Thursday, Oct. 9, 2008 | 3:56 p.m.
Antonio Tarver is the champion, but he's also the underdog in Saturday's light-heavyweight title fight against Chad Dawson at the Palms.
The only thing I can figure out is the Stallone fight took a heavy toll on him.
He was known as Mason "The Line" Dixon in 2006, and despite being a heavy favorite against 50-something Rocky Balboa in the movie of the same name, Tarver was lucky to pull out a split decision.
In fact, if you bought the DVD and watched the alternate ending, he wound up losing a split decision. But at least he stood toe to toe with The Stallion. That's more than Ivan Drago could say.
They filmed part of that movie here. I was able to sneak into the climactic fight scenes by going through an unattended back door at Mandalay Bay. As Michael Keaton said in "The Paper," a clip board and a confident wave will get you into anywhere you want to go.
In the run-up to the fight, Dawson chastised "Rocky Balboa," or at least Tarver's role in it, as if he were Roger Ebert reviewing "Ishtar." But I thought Tarver did a nice job of acting for a fighter.
In fact, I thought his character -- the unpopular champion who gets little respect from the public -- should have been better developed.
Maybe it was, and those scenes, like Jerry Quarry, wound up on the cutting room floor.
There was a scene in the movie where Tarver/Dixon is pelted with ice after a boring title defense.
Talk about art imitating life. This is exactly how I felt after watching Oscar De La Hoya fight Felix Sturm.
But if you plan to watch the Tarver-Dawson fight and it doesn't live up to the hype, and they don't stand toe to toe, do not, I repeat, do not throw ice at the TV.
Or your high definition set may wind up serving as a hat rack in the spare bedroom.
The sad state of today's heavyweight division notwithstanding, I'm not foolish enough to believe that Sylvester Stallone could beat Wladimir Klitschko, or one of those stiffs who holds the other belts.
But I honestly think Carl Weathers, the guy who played Apollo Creed, could whip his rear end.