershman is ticked off at me and I know that. But at the end of the day I have to do what is best for my fighter."
Showtime spent 16 months and millions of dollars televising Dawson and Tarver fights against lesser opponents in an effort to get them into the ring against each other.
Shaw said that if Dawson defeats Tarver again, they are on "on the same page" as HBO.
"We'd like to fight Hopkins, Calzaghe, [super middleweight titleholder] Mikkel Kessler, Jermain Taylor, any of them," Shaw said. "Whoever wants to fight at 175 pounds, Chad will fight."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.
Antonio Tarver gets a rematch with Chad Dawson on March 14.