Chad Dawson is a true talent, as he showed in his dominant win over fellow top light heavyweight Glen Johnson Saturday on HBO, but whether you like him or not is a whole different matter. The reviews are pretty positive about Dawson today, from a boxing standpoint — he’s like a bigger Floyd Mayweather, he’s the real deal, he ought to be considered the top light heavy, and so forth, all of which are opinions I share. But at this point in his young career — and make no mistake, he’s still evolving as a fighter — he’s something of an acquired taste from an entertainment standpoint. And I get it. I just think it’s too bad, because my view is it’s a pretty good flavor.
Dawson is kind of like a bigger Mayweather. I’m not saying he’s as good as Mayweather. Mayweather’s better on defense than just about everybody, and even as a welterweight where Mayweather’s power might be slightly diminished, he probably hits a little harder than Dawson does in his division. But there’s the speed, the all-around skill set, and did I mention the flashy, flashy speed? And I think, to some degree, Dawson compares favorably to Mayweather. I think he’s more offensive-minded than Mayweather, even in a performance against Johnson where Dawson did a little bit of Mayweather’s “doing just enough to win easily” shtick. And most importantly, Dawson’s been fighting the best competition in his division whereas Mayweather is on a six-year hiatus from that. Dawson is kind of my surrogate Mayweather because of those two things.
And he is the real deal. He clearly beat Johnson in a rematch of a fight that was his hardest night as pro. I thought Dawson won 10 rounds, and the two 115-113 were a little fanciful; I could only find four rounds to give Johnson if I was being exceptionally generous. 117-111 on the third scorecard makes more sense. Nobody’s had such an easy time with Johnson. Johnson is 40, and it’s hard to say whether Johnson looked old because he is or because Dawson made him look that way. All I know is, Johnson didn’t look old in his previous fight. Furthermore, you can’t say Dawson doesn’t look like the goods. Some of his flaws seemed far less pronounced against Johnson. He never faded late, for instance. And Dawson’s punch resistance has been something of a question before, but I think in his last two fights he’s taken shots much better than before. I don’t know how that happens, but it really seems to be happening. I think he’s very much worthy of pound-for-pound top-5 consideration now.
Within his own division, I had thought he should be considered “the man” well before Saturday. Now, he’s got an even better resume. Two wins over Johnson, two wins over Antonio Tarver, a win over Tomasz Adamek, a win over Eric Harding — all that trumps Bernard Hopkins’ resume at light heavyweight, where Hopkins has only fought and beat one man who wasn’t making his first trip to the division, that being Tarver.
But there’s that entertainment factor. To me, with the exception of a few middle rounds where Dawson got on his bicycle and pedaled as fast as he could, this wasn’t the ugly win I feared it might be. A couple pals I watched the fight with, pals who don’t watch boxing as often as I do, “oohed” and “aahed” a few times at Dawson, although they weren’t overly thrilled by the fight. But while 5,000 or so fans isn’t a bad turnout by Dawson’s recent standard, it is, by consensus, lower than one might hope for given that Dawson was fighting in his home state. Sometimes, they booed. If Connecticut can’t love Dawson, I’m not sure who can.
Maybe people can warm up to Dawson, or Dawson can warm up himself. Certainly, HBO loves the kid. They tend to love mega-talented American youngsters, even if they aren’t a ticket or ratings draw, because they might turn out that way. All the complaints about Dawson are complaints that people have always had about Mayweather, and that turned out really well from a stardom standpoint. And while Dawson dominated the fight, HBO’s team was talking up Dawson’s 1st round a way far disproportionate to the actual performance — they want to make Dawson into a star, for sure. Dawson’s promoter, Gary Shaw, also says Dawson doesn’t believe in his power the way he should. Four straight fights with men with iron chins — two each against Tarver and Johnson — might have a way of doing that. I don’t think Dawson ever will be a pure knockout artist, but maybe he can focus on increasing his power and standing his ground more often.
Either way, it’s good to see Dawson getting respect after beating Johnson again, if not love. He said he wants the winner of Hopkins-Roy Jones II or the winner of Jean Pascal-Adrian Diaconu II. I’d prefer the latter first, then the former. I have no problem with Dawson beating older fighters if they’re the best available opponents, and Hopkins would be the best available fighter. But there’s no reason he can’t take on a young gun like Pascal, who would make for avery good match-up of speedsters, while he waits for Hopkins to become available next summer.
As for Johnson, I’m glad he got his rematch and I’m glad he got another pretty big payday. He’s an admirable fighter, and I’m guessing the amount of time he’ll have to wait for another big payday exceeds the life of his tenure amongst the ranks of elite light heavies. That time, as I said, may or may not have passed Saturday. Dawson making him look second-rate says more about Dawson than Johnson, I think, but it’s possible Johnson isn’t as good as he used to be, too. If this is the end of his run, it’s been a remarkable one. Who would have thought a guy with a win-loss record like his could have been the 2004 Fighter of the Year? And he’s had other good parts of his career, too. He’s not Hall of Fame material, but he was an elite fighter and I can’t help but consider myself a fan.
Some notes on other weekend fights:
–I’ll watch David Haye-Nicolay Valuev Monday when I return from vacation. The heavyweight fight wasn’t carried by Dish Network, which is what my pals have where I’m staying. John Ruiz won his tune-up, too, so Haye will be fighting him next. Woo-hoo!
–Junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo looked great wrecking Harry Joe Yorgey, but I would have been far happier had his opportunities to look great been cut short by a round and a half. Yorgey took a nasty beating before getting knocked out cold, the result of Yorgey being too brave for his own good and his corner and the referee being too brave for him. Both should be ashamed of themselves for putting Yorgey’s life in jeopardy that way. And yeah, Angulo hit Yorgey while he was down several times. Can we do something about that, refs? Thanks.
–Other victorious boxers from weekend fights: Welterweight Zab Judah (go away, Zab); junior welterweight Joel Casamayor (who says he’ll fight anyone next, and you have to admire Casamayor for doing that over the course of his career); and heavyweight Sam Sexton (opponent Martin Rogan quit because of an apparent injury, or so I’ve read — good for Sexton, though, and good for Rogan making so much of his fascinating career if this is the end of the road).