Lost In The Controversial Ending, Chad Dawson Is Actually Interesting For Once

(Via Dan Rafael, on Twitter)

There’s a lot of things that can be said about last Saturday night’s light heavyweight championship fight between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson, and most of them have been said already. This blog referred to the fight as a “travesty.” On Twitter, I called it (among other things) a pay-per-PU, because I use a lot of bad puns on Twitter (follow me @SDKraus — I’m a shameless self-promoter in addition to being a putrid punner).

Everyone had an opinion on whether Dawson’s foul was accidental or intentional, whether referee Pat Russell acted justly or incompetently, even whether Hopkins was faking his injury, because you can’t get injured in boxing without a parade of armchair physicians questioning the severity of the injury (most of these people suffer from a chronic, undiagnosed injury known colloquially as “butthurt”).

One unexpected result of the odd ending that has not been discussed quite as prominently, however, is that this was a Chad Dawson fight and it was not boring. It now occupies an illustrious list of two Chad Dawson fights (alongside Dawson-Glen Johnson I) that did not require an extra dose of Five-Hour Energy for me to summon the strength to discuss after it had concluded, if only because such heated controversy could never be as sleep-inducing as his typical boxing affair.

It also marked the first occasion since Dawson hit the world boxing stage that he had anything particularly interesting to say about anything.

Prior to Saturday night, Dawson had been one of those guys who had demonstrated world-class boxing skill, achieved significant accomplishments in the ring, received the full backing of HBO and made absolutely zero impact outside the cult of hardcore boxing fans. In wrestling terms, he was a mid-carder, a reliable and talented hand who had nonetheless failed to rise to main-event status. Hulk Hogan and Mike Tyson, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Oscar De La Hoya, everyone knows those guys – they’re the headliners, they’re the ones selling tickets. But Dawson was like the WWE’s Kofi Kingston or Jack Swagger (older fans, think Tito Santana and Rick “The Model” Martel), or fellow HBO boxing residents Paul Williams and Andre Berto – if you watch the product regularly they become familiar names, but they mean absolutely nothing to the mainstream.

There are three established means for boxers to break into the mainstream consciousness: being extraordinarily talented (Roy Jones, Jr.), being remarkably good-looking (Da La Hoya), or being notoriously controversial (Floyd Mayweather, Jr.). I would argue that most of the biggest stars in modern boxing fit into at least one of these categories, though some fit more than one (Mike Tyson, for example, was both extraordinarily talented and notoriously controversial). Before his fight with Hopkins, Dawson exhibited none of these qualities. He’s certainly a talented fighter, but he lacks the kind of otherworldly talent that leaps off a television screen. He doesn’t look like Shrek, but he’s not Jon Hamm, either.

And prior to Saturday, the most controversial thing about Dawson was that he changed trainers a lot, which is notably less controversial than, say, Manny Pacquiao’s singing career – that is to say, not at all. Prior to Saturday, the only thing “Bad” about Dawson, other than his nickname, was the size of the audience he attracted.

Now, Dawson has something of an edge to him. According to Dawson’s promoter, Gary Shaw, Dawson ran over to Hopkins’ fallen body after the fight and berated him for being a “pussy.” He accused Hopkins of faking the injury in his post-fight interview with Max Kellerman, one of the angriest interviews by a victorious fighter you will ever see. He refused to even consider the notion of granting a rematch to Hopkins because in three or four months Hopkins would be too old, as Mayweatherian a logical twist as I have heard from a fighter not named Floyd, considering the man he had just “beaten” was already historically old and that most of the names on Dawson’s resume are old enough to have fathered emerging young talents like Saul Alvarez. He even had some funny things to say about his likely next opponent, Jean Pascal, suggesting that this newfound interesting side of Dawson may not be entirely linked to fighting Hopkins, who is talented at making uninteresting people seem interesting just by force of his unique craziness.

Dawson’s name is suddenly synonymous with controversy. He is now entwined in the public consciousness with Bernard Hopkins and one of the most bizarre endings to a high-profile fight in the history of a bizarre sport. Unexpectedly, the fighter that Mayweather himself once touted as his heir apparent, a claim that Dawson never previously seemed capable of living up to, has suddenly had a Mayweather moment. If you found the ending to Hopkins-Dawson more controversial than the ending to Mayweather-Victor Ortiz, you could even argue that Dawson upstaged Mayweather, which would have been unthinkable as recently as Saturday afternoon.

So while I’m not particularly thrilled to have shelled out almost $60 to watch a clusterfuck of incompetence and bad decisions (maybe Chad “Bad Decision” Dawson could be his new nickname, like Floyd morphed from “Pretty Boy” to “Money” – adding alliteration to rhyming equals win-win for this English major), if this marks the onset of Chad Dawson, colorful and interesting fighter to watch, and the demise of Chad Dawson, uninspiring and personality-free technician, boxing fans can perhaps find a unforeseen silver lining to what appeared to be yet another dark cloud shadowing boxing’s landscape.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board (http://www.tbrb.org). He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.