Predictions: Tarver-Dawson, Peter-V. Klitschko

The Franchise says...

Showtime serves up a twin bill of championship fights this Saturday with light heavyweights Antonio Tarver and Chad Dawson fighting live in Las Vegas while heavyweights Samuel Peter and Vital Klitschko collide in tape-delayed coverage from Berlin.

Tarver (27-4, 19 KOs) is experiencing a bit of a career resurgence after he was taken part by Bernard Hopkins back in 2006. He enters as the IBF and IBO champion at 175 pounds on a three-fight winning streak, most recently taking a fairly easy decision over Clinton Woods in April. That same April night almost derailed the rise of the undefeated Dawson (26-0, 17 KOs), as he battled his way to a unanimous decision over Glen Johnson that many observers thought he was lucky to win.

It's easy to look at the fighters' respective ages - Tarver is 39 and Dawson is 26 - and see a mismatch. But Tarver is a young 39 if there is such a thing, having taken up pro boxing relatively late. He's also fought the much tougher competition, including Hopkins, three fights with Roy Jones Jr. and two fights of his own with Johnson.

While he once overwhelmed opponents with volume, Tarver now is a bit craftier about picking his spots. He takes great pride in being "dressed down in defense," and though he's been easier to hit in recent years, he should have an edge there. Tarver definitely knows how to play to the crowd and the judges, and he can still throw flashy combos that may not do much damage but look good. His southpaw style has been tricky for some foes, but Dawson is also left-handed, so that's a wash this time out.

Dawson seems like the kind of boxer who is above average in all areas but not really special in any one. He'll enjoy slight height and reach advantages but actually may be better served to get inside, as he's likely to have more power - Tarver's famous one-punch KO of Jones not withstanding. Though he had to hold on to beat Johnson, if his conditioning is good, he may be able to own the second half of the fight as Tarver has been known to fade late.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that these guys really don't seem to like each other. Anyone who's followed Tarver's career knows that his brashness is part of his act, but he's been especially vocal in the weeks leading up to this fight and looks like he's effectively burrowed under his opponent's skin. Dawson has been visibly steaming during some of their verbal exchanges, and it will be interesting to see if that motivates him more or throws him off his game.

This should be a competitive bout, and even Tarver has acknowledged that Dawson is the future of the division. Picking a winner boils down to whether or not one thinks the Magic Man can reach down deep and summon up one more (possibly final) top-notch performance. I think he can, so I'm going with Tarver in a close but unanimous decision.

The heavyweight fight shapes up as a real question mark thanks to one inconsistent performer and another who hasn't fought in almost four years. Both Peter (30-1, 23 KOs) and Klitschko (35-2, 34 KOs) have plenty of power, so the biggest surprise would be seeing this one go the distance.

Klitschko has a massive height advantage and enough skill to pick off Peter coming in - or at least he did four or five years ago when he looked like the best heavyweight in the world. Reports have him looking good in training, but we just won't know where he stands until he's in the ring throwing and taking punches.

He could have picked an easier first fight back than Peter, who hasn't lost since a September 2005 decision to Vitali's brother Wladimir. He looked very good in dispatching Oleg Maskaev in March, and there's little question he can end the fight quickly if Klitschko is too rusty.

If a prime Klitschko shows up Saturday, he wins, pure and simple. I just can't stake my pick on that happening, so I'm playing it safe and taking Peter to win by mid-round KO.

Uatu says...
Dawson by decision. Activity and speed rule the day.

Klitschko by decision. Klitscho has always been the better fighter, and Peter may have regressed.

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