Ex-champ Dawson returns in anonymous time slot

There’s a scene in "Ocean’s Thirteen" – the finale of the George Clooney/Brad Pitt caper series released in 2007 – in which Elliott Gould’s faded casino mogul persona longs for a return to relevance.

“This is it. It's my chance,” he said. “I used to mean something in this town. I would walk into a restaurant. If it was full, they'd snap out a new table for me like that.”

Fans of the movie will remember that Gould’s character – Reuben Tishkoff – suffered a massive coronary soon after his lament, and ultimately needed Clooney and friends to restore his good name.

Fans of Chad Dawson, no doubt, are hoping it doesn’t have to go quite that far for their man.

The former IBF/IBO/WBC light heavyweight kingpin was as close to boxing’s summit as he’s ever been two years ago, when he entered the summer of 2012 fresh off a decisive defeat of Bernard Hopkins.

He was the best in the world at 175 pounds and longed for a way to translate it to bigger things.

Two years later, as summer 2014 dawns on the northern hemisphere, he’s hoping to just hang on.

“I had the privilege of becoming a world champion early,” said Dawson, now 31.

“I've been a professional for almost 13 years. There was never a doubt in my mind that I wouldn't come back. I'm looking to get back to being the old Chad Dawson. Once I get back to that, back to the top.”

Dawson’s tumble from main-eventer to also-ran took exactly two fights – a comprehensive 10th-round TKO loss to 168-pound champion Andre Ward five months after the Hopkins win, and a stunning one-punch erasure courtesy of fellow light heavyweight Adonis Stevenson one year ago in Montreal.

He’s spent the last 12 months at home with family, reassessing his place in the sport that made him famous and plotting a course for what he anticipates will be a rapid return to prominence.

The first step comes Saturday night in Carson, Calif., where he’ll meet 39-year-old journeyman George Blades in a scheduled 10-rounder that’s part of a two-bout undercard lineup on Showtime Extreme.

Dawson’s defeat of Hopkins was an HBO main event, as were the Ward and Stevenson flops, but the demotion to less-prominent placement on the channel guide hasn’t robbed his defiance.

“I'm coming off losses in my last two fights, but nothing's changed,” said Dawson, who’s back working with ex-trainer – and fellow former 175-pound champion – Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. “I’m just back to being myself. I'm working hard with Eddie and doing the right things. I've been training for this fight for about two months. I’m getting ready for the second chapter of my career. I'm back to Bad Chad."

Blades has lost three of his five fights, including a TKO by Jean Pascal in September.

Pascal was the first fighter to defeat Dawson – by technical decision – in 2010.

The Showtime Extreme broadcast begins at 8 p.m. ET and will be followed by a three-bout show on Showtime at 10 p.m. The latter event will include a WBO featherweight title bout between Gary Russell Jr. and Vasyl Lomachenko, alongside welterweight matches between Robert Guerrero and Yoshihiro Kamegai and Devon Alexander and Jesus Soto Karass.

“Chad Dawson is a great fighter who is back with a vengeance, looking to make a statement against a tough fighter in George Blades,” said Oscar De La Hoya, whose Golden Boy Promotions company put the card together. “For us, we look at this fight on Showtime Extreme as a great appetizer to the main course, which will also be very exciting.”

Dawson is slotted seventh among the light heavyweights by the Independent World Boxing Rankings, while he’s ranked No. 3 by the International Boxing Organization and 12th by the World Boxing Council.

Blades, meanwhile, has won just three of eight fights against foes with better-than-.500 records.

He won 14 straight fights at the start of a career that began in 1999, though two of the opponents in that dubious run – Reggie Strickland and Donnie Penelton – had a combined mark of 65-357-19, and only two of the 14 had more wins than losses.

"I've seen tapes of Blades from 2007. He looks like a durable guy,” Dawson said.

“He is coming to win, it's a big opportunity on TV. I don't have anything to prove except for myself and my family. I know what I am capable of."

Weekend Watch List
NBC Sports Network -- Saturday, 8 p.m.
Anatoliy Dudchenko vs. Nadjib Mohammedi -- 12 rounds, light heavyweights

Showtime Extreme -- Saturday, 8 p.m.
Chad Dawson vs. George Blades -- 10 rounds, light heavyweights
Dominic Breazeale vs. Devin Vargas -- 10 rounds, heavyweights

Showtime -- Saturday, 10 p.m.
Gary Russell Jr. vs. Vasyl Lomachenko -- WBO featherweight title
Robert Guerrero vs. Yoshihiro Kamegai -- 12 rounds, welterweights
Devon Alexander vs. Jesus Soto Karass -- 10 rounds, welterweights

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