Light Heavyweights Rule In Tampa

By Francis Walker
Updated: April 13, 2008

Clinton Woods vs. Antonio Tarver

Clinton Woods vs. Antonio Tarver

NEW YORK — The St. Pete Times Forum played host to an all important world light-heavyweight championship doubleheader that was televised on Showtime in Tampa, Florida on Saturday.

Antonio Tarver (27-4, 19 KOs) delighted his hometown audience by winning the IBF light-heavyweight title from Clinton Woods (41-4-1, 24 KOs). WBC champion Chad Dawson (26-0, 17 KOs) retained his title following a 12-round victory against Glen Johnson (47-12-2, 32 KOs).

The winners, Tarver and Dawson (a pair of tall southpaws), have been on a collision course for relatively sometime. They have both shared the national spotlight on Showtime and have been teasing the boxing community with an inevitable match-up between the two that has never materialized until now.

Tarver, following his dominant performance against Woods, a creditable and durable 175 pounder, finally called out Dawson. Tarver, who turns 40 in November, wants to fight Dawson, the future of the light heavyweight division at age 25, after the younger champion showed his vulnerability by getting tagged consistently in a hard fight with Johnson, another 39 year-old.

“Chad Dawson would be easy pickings now,” Tarver said immediately following the bout. “He’s not the fighter now that he was before his fight. He’s a wounded duck.”

Tarver, who struggled during a 12-round majority draw against Elvir Muriqi and looked sluggish during a four-round KO of Danny Santiago in his two fights in 2007.

Tarver, however, looked terrific against Woods, a tall and well-rounded boxer with plenty of endurance. Tarver’s straight-left and right jabs found their mark, as he was able to pressure the 35-year-old throughout the fight.

Tarver, for the first time in a longtime, had to dig down deep and appeared to be in much better conditioning in recent fights. Tarver’s dominance was reflected on the judges’ scorecards: 119-109, 117-111, and 116-112.

“He was a tough, gritty fighter but I came into this in great shape,” Tarver said. “I took some and got some (punches) but the best man won tonight. I’m not surprised by anything that went on in there.”

Woods, making the fifth defense of the IBF 175-pound title, was complementary of Tarver saying: “I fought the best light heavyweight in the world tonight. I don’t know if it is my time to retire or not.”

Tarver officially a world champion again

The victory marked Tarver’s third world light-heavyweight title reign excluding the unrecognized IBO belt. Tarver won his first world light heavyweight title when he out-pointed Montell Griffin through twelve rounds in April.

It was one of Tarver’s greatest performances as a professional fighter.

Tarver, after losing the WBC title in a close 12-round decision his first defense against Roy Jones, Jr. in November 2003, regained the WBC/WBA championships when he KO’d Jones with one punch in the second round in an April 2004 rematch.

Tarver, who lost decisions to Johnson (2004) and Bernard Hopkins (2006), has won six of his last eight bouts. The stretch includes a revenge decision win over Johnson, and a rubber match victory over Jones (W 12).

Dawson survives Johnson’s test

Dawson survived his most critical and sternest test thus far in his career. Dawson ate a lot of leather during a very dramatic distance bout with Johnson.

Perhaps it was good for Dawson, after having breezed through the likes of Jesus Ruiz (TKO 4) and Epifanio Lopez (TKO 6) in his first two title defenses, to go through a tough fight with a more experienced fighter like Johnson.

The three official judges at ringside scored the bout 116-112 in Dawson’s favor.

“Johnson is a warrior and we trained for that,” Dawson said. “We worked on stepping around and boxing him in training and we did that, too. I executed my game plan and landed more punches. Glen is a great fighter.”

“He caught me with some good shots but I did my job and took them.”

Chad Dawson vs. Glen Johnson

Chad Dawson vs. Glen Johnson

The last time Dawson went twelve rounds was against Tomasz Ademek, the man he beat to win the WBC title in February 2007. Dawson, who was dominant, suffered a knockdown in the later rounds but returned to his feet to win his first world championship.

Johnson, known as “The Road Warrior” for having not fought once professionally in his native Jamaica and fighting like a solid underdog everywhere else, disputed the judges’ decision.

“The decision was total bull,” Johnson said. “Dawson is a good, young fighter with a great future, but I really worked hard for this fight and definitely feel I won it. This loss hurts me more than any other in my career.”

“I would love a rematch.”

Johnson would deserve a rematch. Although he has 12 losses, Johnson has only been stopped once by Bernard Hopkins (TKO 11) in 1997. Johnson also has a knockout win against Jones (KO 9) and beat Tarver (W 12) in their first encounter.

Johnson has also fought Woods three times, Eric Harding (W 12), Julio Cesar Gonzalez (L 10), Syd Vanderpool (L 10), and Sven Ottke (L 12) to name a few.

The fight that people want to see is Tarver-Dawson. Tarver, considered one of the most marketable light heavyweights in the world, against the young and exciting Dawson.

As mentioned earlier, both fighters are southpaw boxers and like to throw a lot of punches. Both have very good personalities and like to fight.

A Tarver-Dawson showdown would be good for boxing, especially for the often overlooked light heavyweight division.

ShoBox continues to deliver excitement

The night before Tarver, Dawson, Johnson, and Woods were all showcased in a world light heavyweight championship doubleheader in Tampa, FL, Showtime aired another edition of “ShoBox: The New Generation.”

The sons of great former welterweight champion James “Buddy” McGirt and a great cruiserweight champion Carlos DeLeon were shared the stage at the Miccosukee Resort in Miami.

Super middleweight prospect Carlos DeLeon, Jr. (20-2, 13 KOs) came off the canvas in the sixth round to knockout James McGirt, Jr. (19-1, 9 KOs) in the seventh round of a scheduled 10-round contest.

In the co-feature: Edgar Sanatana (24-3, 15 KOs) survived two knockdowns in the eighth round to win a close majority decision against Josesito Lopez (22-3, 13 KOs) in a 10-round junior welterweight bout.

The judges’ scorecards were 95-93 (twice) for Santana and 94-94.