Tuesday, April 21, 2009 | midnight
Chad Dawson is less than five minutes removed from a 10-round sparring session in Johnny Tocco's Boxing Gym, politely answering questions and posing for the media.
It's so hot in the cramped space that even those not working out are caught wiping sweat from their forehead. One woman fans herself with a folder. Dawson's workout has lasted more than an hour, one in which he went through two sparring partners who were given the orders to show "Bad" Chad everything they had.
Minus a steady stream of sweat running down his back, the undefeated light heavyweight world champion looks fine. He even laughs when the question of his May 9 bout with Antonio Tarver at the Joint at the Hard Rock, the first rematch of his professional career, is brought up.
"I don't think Tarver deserves the rematch, that's why I'm smiling," Dawson said. "Hopefully he can come in and make it a more interesting fight. But I think if he opens up on this one, if he tries to throw more combinations, that's going to work to my advantage because of my hand speed."
If this sounds like trash talking, it's not. It's just the facts. After dominating Tarver in a unanimous decision in their last fight on Oct. 11, Dawson (27-0 17 KO) was forced into the rematch because of a clause in the contract. Anybody who saw the first lopsided contest, and even many who didn't, don't have much confidence that the aging Tarver can turn it around.
"Chad's ready, I'm not even worried about what Tarver brings to the table," said Dawson's trainer, Eddie Muhammad. "Last time was an easy fight, this is going to be an easy fight. Nothing's going to change.
“When we fought him last time he was 39-years-old — he's 40 now. Antonio Tarver is a world champion and he's never lost a rematch. But there's always a first time."
It is true that second chances have been good to Tarver. He's never lost a rematch and beat notables such as Roy Jones Jr. and Glen Johnson in repeat performances.
That quality, however, might hurt Tarver more than help him, as Dawson, 26, showed in Monday's open workout that he's in terrific shape and determined not to surrender the IBF/IBO light heavyweight championship back to the man he took it from.
"Because of how I beat him in the last fight, most people would think it would be hard for me to get up for this one," Dawson said.
"But I've trained my butt off for this fight. I don't get how anyone could think I wouldn't be motivated, thinking that I'm just going to go in there and say, 'Aw, I beat him the last time so I'll beat him in this fight.' That's not the case. I want to go in and look better, faster and stronger."
What Dawson really wants is to make his case as a legitimate pound-for-pound champion. Or continue making it — he was placed ninth in the latest Yahoo Sports ranking. He's also ranked No. 2 in the light heavyweight division, behind Bernard Hopkins, who he's been pursuing a fight with since Hopkins defeated Kelly Pavlik on Oct. 18.
"There's nobody else," Dawson said. "But I think if he wanted to fight me it would have happened by now. I don't know if he's waiting to see what happens in the rematch, maybe he's sitting back hoping that Tarver gets a lucky shot in so he can avoid me like that.
“My dream is to make it on the pound-for-pound lists and the next thing standing in my way is Bernard Hopkins."
Dawson's proved his worth to at least one man in boxing, who's opinion should be valued considering the subject.
Former pound-for-pound champ Floyd Mayweather Jr. called Dawson's dressing room prior to his last fight with Tarver to tell him he had already earned that title as far as he was concerned.
Muhammad, who replaced Floyd Mayweather Sr. as Dawson's trainer in 2007, appreciated the compliment from "Money" May, but said he gets the original credit for seeing Dawson's potential.
"When I first started working with him, I told him right then and there, 'My job is to make you the best fighter in the world and I believe I can do that," Muhammad said. "Him getting that call from Floyd Mayweather Jr. just solidified it right there. He doesn't get as much press as Manny Pacquiao or Ricky Hatton, and that's cool, we don't mind that. But the true fight fans know that Chad is the best fighter in the world."
But before any fight with Hopkins or anyone else can happen, Dawson has to fulfill his contract obligation and fight Tarver again. As an incentive, May 9 will be the first fight of Dawson's career that will be televised on HBO. In that sense, it's an opportunity for him to defend a title in front of his biggest audience — against an opponent he already knows he can beat.
"I'm very excited, this is what fighters dream about," Dawson said. "Since I was 10-0, I started dreaming about being on HBO. I kept saying to my promoter, when am I gonna be on HBO? When are you gonna get me on HBO? Twenty fights later, I'm on HBO. I feel like I'm at my peak now and I'm ready to showcase my talents. I definitely want to go out and impress everybody."
Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or firstname.lastname@example.org.