Dawson undaunted by Tarver's rep in rematches

Updated: May 8, 2009, 12:29 PM ET

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Antonio Tarver, above, has revenge on his mind going into a rematch with Chad Dawson.

Dawson tangles with Tarver again

Confident but cautious. That is the way light heavyweight titleholder Chad Dawson is approaching his rematch with former champion Antonio Tarver.

They'll meet again at The Joint in the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Saturday (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET) in Dawson's HBO debut and the first bout of his new contract with the network. Also on the telecast: a replay of Manny Pacquiao's history-making second-round knockout of Ricky Hatton to win the junior welterweight championship last Saturday.

Dawson should be confident. Seven months ago, he schooled Tarver. He dropped Tarver in the 12th round to put a cherry on top of his lopsided 118-109, 117-110, 117-110 unanimous decision victory that netted him a title belt in a fight two years in the making.

Although there is really no public demand for the rematch, it is taking place because the only way Dawson could get a shot at Tarver in the first place was agree to a rematch clause in the event he won. Dawson did win and Tarver exercised his rematch option, although many question why HBO would pay a whopping $3.2 million for the right to televise a sequel to a Showtime fight that didn't even sell 1,000 tickets the first time around.

Still, despite the lopsided nature of their first encounter, Dawson (27-0, 17 KOs), one of boxing's best young guns at 26, is also cautious because fellow southpaw Tarver, 40, has been outstanding in rematches during his career, fashioning a 3-0 record in sequels.

Antonio Tarver

AP Photo/Eric Jamison

Antonio Tarver, right, has a knack for pulling himself together in rematches.

"I didn't cut any corners in training camp. Eight weeks and I trained my butt off three times a day," said Dawson, who had to postpone the bout from March because of a slight left hand injury. "I'm still young and some young fighters take that road, but I cut no corners. This is my life and career. This is what I do and I take it very seriously.

"Just knowing Tarver is 3-0 in rematches, just knowing that got me up for this fight. I want to be the first person to beat him twice. He does better in rematches, but I am not worried about it. I am cautious of it."

Other than the loss to Dawson, which he has a chance to reverse, and a lopsided decision loss to Bernard Hopkins, Tarver (27-5, 19 KOs) has avenged his three other defeats:

• After losing a majority decision to Roy Jones Jr. in November 2003, he scored a blistering second-round knockout in the rematch six months later in a tremendous upset. He also defeated Jones via unanimous decision in the rubber match in 2005.

• After losing a split decision to Glen Johnson in December 2004, Tarver rebounded for a unanimous decision six months later.

• After getting knocked down and losing a unanimous decision to Eric Harding in June 2000, Tarver risked his mandatory challenger status by facing him again and destroyed Harding in a fifth-round knockout victory in July 2002.

"Dawson's a young lion and he had a high work rate during our first fight," Tarver said. "I missed a few times with my power shot but that's what it is, it's a game of inches. But I always learn from my losses, and as Roy Jones, Glen Johnson and Eric Harding will tell you, I never lose twice to the same man. Dawson will learn that lesson too."

Dawson would like to eventually fight former champ Bernard Hopkins, although Hopkins, who easily beat Tarver in 2006 to win the title before losing it on a close decision to the now-retired Joe Calzaghe, has flatly said many times he has no interest in fighting Dawson.

"Every one wants to see me and Bernard Hopkins fight, but I'm not going to chase it. It will come to me," Dawson said. "Fighting Tarver is not something I wanted, but I couldn't avoid it, so I'm doing it."

Dawson also knows the only prayer he has to get Hopkins is to beat Tarver again.

"I already know I'm the best in the division because no other champion will fight me, which is why I give Tarver so much credit for stepping up again," Dawson said. "Our last fight was a good one and Tarver has always won the rematch after a loss, which has inspired me to train harder than ever. I'm not going to be another rematch victory notch on his belt like Roy Jones Jr., Glen Johnson and Eric Harding. I'm out to prove that I'm not just the king of the light heavyweight division, but also the best, pound for pound, and if it means giving Tarver a pound for pounding, then so be it. No mercy."

While Dawson, who also owns wins over cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek and Harding and a tight win against Johnson, is saying the right things about not being overconfident for the rematch because of how easily he beat Tarver the first time, promoter Gary Shaw has concerns.

"Chad's head, according to Chad, is in the right place. He knows he needs to win this fight for his career," Shaw said. "Gary's head, I worry about rematches. I worry about the fighter who won the first time not feeling that he has to prepare where the fighter who lost the fight, in this case Tarver, who has an unblemished record in rematches, knows he's in a life-and-death fight because it could be career-stopping. If Tarver loses, I don't know where he goes. That's what scares me about rematches. And I know Tarver is in great shape because I've seen him."

Tarver has also been very quiet heading into the rematch. Before the first fight, he trash-talked with impunity for months. This time around, he's been as quiet as a church mouse.

"Tarver is very serious," Shaw said. "He's quiet, not braggadocios at all and not talking any smack. You know he's taking this seriously."

Said Dawson of Tarver's low profile heading into Saturday's fight: "It could mean many things. Maybe he's more focused. Maybe he really wants to go out there and really beat me this time. I definitely humbled him last time. What can he say? It was a shutout. There's not much he can say."

Forrest-Martinez troubles

It looked like at long last, junior middleweight titleholder Vernon Forrest would honor his overdue mandatory defense against interim titleholder Sergio Martinez (44-1-2, 24 KOs). The bout was going to be slated for Aug. 1 on Showtime in Atlanta, not far from Forrest's hometown of Augusta, Ga.

Forrest was supposed to fight a tune-up last month on Showtime, but withdrew because of a rib injury. Now, Forrest (41-3, 29 KOs) may not go forward with the defense against Martinez either.

"The recent news about me fighting in Atlanta against Sergio Martinez was a surprise," Forrest said in a statement. "As you know, I am currently recovering from a rib injury that has not allowed me to fight. At this point, I have not been given clearance from my doctor to even start rehabbing the injury, much less training to fight. I have not fought since September of 2008 and it is my expectation that the WBC would honor my request to fight a tune-up fight once I'm ready, which will most likely be 11 months since my last fight. The WBC has taken this approach with many of their champions in the past, and I'm confident that they will with me as well."

Sergio Martinez

Marty Rosengarten/Ringsidephotos.com

Sergio Martinez, left, is having problems landing a fight with Vernon Forrest.

Well, maybe not. The WBC has previously said that if Forrest-Martinez didn't take place by August that Forrest would be stripped of the title and Martinez elevated to full titleholder.

Forrest promoter Gary Shaw said Forrest has not formally withdrawn from the Aug. 1 bout.

"We've not gotten medical clearance to fight Martinez on Aug. 1," he told ESPN.com. "We're awaiting that. Vernon has not pulled out. We're waiting for medical clearance."

Martinez has been mandatory since 2007, when Forrest claimed the vacant title against Carlos Baldomir. Since then, Forrest has fought three times, including a September 2008 rematch with Sergio Mora in which Forrest regained the title following Mora's victory in the first fight.

Forrest also tried to get another optional approved against Charles Whitaker, which was rejected by the WBC because it had ordered the Martinez fight.

If Forrest-Martinez is officially scrapped, which is likely, Shaw said he'll try to make a fight for Showtime involving super middleweight contender Andre Dirrell against "a big name."

Another possibility, according to Main Events, is that Showtime may resurrect the Tomasz Adamek-Glen Johnson cruiserweight championship bout for the date. The fight had previously been rejected by HBO and Showtime didn't have a date. If Showtime also passes, Adamek will stay on his July 10 date and likely face Matt Godfrey.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.


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