A Strange Ride: Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson Preview

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Bernard Hopkins goes into Saturday night’s fight with Chad Dawson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California with an underdog status he is now accustomed to. Dawson, 17 years his junior, presents another challenge in Hopkins’ two decade long career, a career that has recently become erratic.

The bout will be far from a box office hit. You would never mistake either fighter as a crowd pleaser, and putting it on pay-per-view regurgitates a sour taste in the boxing fan’s mouth, harkening memories to the countless disappointing HBO PPVs in the mid-2000s. HBO has in recent years been more judicious with their PPV output, but you can’t blame the collective groan whenever this type of matchup ends up with a 60 dollar price tag. With the addition of throwing two East Coast-based non-ticket-sellers in Los Angeles, you have a glowing example of promoters who too often operate in an alternate universe, and a network that palliates that universe.

A year and a half ago, Hopkins, 52-5-2, took part in one of the worst bouts in recent memory, flopping and pecking his way to a decision over a shopworn Roy Jones. It remains prescient in many a fan’s mind. The old man tends to surprise you while you have your guard down, however, and while anyone who remembers the 90s version of the Philadelphia tactician immediately rejects the HBO narrative that this is the most exciting he’s ever been, he did string together two entertaining efforts in a row against Jean Pascal, a feat he hadn’t accomplished in over a decade. Though not possessing nearly the punishing power and output of a younger Hopkins, he showed flashes of what he used to be against the Canadian speedster by dusting off a stinging body attack in the first bout, and a youthful jab in the second.

For his part, Dawson, 30-1 with 17 knockouts, is seen as a bit of an underachiever, with elite speed and reasonable pop accompanied by a questionable motor and suspect durability. After his loss to Pascal last year, boxing scribes and fans alike offered the parade of shouldas and couldas that circulates the web whenever a heavily favored fighter falls. Many were quick to point out the times Pascal was in trouble while happily ignoring the moments Dawson got put on uneven legs. Maybe Dawson should have been more aggressive, and could have opened up more, but opening up leads to return fire, and flush punches tend to make the New Haven, Connecticut resident’s knees knock.

That aversion to clean shots combined with unsure stamina causes the quick southpaw to fight in intermittent bursts. Against an erratic Pascal, Hopkins showed that he can still be a steady professional who knows how to fill in the gaps his opponent leaves. He can pick a weapon from his vast arsenal – a sneaky jab, a straight right to the body, a lead left hook – to leave an impression on a judge’s mind while Dawson is conserving energy. Consistency serves as a nemesis to aging fighters, and Dawson lacks it.

Nevertheless, you now have to account for the opponent’s power when analyzing a Hopkins matchup. For the first time since he struggled in the thin air of Ecuador during a 1994 battle with Segundo Mercado, his seemingly undentable chin showed vulnerabilities in both bouts against Pascal. A quick-handed fighter can now wobble him, or take him off his feet altogether, with an unsuspecting shot. While a stoppage still seems unlikely, Dawson can bag rounds with staggering counter punches, which are the only reasons Pascal was competitive with the old man.

Moreover, eye-catching combinations that may or may not land are Dawson’s specialty and could own the night if Hopkins never finds an effective lull-filler. “Bad Chad” unleashes a loud right hook along with garish flurries to the body, and Hopkins’ pinpoint counterpunching has slipped in recent years.

Still, The Executioner’s reputed effectiveness against southpaws is earned, dating back to the uppercut he froze Joe Lipsey with 15 years ago. Beyond Joe Calzaghe, he’s unraveled lefties behind swift feet, a sharp right hand, and mauling inside work. Dawson appears to be predictable enough to be lured into right hand counters; how successful he is in avoiding such traps can determine the winner of the bout.

The suspicion here is that it’ll be a close fight – as Hopkins fights against quick boxers tend to be – not worthy of its price tag, but otherwise worthwhile. Both men have vulnerabilities that add an element of drama. And Hopkins’ clash against the logic of time holds intrigue as his athletic opponent tries to catch up with lofty expectations. Undoubtedly, it’s a misplaced bout with inflated value and false narratives, but those who have ridden the Hopkins roller coaster for two decades have suddenly found the ride unpredictable and are allured by what lies in the next tunnel.

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Topics: BERNARD HOPKINS, CHAD DAWSON, Light Heavyweights

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  • JohnPaulFutbol

    MN,

    Good preview. I keep waffling on who I think will win. Hopkins has to have a difficult time with a guy who is technically sound and doesn’t lead. Can’t imagine at his age he’ll take Dawson’s shots all that well when he lands either. Then again Dawson has a flare for the mediocre. We’ll see. But as much as I respect Hopkins skills/career etc, Dawson can’t lose to a 46 year old. He’s been pretty good against the senior circuit.

    I got suckered into buying tickets to this early on, but I just found I’ve won 2 free tickets from Gary Shaw as well! But, who didn’t?

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    MN,

    Good preview. I keep waffling on who I think will win. Hopkins has to have a difficult time with a guy who is technically sound and doesn’t lead. Can’t imagine at his age he’ll take Dawson’s shots all that well when he lands either. Then again Dawson has a flare for the mediocre. We’ll see. But as much as I respect Hopkins skills/career etc, Dawson can’t lose to a 46 year old. He’s been pretty good against the senior circuit.

    I got suckered into buying tickets to this early on, but I just found I’ve won 2 free tickets from Gary Shaw as well! But, who didn’t?

  • Michael Nelson

    Hey John,

    Are you selling your free tickets or did you scour the Earth for two people willing to go? I’m waffling here too, which is why I didn’t offer a solid prediction. Gun to head, probably Hopkins. I think Dawson, despite his athleticism, is good for getting caught with a flush counter that stiffens his legs. I don’t see the result being definitive either way though.

    The card isn’t bad at all, imo. Have fun!

  • Michael Nelson

    Hey John,

    Are you selling your free tickets or did you scour the Earth for two people willing to go? I’m waffling here too, which is why I didn’t offer a solid prediction. Gun to head, probably Hopkins. I think Dawson, despite his athleticism, is good for getting caught with a flush counter that stiffens his legs. I don’t see the result being definitive either way though.

    The card isn’t bad at all, imo. Have fun!

  • dennis wise

    Dawson should win here. His physical tools and youth should be too much for Hopkins at this stage but its hard to see it going that way. I know I’m not going out on a limb when I say I see an ugly fight that’s hard to score.

  • dennis wise

    Dawson should win here. His physical tools and youth should be too much for Hopkins at this stage but its hard to see it going that way. I know I’m not going out on a limb when I say I see an ugly fight that’s hard to score.

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    @Michael Nelson You’re right. Dawson could definitely get caught. And Hopkins is pretty damn clever countering with that right, from any angle……and those always seem very heavy.

    I haven’t found anyone to take the tickets yet. And I really don’t know what it says about me that I entered to win them, when I already had tickets. “Believe it or not” my wife has expressed interest, she may end up with the tickets.

  • JohnPaulFutbol

    @Michael Nelson You’re right. Dawson could definitely get caught. And Hopkins is pretty damn clever countering with that right, from any angle……and those always seem very heavy.

    I haven’t found anyone to take the tickets yet. And I really don’t know what it says about me that I entered to win them, when I already had tickets. “Believe it or not” my wife has expressed interest, she may end up with the tickets.

  • Andrew Fruman

    Nice preview, Michael.

    A couple years ago, say right after Hopkins-Jones II, I would have been 98% sure that the old man would fall short against Dawson. Now, while I’m still leaning slightly towards Dawson – I’m not really sure what to expect. Hopkins looked sharp on both occasions against Pascal, and Dawson tends to fight at his opponent’s pace, which negates all the advantages of youth. Anyway, it should be interesting to see what happens.

  • Andrew Fruman

    Nice preview, Michael.

    A couple years ago, say right after Hopkins-Jones II, I would have been 98% sure that the old man would fall short against Dawson. Now, while I’m still leaning slightly towards Dawson – I’m not really sure what to expect. Hopkins looked sharp on both occasions against Pascal, and Dawson tends to fight at his opponent’s pace, which negates all the advantages of youth. Anyway, it should be interesting to see what happens.

  • Michael Nelson

    @dennis wise Agreed, Dennis. If Dawson was more steady in his attack, he’d have the definitive edge. As it is, I think he’ll allow Hopkins to pick his spots enough to gain a foothold in the fight.

  • Michael Nelson

    @dennis wise Agreed, Dennis. If Dawson was more steady in his attack, he’d have the definitive edge. As it is, I think he’ll allow Hopkins to pick his spots enough to gain a foothold in the fight.

  • Michael Nelson

    @JohnPaulFutbol Haha, I’m convinced that slogan was intended to become a meme.

  • Michael Nelson

    @JohnPaulFutbol Haha, I’m convinced that slogan was intended to become a meme.

  • Michael Nelson

    @Andrew Fruman Thanks Andrew. Yeah, after the Jones fight, this would’ve been seen as a mismatch. Now it’s hard to call, which alone doesn’t make it PPV worthy, but it’ll be interesting to see if a 46 year old can turn the trick again.

  • Michael Nelson

    @Andrew Fruman Thanks Andrew. Yeah, after the Jones fight, this would’ve been seen as a mismatch. Now it’s hard to call, which alone doesn’t make it PPV worthy, but it’ll be interesting to see if a 46 year old can turn the trick again.

  • thenonpareil

    Nice work, MN. This is one of those asterisk-heavy fights that drive me crazy. Because of the Fantasy League mentality out there, Dawson was a P-4-P GREAT without doing much, and Hopkins, as impressive as his post-40 run has been, never beat a legitimate light heavyweight until Pascal. And Pascal is no Ezzard Charles. Wins over junior middleweights, middleweights, and the husk of Roy Jones are enough, I guess, to make people faint these days. Dawson has talent, but Hopkins, in my opinion, would have buried him a decade ago. Everyone here has made good points for both sides of the fight, which means it’s unpredictable, and that can considered a plus….

  • thenonpareil

    Nice work, MN. This is one of those asterisk-heavy fights that drive me crazy. Because of the Fantasy League mentality out there, Dawson was a P-4-P GREAT without doing much, and Hopkins, as impressive as his post-40 run has been, never beat a legitimate light heavyweight until Pascal. And Pascal is no Ezzard Charles. Wins over junior middleweights, middleweights, and the husk of Roy Jones are enough, I guess, to make people faint these days. Dawson has talent, but Hopkins, in my opinion, would have buried him a decade ago. Everyone here has made good points for both sides of the fight, which means it’s unpredictable, and that can considered a plus….

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