Tuesday November 3rd, 2009

Chad Dawson has a problem. A 175-pound problem, to be exact.

At 28-0, Dawson is arguably the most dominant force in the light heavyweight division. He holds a lopsided win over Tomasz Adamek, the current cruiserweight champion who recently demolished heavyweight Andrew Golota. He owns a win over Glen Johnson and two pulverizing victories over Antonio Tarver, the last of which ended Tarver's career. He has power (17 knockouts) and he has skill. He also has no one left to fight.

These are lean times in the light heavyweight division. There are no Archie Moores, Billy Conns or Ezzard Charles. Joe Calzaghe is retired. Bernard Hopkins won't touch a competitive fight unless it comes with a $5 million paycheck attached to it, and a fading (and delusional) Roy Jones Jr. would probably ask for twice that.

That leaves Dawson, standing as a man apart. With no appealing opponents left on the light heavyweight landscape, Dawson has turned again to Johnson, whom he will face for the interim WBC title on Saturday (HBO, 9:30 pm) in Dawson's backyard of Hartford, Conn. It's not a bad fight; the first meeting between the two was competitive, with Dawson escaping by unanimous decision. It's just not the fight Dawson was looking for.

"Why fight Johnson again?" asked Dawson. "Why not do it again? I can't get the fight with Bernard Hopkins, so he's the next worthy opponent. The first time, I got caught up in a lot of slugging and I'm not looking to do that this time. I want to make it an exciting fight and definitely win convincingly."

A "convincing" win, however, isn't going to get Dawson the fights he is looking for. Knockouts equal ratings, and ratings equal dollars. And Dawson, by his own admission, doesn't come to the ring looking for a knockout. Despite a chiseled physique and a potent right hand, Dawson has seemed content throughout his career to simply outbox his opponents. That strategy helps accumulate victories (which Dawson has), but it's a poor way to build a fan base (which he's lacking). Dawson's wipeout win over Tarver in 2008 was easily the dullest title fight of the year, and his equally thorough beating of Tarver last May is a leading candidate for the top snooze fest of 2009.

What Dawson needs this Saturday is a knockout, a SportsCenter-worthy KO that makes America -- as well as Hopkins and Jones -- sit up and take notice. Johnson would appear to be a prime candidate, too. In his heyday Johnson (49-12-2) was a fierce warrior who split two fights with a still-in-his-prime Tarver and holds knockout victories over Jones and Montell Griffin. But Johnson will be 41 in January and has double-digit losses on his resume. He's also provided plenty of fuel to motivate Dawson. During a recent conference call, Johnson whined about Dawson's "ineffective punches" in the first fight and wondered if the judges knew the proper way to score it.

Dawson didn't take the bait. His promoter, Gary Shaw, did though.

"I'm tired of hearing Glen talk about the judges and the wrongs in boxing," said Shaw. "Every article I read about Glen, he talks about the wrongs in boxing, like he's the savior of boxing. Chad Dawson won the fight in front of the eyes of all the officials. The judges were not crooked. My beef with Glen is that he keeps calling the last fight a robbery. I've seen plenty of robberies and this was not one of them. When you lose on all the judges' cards by three or four rounds in your home state, you cannot call it a robbery. So my beef is, instead of diminishing Chad Dawson by saying it's a robbery, just say, 'I fought a very good fighter on that night. I believe I won and I don't believe the judges saw it the way I saw it."

Just being very good isn't good enough for Dawson anymore. At 27, Dawson is entering the crossroads of his career. He could move up to cruiserweight for a rematch with Adamek or move down to super middleweight and get involved in the highly competitive 168-pound division. There has been talk of Dawson getting involved in Showtime's Super Six Tournament should Jermain Taylor bow out, but with HBO holding an option on Dawson's next fight, and with a Showtime source saying Dawson "isn't on our radar" right now, that seems unlikely.

But no matter where he goes, Dawson will have to establish himself as a fighter willing to actually fight before the mainstream public takes notice. Unfortunately, he has shown no willingness to do just that.

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