Bernard Hopkins And Chad Dawson: Champs, Or Chumps?

Chad Dawson and Bernard Hopkins. The fight that fans weren’t clamoring for. Hopkins didn’t want. HBO couldn’t sell. Few anticipated. And even less actually attended.

After the abortion of a fight that perhaps many have now seen, though few paid for, there are a host of questions that beg to be asked.

How many more pay-per-view punk-outs can boxing bear? Was Hopkins faking his fall-induced fits? Did Dawson’s fight-destructing dust-off deserve a disqualification, or at least a do over?

Who’s the champ? Who’s the chump?

And when the dust settles, where do the two maligned light heavyweights mired in the maelstrom go from here?

The first question to address, which will lay the groundwork for much of the other answers, is figuring out just what the hell happened in the ring on Saturday night. Without getting too deep into the debate about whether Dawson’s move was justified, or comeuppance, or just another mentally weak fighter losing his cool a la Ortiz… what we can say for now is that at best it was an accident that sent Hopkins sprawling to the mat like a rag doll.

At worst it was a rough tactic retaliation gone bad. If it hadn’t ended the fight, chances are most fight fans would admit it was probably the sort of thing Dawson had to do to show that he wasn’t going to be intimidated or bullied by the Graterford Prison ex-con.

But whereas Hopkins has perfected his rule-bending chicanery over decades inside the ring, Dawson showed a decided lack of tact when it came time to get a little tough. Not only did subtlety fly out the window… Hopkins flew through the ropes, when “Bad” Chad felt it was time to live up to his oft-derided moniker.

In and of itself, that sort of toss off should have been enough to garner a warning from the ref to cut it out, and probably a quick rejoinder to Hopkins to lay off the kid’s back. What ratchets it up above that average heated moment was the left arm of Dawson which moved to hook Hopkins under the leg and deliberately put him on his back.

How referee under the microscope, Pat Russell, failed to address the shoulder toss in any way is a question that begs asking. Hopkins, The California State Athletic Commission and Golden Boy Promotions started that questioning process just moments after the bout’s untimely end and the conclusions they reach will go a long way towards deciding the future of each boxer.

The missed foul call led to the dubious crowning of a new champion in the division, by way of technical knockout. And Hopkins suffered his first stoppage loss.

The correct call in that situation, as nearly everyone has opined, would be to rule the fight a no contest. Hopkins retains his title, and everyone goes from there.

What clouded the conversation immediately, however, is that Hopkins has a shady history of feigning injury or foul to gain an advantage. Conspiracy theories immediately popped up online. Boxing diehards breathlessly poured over the footage dissecting it in minutia.

Hopkins was the boy who cried wolf to many longtime fight fans.

To quell that chatter, Hopkins and Golden Boy immediately released the doctor’s report which confirmed that Hopkins had suffered a separation of the acromioclavicular joint, which connects the collar bone and the shoulder blade.

With a seemingly legit injury to claim, and the growing consensus that the fight should be overturned to a no contest due to the unseemly nature of the faux TKO, the obvious question is…

What happens next?


If we all are asked to simply pretend the night never happened, Hopkins gets his first stoppage loss erased and regains his belts.

Dawson goes back to being a belt-less, unimaginative, unmarketable talent who doesn’t have a fan-base.

Thankfully, Dawson promoter Gary Shaw and Golden Boy’s Richard Schaefer agree… nobody wanted to see the fight the first time, and even fewer would give it the time of day next time.

Dawson was strangely quick to rule out a rematch with Hopkins… a match-up which had just garnered him a reported $800,000 payday. He seemed content to call out Jean Pascal whom Hopkins had beaten earlier in the year, and who had taken Dawson’s title when they fought a little more than a year ago.

Pascal was on hand for the shenanigans that unfolded between Hopkins and Dawson. He became a conspicuous part of the post-fight quote machine and jawed with Dawson at the post fight press conference.

A Montreal box office maestro, Pascal is set to return to the ring on December 10th against an opponent yet to be determined.

If Shaw and Dawson are serious about not pursuing a rematch with “The Executioner,” even should their TKO victory get overturned and they lose the belt, then a rematch with Pascal seems like an obvious and easy fight to make happen.

Should that fight fail to materialize perhaps Dawson would look to Tavoris Cloud, the IBF belt holder who is ranked by most as among just a handful of compelling light heavyweights available.


If Dawson’s short-term prospects seem fairly easy to foresee, Hopkins’ future feats seem hazy at best.

Depending on the severity of his injuries (there are several grades of A-C separation), Hopkins may need simple rehabilitation or even surgery.

According to Eorthopod (, a company which provides exercise recovery information and education to health care practitioners, “full recovery can take up to six weeks for grade two separations and up to 12 weeks for grade three separations.”

That is for non-surgical treatment. They go on to say that there is little danger of making the condition worse and after a certain healing period, you can usually do whatever activities you can tolerate.

If surgery is required it may take three months before even arm strengthening activities could commence.

A quick scan of sporting forums also showed that lesser graded injuries while extremely painful for days, can dull after several weeks and allow for a relatively speedy recovery time.

If Hopkins’ injuries were indeed of a relatively modest nature then one might imagine we could see him in the ring early next year.

If so, who is there left to fight that would have meaning to the history pondering Hopkins?

At light heavyweight? Not much. The same Tavoris Cloud that might appeal to Dawson, could make a likely foil for Hopkins too. Cloud is a rugged, but limited, belt holder. Big punching and respected, but light on skills and savvy. The kind of guy Hopkins wouldn’t have to play chess with.

Nathan Cleverly of Wales had a same day fight as Hopkins and Dawson, keeping his unbeaten record intact. The Sky Network, Britain’s boxing blow horn, was hard at work concocting scenarios where Cleverly could land the light heavyweight champ, whoever it might be, in the moments before the bell sounded in our calamitous “Believe It Or Not” bow out.

Cleverly’s resume is ultra light, but his following is growing overseas and if there is a solid payday, Hopkins would probably be game to face the untested U.K. kid.

Looking outside the division Hopkins calls home, things open up just a little. Right below him, in the super middleweight division, there are four names that might entice Hopkins into a showdown.

Incidentally the four men all have fights scheduled against one another. Carl Froch and Andre Ward will be battling it out for top dog in the division soon, after a Ward injury recently pushed back their bout to Dec. 17.

The winner, particularly if it is Froch, might be enticing to Hopkins, who had shown interest in the Brit shortly after he knocked Jermain Taylor out just before the Super Six tournament began on Showtime back in 2009.

Froch is an even bigger U.K. draw than Cleverly, and should he get by Ward, would be considered the man to beat at 168 lbs. Hopkins has twice fought at catchweights to facilitate lucrative match-ups with the then-middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik and earlier, Winky Wright.

Froch’s style, too, would seem well-suited to Hopkins’ modus operandi in the ring. Tough and determined, Froch has never been a cautious technician or one to lay back — leaving that role to Hopkins and putting him in his comfort zone.

Ward, on the other hand, has been called Hopkins-lite for his chippy in-fighting and his largely staid but steady offense. Ward is more savvy than Froch and that might turn Hopkins off, but if he gets by Froch, he’s the man at super middleweight and that means something. Hopkins is all about value in his opponents at this stage, and Ward would be a pelt worth eyeing for the aging achiever.

The second duo likely to garner attention from Hopkins is Lucian Bute and Glen Johnson. “The Gentleman” Glen Johnson upsetting Bute would be a Hopkins godsend — a chance to fight someone respectable, and within shouting distance of his own age for once.

The storyline would be intriguing, too, since Hopkins delivered a decidedly ungentleman-like beat-down to Johnson back in ’97 to give the then undefeated Jamaican banger his first loss, and the only one coming by way of stoppage.

Johnson has long sought to avenge that loss, and credits Hopkins for “turning him into a man” that night in Indo, California, 14 years ago. They could logically bill it as a retirement bout for either and the boxing world would probably fling goodwill on the promotion due to the legend status of Hopkins and the good guy gold standard of Glencoffe Johnson.

That scenario seems less likely than a Lucian Bute win in his adopted home of Quebec, Canada. At the Bell Centre, as evidenced by the outcome of his first disastrous match with Librado Andrade, it would seem nothing short of a splayed-unconscious-on-the-mat-knockout could make Bute lose there.

A legitimate draw, Bute brings the money and a belt. That should be more than enough to lure the likes of Hopkins into a showdown.

He also showed a devastating fissure in his armor when he wilted down the stretch against the hard-charging Andrade. Hopkins would key on that weakness in a second, digging into Bute’s inevitable self doubt with the gusto of a prison inmate bullying in the courtyard.

Those are the most likely suspects should Hopkins continue his Hall of Fame career further, but there are a few names on the periphery that may sneak their way into a Hopkins conversation.

The cruiserweight division is a headless beast at the moment, but anyone with a belt could be a target should Hopkins wish to add another division title to his credits. Marco Huck, Guillermo Jones… those names don’t mean a damn to most, but the thought of putting a cruiserweight title around his waist might lure Hopkins sense of history and accomplishment.

The name of the division is Antonio Tarver, who would do himself a big favor by collecting a more legitimate belt and calling Hopkins as soon as possible. A rematch between the two aging stars would be the biggest marquee fight the division could produce and might make for an interesting scrap with Tarver’s resurgent KO win over Danny Green fresh in the minds of boxing followers.

Of all those names from super middleweight to cruiser, few would light a fire in the collective conscious of the sport, but should Hopkins continue, his opponent very likely will be culled from among those names.

One other lower key alternative would be for Hopkins to take a breather fight as he did against Enrique Ornelas in 2009. Should the Dawson TKO be turned to a no contest and Hopkins is again champion, perhaps he would look to easily defend his title against a middling challenger and then push for one more big fight or two at the end of next year.

Of course, there is the very real possibility that Hopkins could look to retire following this set back, particularly if the road to recovery for his shoulder is long.

Something tells me we’ll see Hopkins in the ring at least one more time, though. The always canny mythmaker Hopkins knows that you don’t end your career on your back if you can help it.

Once again the sport of boxing took it on the chin, when Hopkins took it on the shoulder. A lackluster match-up imploded on itself spectacularly and no one involved seems to want the bother of re-staging the failed production.

If Hopkins continues on, the Dawson bout will likely end up as little more than a strange footnote to his long and storied career.

If it ends up being the final fight for Hopkins, little would be left to do but to shake one’s head at the ending of a long burning career — one that sparked and exploded for decades, sometimes smoldering and flickering, other times red hot and raging… ultimately to end with a fizzle.


So at the end of all those possibilities, who comes out of this as the champ and who comes out the chump?

If Dawson loses the belts to a no contest ruling, he certainly isn’t the champ, and you’d have to say that clamoring for your dream fight for years on end, with an opponent who doesn’t like the match-up or the money, only to lose your cool just a hair too much, a mere five minutes into the bout and give it all away… well, that might put you firmly in the chump column.

On the other hand, Hopkins, may have set himself up for this debacle by playing loose with the rules all these years. Perhaps, karma finally caught the ageless king. If that is the case and he lost his belts on a bogus TKO, it’d be a bitter pill to swallow, particularly if his career is threatened by injury.

If he retains his belts and ultimately dodged a difficult nip/tuck affair with Dawson, then he might come out of this a little richer and with not much lost.

Time, and its unspooling — the very nature of which has become a character in the Hopkins saga, like a dark spectre hanging over his head — will tell the tale.

And when Hopkins finally hangs his gloves on the locker, and graces the ring no more, then we’ll look back and see whether this night was the final freight that put more weight on him than his shoulder could bear…

…or whether he once more rose to greater heights, head and shoulders above the ordinary superstars that fight and fade into the faceless greatness.