TAMPA — Chad Dawson was exposed by Glen Johnson on Saturday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Or, depending on your vantage point, the 25-year-old passed another important test, taking punishment but showing the resilience and survival skills needed to take that next step.
Tampa's Antonio Tarver is betting heavily on the former, promising Dawson a unification fight.
"A lot was taken out of Chad (Saturday night)," Tarver said. "He won't know it until his next fight … but he's a wounded duck. Right now, I'm the last person he wants to see."
Tarver watched Dawson's rocky performance (and unanimous-decision victory) in the locker room before easily beating an overmatched Clinton Woods to win the IBF light-heavyweight belt.
At the postfight news conference, he was downright giddy at the prospects of meeting the WBC champ, who has been chasing a fight with Tarver for a year.
"You talked your way to a real fight," Tarver said to Dawson, calling him "easy pickings."
It might have damaged his reputation a bit, but Dawson's uneven outing ultimately improved his chances of getting Tarver to fight him, said his manager, Mike Criscio.
"He thinks he sees an opening," said Criscio, "but if Chad had (blown out) Johnson in the ring, he'd be making excuses not to fight him."
Gary Shaw promotes both fighters and went posed the two together "as a preview" for a fall fight.
But he warned that with Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe fighting next week for the Ring magazine title and former heavyweight champ Chris Byrd and Roy Jones Jr. hanging around the division, nothing is certain.
"Anything can change," he said.
In boxing, usually everything does.
John C. Cotey can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org or