After spending the last two years on the Glen Johnson-Antonio Tarver treadmill, Chad Dawson finally meets a fighter who is not eligible for eldercare when he faces Jean Pascal at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, tomorrow night on HBO.
Both fighters deserve credit for taking the bout. Pascal because he is a gate attraction in Montreal and could have taken lesser fights for significant paydays; and Dawson for hitting the road in pursuit of a big event.
Pascal, 25-1 (16), is coming off of a decision victory over Adrian Diaconu last December in which his shoulder popped out of its socket at least three times. Somehow Pascal fought through the pain and outpointed Diaconu comfortably over twelve rounds. Now, after surgery on his shoulder, Pascal enters the ring to face the most talented opponent of his career. It will be interesting to see what kind of strategy Pascal adopts against Dawson. Apart from foot speed, perhaps, Pascal appears to have no edge on Dawson, 29-0-0-1 (17), at all. Physically, he is the smaller man, and he probably does not hit hard enough to score a one-shot knockout. With a peculiar style often mislabeled “flashy,” Pascal, 27, is a study in wasted motion. He often hops from side to side with his hands down, occasionally mugs at his opponent, and every now and then stops to throw a quick right or a clumsy combination. Still, when Pascal does move his hands, he moves them rapidly.
None of his razzle dazzle, however, should affect a fighter as talented as Dawson. And if Pascal keeps his word and tries to make the fight a brawl, it will probably make things that much easier for Dawson. Unless Dawson is caught blind by a wild shot, he should be able to outbox Pascal from the perimeter.
Dawson, 28, is a measured fighter, one who works with purpose. From out of his southpaw stance Dawson will keep Pascal steadied with a jab, drop his straight left over the top, and take a half-step here or there to leave Pascal languishing. Already on the two-fights-a-year-superstar plan by the age of 26, Dawson has only one risk in this fight: he might be slightly stale from fighting older, slower opponents while practically on autopilot. Since winning his light heavyweight title against Tomasz Adamek in 2007, Dawson has been pushed only by Glen Johnson in their first fight. Besides Adamek, now campaigning as a heavyweight, Dawson has built his reputation on fairly creaky opposition. The Cruelest Sport noted this last summer before Dawson faced Johnson in their rematch:
Here is the kind of statistical oddity that is both astonishing and potentially devastating: Chad Dawson has never–never–faced a younger opponent. This fact sounds unbelievable, but, like many of the impossibles in boxing, it is true. And closer inspection reveals that it only gets worse.
Chad Dawson, 27, will be 30 fights into his career when he faces Glen Johnson in November. In those 30 fights he has had a double-digit age advantage over his opponent twelve times. Fifty percent of his fights have been against opponents at least nine years older, and Dawson has even put a whipping on pugs old enough to be his father: Faustino Gonzalez had nearly 17 years on Dawson, and, in a despicable mismatch, washed up Brett Lally was 19 years older than Dawson and 40 years old when they met in 2003. Only two fighters–hapless Dewey Welliver and British pinata Jaime Hearn–were within a year of Dawson.
In addition to these bizarro figures, Dawson, incredibly, has fought only four fighters born in the 1980s. This vendetta Dawson has against Generation X is a mystery and perhaps worthy of some sort of scientific or psychological study.
Dawson, in against a younger opponent for the first time in his career, might be troubled by the speediest hands he has ever seen, especially early, but eventually he should be able to take Pascal apart over the course of the fight. Pascal, Laval, Quebec via Port-au-Prince, has shown heart and courage in the past, but he has also shown vulnerability as well. Getting rattled by Diaconu or Carl Froch may not be a big deal, but limited Omar Pittmann also shook Pascal to his toes in their 2008 ESPN2 bout. The fact that Carl Froch outboxed and out punched Pascal also bodes poorly for his chances against Dawson. Whether Pascal lasts the distance depends on how aggressive Dawson fights. Dawson, New Haven, Connecticut, is not the kind of fighter who cares about making statements in the ring. Although he has spoken about revving things up a bit in Montreal, the likeliest outcome is a points win. Not that Dawson lacks the skill or power to score a KO, but his m.o. over his last three fights has been decidedly humdrum. He was even booed in Connecticut for his negative performance against Johnson in their rematch. In the end, Dawson will probably settle for a unanimous decision.