With last night's wide, perfectly fine, but hardly star-making rematch win over Antonio Tarver, IBF/IBO light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson must now face a harsh reality: There's just not much for him to do.
Most regard Dawson as the second-best light heavyweight in the sport today, behind only 44-year old living legend Bernard Hopkins. But in a division that is dominated mostly by older fighters who mean little at the box office, how does he become a bigger star?
There's no question he won't be able to get Joe Calzaghe out of retirement, which would be one of the two big fights he could make for himself, and even still Calzaghe has just never made a star out of himself in America. His two prime time fights on HBO -- against Mikkel Kessler and Bernard Hopkins -- tanked in the ratings, and his HBO pay-per-view "clash" with the faded Roy Jones last November was an even bigger flop. Respect his accomplishments though anyone may, I don't think anyone can argue against one fact: American audiences got a good taste of Calzaghe, and they sent the dish back.
Dawson is 26 years old. He has talked in recent weeks of moving down to super middleweight. Moving down is a lot harder than moving up, even for someone at optimum athletic age like "Bad" Chad. But there's a much larger scope down there for him, though no superfights.
The truth is, if Dawson can't land Hopkins and Gary Shaw can't make a miracle and convince Joe Calzaghe to end his short retirement, there's only one name at 175 pounds that really matters right now, and that's Glen Johnson, the unappreciated top fiver at the weight who's been there for years and never gone away.
Johnson and Dawson met in 2008, of course, with Dawson winning a debated unanimous decision. I've never held any great opinion on the judges' scorecards, because I had it a 114-114 draw, and I rarely score draws. The fight reminded me somewhat of Jermain Taylor-Winky Wright, with the younger Dawson winning in spurts, and the cagey Johnson taking him to school at other points.
Dawson-Johnson is an attractive rematch for fans, but Dawson has made no bones about it: He will not fight Johnson unless he absolutely has to. He has said that very plainly. There could be legitimate reasons here, like the fact that Glen is dangerous and is another guy whose name still means little (which is a damned shame, too), but I think it's plain old fear. Dawson wants no part of Johnson because Johnson never stopped coming in that fight. The old man wore the young buck out, and Dawson doesn't want to test that again.
I'm not saying this to call Dawson a coward, either. Boxing greats (not that Dawson is great yet) have avoided guys forever, and they'll continue to do so. It just is the way it is. Still, as I said before, you'd like to think that Dawson would want to settle the unfinished business. He just doesn't.
So with Calzaghe a totally unrealistic idea, B-Hop being B-Hop, and his unwillingness to fight Johnson again, who does that leave at 175 pounds?
Notes: I'm not counting Zsolt Erdei, because he doesn't have the stones to fight anywhere but Germany or Hungary, and I'm not counting Hugo Garay because I don't think HBO or anyone in America would be too psyched to sign off on that one.
Roy Jones Jr.: Please, for the love of God, no. Southpaw Dawson has enough speed and enough pop to cream Roy. Joe Calzaghe beat Jones up, and sure he punched "harder than normal" it appeared, but Calzaghe does not have Dawson's load 'em up power, and Jones doesn't have the reflexes to avoid that stuff anymore. There's one way this fight ends: Jones knocked out. It's not interesting, it's not a contest, it's just Dawson picking what's left of Jones' bones.
Tavoris Cloud: Sadly, nobody knows who the hell Cloud is. The IBF mandatory has been calling Dawson out lately, hoping to land a fight. It won't happen, because again, no one past the diehards know who Cloud (19-0, 18 KO) is. Personally I think it's a hell of a fight. You're telling me this thing couldn't head up a Boxing After Dark? They matched Jorge Arce and Julio Ler in the main event of B.A.D. not so long ago. Dawson-Cloud will cut the mustard.
Andre Ward or Edison Miranda: Whoever wins next Saturday on Showtime could well be in line for a title shot. Miranda (32-3, 28 KO) is always going to be an attractive TV opponent because there's always that chance he lands the bomb. Ward (18-0, 12 KO) is attractive because he's an ex-Olympian with good skills and that pretty unbeaten record. Neither one makes for a huge fight, but again: Boxing After Dark would be a great home for Dawson-Ward or Dawson-Miranda.
Shaun George: The one and only time most have seen George is when the Brooklynite battered Chris Byrd for nine rounds on ESPN2 last summer. He's fought just once since then, destroying Jaffa Ballogou in February, which took less than 90 seconds. Truthfully, George may be as hot as he's ever going to get, and his promoters might want to get him a shot at Dawson if that's at all possible. His two losses came at cruiserweight, and fighting in the light heavyweight neighborhood he's 9-0.
The Super Middleweight Idea: Dawson, really, would run into the same problems at 168. What does fighting, say, Jermain Taylor really do for Dawson? Is beating Taylor any different than beating the Ward-Miranda winner at this point? Dawson would be heavily favored against Taylor, and rightly so. The rest of the possibles at 168 -- IBF titlist Lucian Bute, the in-limbo Kessler, Green, Balzsay, even the hot Carl Froch -- aren't going to offer a ton more in terms of money. Why risk draining that weight, honestly, unless you're doing it high-reward?
I really do like Chad Dawson, think he's a good young fighter, but I get the feeling that HBO picked the wrong time to try to make him a star. He deserves it, but it's going to be a huge uphill battle because of one thing: The Fighter is there. The Fight, though, most likely is not.