Saturday, Oct. 11, 2008 | 7:07 p.m.
Chad Dawson, right connects on IBF light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver during their title fight at the Palms Saturday October 11, 2008. Dawson scored a 12-round unanimous decision. (Steve Marcus/Las Vegas Sun)
Chad Dawson might not have won the war of words over the past two weeks, but he won when it counted — walking away with the IBF/IBO title as he controlled the outspoken Tarver almost the entire 12 rounds and became the light heavyweight champ by unanmious decision.
"I was playing him and working him round-by-round, that's how we planned it," said Dawson, who received scores of 117-110 from two judges and a 118-109 count from the other.
The unbeaten Dawson (27-0) recorded his biggest win to date in a division that includes such fighters as Bernard Hopkins, Joe Calzaghe, Kelly Pavlik and Roy Jones Jr.
While bigger paydays could lie ahead, Dawson was content on Saturday with embracing his son in the ring and cheering along with his fans.
"I'm bringing the belts back to New Haven," he said.
First Round: Dawson landed a couple of shots, and Tarver responded with some punches of his own. Both fighters were clearly feeling each other out. Late in the round Dawson, in blue trunks with blue gloves, pressed the action, landing a flurry under 40 seconds. Dawson took the round.
Second Round: Not a lot of action. Dawson landed a combination right under the two-minute mark and did some damage. He caught Tarver with a big left seconds later, then another combination later in the round. Tarver threw a few late jabs, but was backed up by Dawson’s counters later in the round. Dawson again was the winner.
Third Round: Dawson landed another big shot to the delight of the crowd inside the Pearl. Tarver seems content to let Dawson control the tempo early on. Tarver, in silver trunks and gloves, threw some jabs and connected with a pair of hooks with about a minute left to bring his fans to life. Tarver won the round
Fourth Round: Tarver threw a big left and the two locked up. Dawson threw two punches to the body and caught Tarver with a quick jab. He unleashed another quick combo that made Tarver retreat. Tarver threw a couple of hooks, but Dawson quickness again put him right back in position. Tarver landed a big left, but Dawson responded with his own. Dawson’s combo’s probably give him the round in what has been the most even so far.
Fifth Round: Dawson started strong again with two big punches. Tarver starting to get more active, but Dawson countered with a big right. He ridiculous combo at 1:10 had the crowd on their feet. A series of jabs also backed Tarver up. The two exchanged body shots at the bell sounded. Dawson took another.
Sixth Round: Tarver, knowing he’s trailing on the scorecards, came out punching. The two exchanged shots. Tarver threw a combo to the head and body, but it appeared to do little damage. Tarver definitely more active, but his punches seem to have little effect to Dawson. Tarver wins the round.
Seventh Round: A strong combination by Dawson had Tarver backed up on the ropes to the delight of his fans, which feature Floyd Mayweather Jr. and singer Chris Brown cheering him on. Another big combo late in the round along with consistent jabs had Tarver’s head bobbing. Neither fighter appears to have any lacerations. Dawson took the round.
Eighth Round: Tarver can’t seem to get past Dawson combos. Tarver has tried to initiate the offense, but Dawson’s quick counters clearly have him in control. A big combo by Dawon at the 30-second mark caught Tarver off guard. Dawson again wins the round.
Ninth Round: The two fighters backed off a little. Both tried to set each other up with jabs. Dawson lands a late combo. A left from Tarver backed Dawson up. But a big right moments later along with a two big combos in the final 30 seconds gives Dawson another round.
10th Round: Dawson unleashed one of his most explosive combos yet, creating a sea of sweat on the apron. A tired-looking Tarver has had his gloves up most of the round. Tarver did land a combo under a minute left, but Dawson’s answered with his quick hands. He shook his head in confidence in the final 10 seconds before unloading yet another combo. Dawson wins round.
11th Round: Tarver is much more active from the start, throwing several punches and landing a decent amount. He just missed a haymaker that might have made things interesting. Dawson defended Tarver well and didn’t have to throw a lot of punches himself. When he did might have landed enough to take another round.
12th Round: Tarver came out again throwing punches, but Dawson who has been in control of the entire fight responded. A powerful right knocked Tarver down to a knee at the 2:16 mark. Tarver got up and kept firing, but a pro-Dawson crowd rose to their feet in anticipation of the new champ. Tarver threw a couple of late shots that had little effect. Dawson raised his arms in victory.