The bar was set so low it was thought even Bernard Hopkins, connoisseur of stink, and Chad Dawson, ambassador for the nondescript, couldn’t limbo under it. Yet, arms locked with torso horizontal to knees, they managed easily to clear it.
Saturday night, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, Dawson ducked as Hopkins leaped in with a right hand late in the second round, then shrugged off the 46-year-old after he ended up draped over his back. Hopkins, now 52-6-2, fell awkwardly on his left arm, and immediately began yelling in anguish. Deemed unable to continue due to an injured shoulder, referee Pat Russell ruled Dawson the winner via TKO.
Injuries from a non-boxing act severe enough to halt a fight – headbutts, elbows, or takedowns – before the fifth round are generally ruled to be no contests, so there’s a good chance a TKO win and a WBC Light Heavyweight belt will be expunged from Dawson’s 31-1 record after the fight is reviewed.
Hopkins, of course, isn’t new to the theater of the absurd. Ask Robert Allen, who’s somewhere muttering about his lost TKO. Near the end of the fourth round of his title defense against Allen in 1998, a 33-year-old Hopkins was accidentally pushed outside of the ring by referee Mills Lane. Hopkins injured his ankle during his tumble to the floor and was unable to continue. As Saturday night’s main event should have been, the bout was ruled a no contest. Critics of the then relatively anonymous champ saw it as a clear sign of age catching up to him, or more cynically, an aging fighter finding a way out of a tough scrap.
Allen – who openly accused Hopkins of being a faker – tried to give Hopkins a taste of his own medicine during the bizarre rematch. Leading everyone to believe there was a sniper in the rafters, he fell in a heap with eyes squeezed shut every time Hopkins tapped him below the belt or touched him while coming out of a clinch. Once referee Rudy Battle let him know that he was on to his shenanigans, Allen stopped trying to act his way to a DQ win and promptly got picked apart.
Hopkins’ odd injury history inside the ring didn’t stop there. Davenport, Iowa, slugger Antwun Echols, exasperated by Tony Weeks’ refusal to penalize Hopkins during a foul-infested scrum in 2000, picked up and dumped Hopkins on his right shoulder. After writhing on the canvas in pain, Hopkins spanked Echols using only his left hand for the remainder of the round. Hopkins regained use of his right hand in subsequent rounds and eventually stopped Echols.
While his nose for the theatrical is obvious, accusations that Hopkins or anyone else in such a dangerous sport feigns fight-ending injuries – and then conspires to have a doctor co-sign that injury – are usually precarious. But what’s clear is that patience for this brand of drama has evaporated, and is as barren as the interest in a rematch.