“Where I come from, you can’t be laying on the floor saying you still want to fight.”
Those are the words of John Scully, Chad Dawson’s trainer. Scully, for the second straight fight, will be training Dawson as he sets his sights on capturing the legitimate light heavyweight title this weekend on HBO. Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson fought to a bizarre 2nd round no-decision last November, which ended with Bernard Hopkins lying on the mat claiming a shoulder injury. Chad Dawson, along with many boxing enthusiasts, refused to believe Hopkins’ claim. “I don’t believe Bernard Hopkins was hurt. He showed he didn’t really want to be in the ring with me,” Dawson said to a reporter visiting his camp last week.
“There was one incident in the 1st round,” Dawson said. “We were clinched up, I put my forearm into his throat, and he tried to move. He couldn’t move. I think he felt how strong I was, and after that, I think he decided to throw the fight.”
In the 2nd round, Hopkins missed with a straight right hand, he leaned on Dawson, who lifted Hopkins with his shoulder and threw him off. Hopkins landed on the canvas and claimed he injured his left shoulder. The fight was originally ruled a 2nd round TKO for Dawson, but the result was overturned to a no-decision and a rematch was ordered, which will take place in Atlantic City Saturday. “The WBC ordered the rematch, and they put Bernard into a corner. If he says no, then he gives up his title, and everyone says you’re scared. Even if you’re not scared, the entire world will always say that guy was scared. Bernard was in a corner, he had to take this fight.” Scully said.
Dawson anticipates Hopkins will go back to the drawing board: “I expect him to come out with a little frustration, a little bit more of a work ethic, but I don’t know how long it’s going to last. I don’t think he was ready for the pressure I put on him in the first fight, I don’t think he expected me to come out so aggressive.”
(Hopkins’ promoter, Golden Boy, begs to differ about why he took the rematch. Said Richard Schaefer on a conference call with reporters Monday, per a news release transcript: “This is ridiculous. I was recently at Bernard’s house. Bernard has more belts than all the people have to hold up their pants. And so the fact is that Bernard at this point, at 47-48 years old, doesn’t need any belts,” the Golden Boy chief said. “I mean this exactly shows again the kind of fighter Bernard Hopkins is. He never turns down a challenge.”)
In preparation for this fight, Dawson has been sparring with Cuban light heavyweight Yordanis Despaigne and polished amateur Steve Geffrard, a promising pro prospect. “Despaigne has a sneaky right hand and does tricky stuff inside like Hopkins, those Cubans are well taught,” said Scully.
Dawson’s fight plan will be similar the second time around, but he plans on using a more complete arsenal, starting with his jab. “He’s (Scully) big on my jab, I’m going to sit down on my punches, we’re working on punches Bernard won’t be looking for,” Dawson said. “If I catch him with the right one, it will end the whole night.”
Dawson has been criticized for fighting older competition — a series of fights with Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson consumed all of 2008 and 2009 for Dawson. But a fight against Hopkins meant a shot at the legitimate light heavyweight champion. And if Dawson can stake claim as the number one light heavyweight in the world with a victory over Hopkins, he expects the big fights to be more obtainable then in the past. “The problem is, no one wants to fight Chad Dawson, no one goes to bed praying for a fight with Chad Dawson,” said Scully.
Dawson understands this fight could be an immense stepping stone in his career but he also admits even with a victory, criticism will still come his way. “Everyone is going to say, ‘So what, you beat a 47-year-old.’ After I win, they’re not going to give me my props I deserve, they are going to say I beat a 47-year-old man,” said Dawson.
Hopkins, who turned 47 in January, may have already given boxing his final ring triumph when he defeated Jean Pascal last May, in Pascal’s adopted hometown of Montreal. With anything less than a victory on Saturday, this could be the end of the road for Hopkins’ legendary career.
“Bad” Chad plans to drive Bernard Hopkins into retirement in Atlantic City, the same quarter where Hopkins started his career against Clinton Mitchell nearly 24 years ago: “I definitely want to retire him, and after this fight I’m done with the old guys, hopefully I can get some big fights, guys like Andre Ward. Those are the big fights, those are the fights that are going to bring boxing back.”
Steve Zemach can be reached at SteveZBoxing@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveZemach.