MONTREAL -- The last time Chad Dawson fought at the Bell Centre, he suffered his first career loss. He returned to that same ring for the first time since that defeat to easily outbox fellow former light heavyweight titlist Adrian Diaconu on Saturday night.
The victory, in his first fight with Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, was a pivotal one for Dawson. In addition to bouncing back from an 11th-round technical decision loss to champion Jean Pascal last August, he earned a mandatory shot at the winner of Saturday night's main event rematch between Pascal and Bernard Hopkins, who battled to a draw in a December light heavyweight championship fight.
That draw paved the way for Saturday's main fight and ultimately forced Dawson to step aside from the rematch clause he had with Pascal in the contract for their fight because HBO preferred to buy Pascal-Hopkins II before Pascal-Dawson II.
Part of the deal to allow Pascal-Hopkins II to take place was the contractual guarantee that Dawson would get the winner next. Now Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) has that fight, after winning 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112. ESPN.com also had it for Dawson, 117-111.
"The next fight is an exciting fight. I will be ready for either one," Dawson said before Pascal-Hopkins began. "I obviously want revenge on Jean, but I want Bernard, too. It was a catch-22. I am happy to be back in the ring and get the ring rust off. Next time I will be 100 percent better."
After Dawson's loss to Pascal, who mostly dominated until the fight went to a technical decision after an accidental head-butt opened a bad cut over Dawson's right eye, he cut ties with trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and went to work with Steward.
Steward is the latest in a long line of trainers for Dawson, who had also run through Floyd Mayweather Sr., Dan Birmingham and John Scully.
"I felt good, but I made it hard on myself," said Dawson, of New Haven, Conn. "I've been with Emanuel for the past 7-8 weeks, and it takes time to get used to a new trainer. I knew I won the fight. I outthrew him and outlanded him. I wasn't nervous at all about coming to his hometown."
Diaconu (27-3, 15 KOs), a native of Romania now living in Montreal who lost two title bouts to Pascal, was once supposed to face Dawson in a mandatory 2007 title fight. But Dawson vacated an alphabet belt rather than face him after Diaconu's handlers won a purse bid and planned to bring the fight to Romania.
Dawson was in control for most of Saturday's fight. He is taller, longer and quicker than Diaconu and he used all of those attributes to his advantage.
Dawson hurt Diaconu with a left hand near the end of the second round and with a right hook near the end of the fifth round.
By the sixth, Dawson was opening up with combinations against the shorter Diaconu. But Diaconu is a bull and continued to come forward despite his face showing lumps and redness from eating so many shots.
In the ninth, Diaconu had his best round, hurting Dawson with a combination and wobbling him. But Dawson quickly got himself together. Diaconu made a hard charge in the 12th round, hurting Dawson again with a right hand, but it was not enough.
"Dawson was really well prepared. It was a strategic fight," Diaconu said. "It was hard to touch Dawson. I tried hard, but he was just too hard to hit. I hit him sometimes, but not enough."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.