“Iceman” John Scully On Not Stopping The Andre Ward Fight, What’s Next For Chad Dawson

The trainer of light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson, “Iceman” John Scully, wrote an e-mail to me in light of my remarks here about whether he should’ve pulled Dawson out of the fight against Andre Ward last weekend and whether he gave Dawson the instruction between rounds that he needed to win. Scully also answered a question about what was next for Dawson.

TQBR welcomes such feedback. If we’re going to criticize boxers, trainers, managers, networks and promoters, we also must embrace any responses to that criticism. And it’s admirable that Scully could, in my view, respond to that criticism with dignity.

Here is the specific paragraph to which Scully responded: “Dawson was taking a beating, and wasn’t competitive, and both of those things were only going to continue unless someone stopped it, and his corner wouldn’t, and while I don’t think Iceman John Scully is a bad trainer or anything like it, that refusal to stop the fight or offer substantive advice about how to beat Ward hurt Dawson Saturday.” Below is his response, with minor editing.

Scully: “Obviously I read all the articles after the fight, taking it all in… Evaluate it, etc. Just a comment: I’ll say this much, the tough thing about being a trainer is that you have to make decisions that are forever… Once you stop a fight, it’s stopped… etc… Being in the corner with Chad was a tough thing partly because he was cut in two places and I had to give up the spot right in front of him between rounds to the cutman, which pretty much didn’t allow me to look Chad straight in the eyes between rounds. His attention was diverted from me by the work being done on his cuts.

“On top of that, I generally am one to allow the boxer every chance to finish and find his heart and desire. I’ve seen MANY MANY MANY moments when a boxer either in a fight or in the gym thought he couldn’t go on anymore and he gave indications that he was finished only to have something spark him and wake him up from one moment to the next.

“As far as the advice goes… Please understand, I was there for the whole training camp and know everything that went on before that fight. I know my boxer as well and I know boxers in general, too. I’ve seen several people make similar comments as to where I didn’t give Chad the specific instructions needed to counter what Andre was doing. The thing is, and this is very important, there is a science and a strategy to corner work and the fact is that sometimes you have to know your fighter and know when these things will fall on deaf ears. There is a time to be calm and give specific instructions but there is also a time to try and tap into the fighter’s heart and emotions.

“Honestly? Eddie Futch and Angelo Dundee could have been in there giving him the greatest advice ever and it wouldn’t have mattered. Knowing what I know about the moment we were in and what transpired leading up to the fight, specific instructions would have fallen on deaf ears, I assure you. Chad just wasn’t in a state of mind and body where he would have been able to follow specific instructions. His only hope was to overcome himself with drive, heart, emotions and as a boxing person that’s how I saw it. Trust me, it wasn’t like the [Bernard] Hopkins fight where he was very alert and was able to hear and execute specific instructions and strategies. Totally different moment in time last weekend.

“I didn’t want to give Chad some very technical and intelligent sounding instructions between rounds just for the sake of sounding smart. Instructions that I knew under the circumstances would never in a million years be heeded. I tried to keep him out of harm’s way by repeatedly telling him to step around Andre and not stay right in front of him. I told him to fire that left hand because from what I saw it seemed like the best he could throw in those moments that would have landed. Other than that, my focus as his trainer was to try and get him motivated and a little bit emotional. Let him hear the urgency in my voice. I wanted my urgency to snap him out of the funk he was in, especially after getting knocked down twice early on. In those moments, based on the exact situation, I felt that was the best course of action.”

In response to Scully’s e-mail, I said he made a fair point about knowing his fighter, but that the two of us have differing philosophies on stopping fights. I also asked about what was next for Dawson.

Scully: “To tell you the truth, I have no idea what is next for Chad. I believe after making 168 and then having such a tough fight after that I would think his body and mind will need a very solid rest and recovery period. I think of Roy [Jones] after he gained and lost all the weight after the [John] Ruiz fight, Oscar [De La Hoya] coming down to fight Pacman [Manny Paquiao], etc., and I believe the right thing to do for Chad is to be safe and take more than ample time to rest and recover to the fullest. He’s still the WBC champ at 175 and I’m sure someone next in line in their rankings is going to be clamoring for their rightful shot, whoever that may be.”

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.