Saturday, March 21, 2009 | 2 a.m.
Sun Expanded Coverage
Coming up through the ranks, Chad Dawson always respected and even admired Antonio Tarver from afar.
Dawson was particularly impressed by Tarver’s two victories in three fights against Roy Jones Jr. and by Tarver’s avenging his loss to Glen Johnson in a rematch.
Then, as Dawson tells it, he met Tarver in an up-close-and-personal manner, only to come away disillusioned.
Dawson, normally mild of manner and quick with a genuine smile, used an expletive to describe Tarver in an interview at the Hard Rock Hotel this week.
“I respected him more when he was fighting guys like Roy, back then,” Dawson said. “That was before I got a chance to meet him and to get to know him. Then I found out he was a (jerk).”
Dawson and Tarver fight for the light heavyweight world championship May 9 at The Joint at the Hard Rock in a rematch of Dawson’s victory by unanimous decision in October.
The first match was marked by some vicious trash talk by Tarver in the buildup to the fight and a performance in the ring by Dawson that most observers — with the notable exception of Antonio Tarver — saw as dominant.
Dawson would have preferred to move on to face a more prominent name such as Joe Calzaghe, who announced his retirement from boxing this year, or Bernard Hopkins. Yet he was not surprised when Tarver exercised his rematch clause.
“Some of the things he was saying to me before the last fight were personal,” Dawson (27-0, 17 knockouts) said. “But he’s a legend in boxing. He’s had a great career. He deserves another shot. That’s the way I look at it.
“It seems like he always comes back and wins the rematch after he loses, but that’s not going to be the case this time.”
Tarver (27-5, 19 KOs), dismissing verbal jabbing as just part of the game, was more concerned about the judges’ score cards in his loss to Dawson. While acknowledging Dawson won the fight, Tarver said he believes the official scores — 118-109 and 117-110 twice — should have been closer.
“He looked busier but I don’t think a lot of those punches landed,” Tarver said. “If you look back at the tape, a lot of Chad’s stuff was blocked by me. The only thing that was hurt on me was my wrists from blocking his punches. I didn’t get cut, I didn’t get swollen, didn’t get a busted nose or a busted lip. He had a welt on his chin, his eye was closing and his mouth was busted.
“When I fight, I fight deceptively and I think a lot of times the judges aren’t looking at the technical work I’m doing.”
The fight will showcase the new Joint at the Hard Rock, a $60 million facility that is part of the resort’s recent $750 million expansion project.
Dawson-Tarver will be the first boxing match at the venue, after the Killers open it with a concert April 17 followed by Paul McCartney, Bon Jovi and Kenny Chesney later in April.
The capacity of The Joint will be 2,900 for boxing with the ring in the middle of the room in an area in which fans will stand for concerts. The most distant seats for boxing will be just 120 feet away from the ring.
“The new Joint is very reminiscent of the old one in its design and the look,” said Paul Davis, vice president of entertainment at the Hard Rock. “It’s double the size and instead of being just a small rock club it has full-on arena-level production capabilities. But for anyone who’s been to the old Joint, when you walk into the new Joint you’ll know why it’s the namesake of the old one.”