Imagine anyone re-electing Nixon, or agreeing to sail on the Titanic II, or, having miraculously escaped execution by hanging, volunteering to face the gibbet once again. When Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson face off Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, it will be for the most familiar boxing reason of all: madness. Cause and effect, supply and demand, ying and yang—who needs any of that? In boxing, the closest thing to logic after more than a century of refinement remains the simple count of “10.”
How a bomb as big as Hopkins-Dawson I can produce a sequel is something only the boys in the backroom can answer. Contractual obligations, Public Enemy #1 for television networks—and, by extension, consumers—may have forced HBO to broadcast this fight, but must it be aired at such a reasonable hour? Like a midnight marquee film (think Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! or The Gore Gore Girls) Hopkins-Dawson II ought to take place in front of an audience sweating Cutty Sark or stoned out of its mind.
Oh, no doubt this fight will have its knowing defenders. “Two top-ten light heavyweights!” the Omniscients will furiously thumb on their smartphones. “Former P-4-P entrants!” mighty journos will Tweet. “The Oscar De La Hoya Light Heavyweight Championship of the World is on the line!” ratings panel riffraff are sure to roar. Everything, it seems, but the promise of a good fight. Of course, even a good fight is possible, the same way a man can survive being trampled by a herd of bison. But why would anyone risk taking that chance?
Chad Dawson, 30-1-0-2 (17), remains a symbol of much that is wrong in contemporary boxing. This may be a harsh assessment, but if you can explain why a fighter who cannot move tickets, draw ratings, sell pay-per-views, or provide excitement continues to headline HBO events and pocket seven-figure paydays, then you have a future as an oracular blogger. Dawson has also showed some contempt for fans, and in an interview with Max Kellerman after the first Hopkins debacle, he made it clear that he did not give a damn about the “critics.” And why should he? Dawson gets paid exorbitant sums of money no matter how dull he performs in the ring. Unless you count his desultory loss to Jean Pascal last year—and many Omniscients do—then Dawson has never been in an entertaining scrap on HBO.
Talent? Sure, Dawson has lots of it, at least against fighters whose names belong on an entry list for shuffleboard tournaments. Although Dawson has scored solid wins over Tomasz Adamek and Glen Johnson, his record is most notable for the number of geezers on it. This will be his 34th professional fight, and, incredibly, Hopkins will be the 14th (!) opponent Dawson has had a double-digit age advantage over. Half of his fights have been against opponents at least nine years older. All boxers deserve respect, but Dawson makes admiration hard going.
As ho-hum outside of the ring as he is inside of it, Dawson makes even the word “snickerdoodle” glum. But since that fateful night last October, Dawson has added a sneering disdain to his apathy. In fact, Dawson is so churlish that he has made Hopkins—nearly 25 years into his satanic majesty act—a sympathetic figure over the last six months. Unfortunately, Dawson, New Haven, Connecticut, can never bother to dramatize his orneriness where it counts the most: in the ring. Except, of course, when he is practicing MMA moves or verbally abusing opponents after the fight is over.
Even at 47, Hopkins, 52-5-2-2(32), has such an edge in technique over most fighters that all he has to do is shuffle out to ring center to flummox them. How “The Executioner” must chuckle every time he sees a, umm, champion come at him squared-up, with feet scissoring, chin afloat, and hands down! But Dawson, a sound boxer with a measured approach, does not fit that description, and Hopkins, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will have his greatest attribute neutralized before the opening bell even rings.
Only one outcome—a clear win for the elderly Hopkins—will be of significance. After all, Dawson is faster, stronger, and, yes, 18 years younger. Anything else—a no-contest, a draw, a no-decision, a DQ, members of Human Rights Watch storming the ring to prevent further abuse of the crowd—is almost worth betting on as a prop. In the end, perhaps the best that can be said about Hopkins-Dawson II is: Thank god Jhonny Gonzalez is fighting on the same night.
So, have you ever been to the Believe It or Not Museum in Atlantic City? The Grand Prix Go Karts at the Steel Pier look like fun. Supposedly, there is a single $5 blackjack table at the Borgota open at all times. And what about Lucy the Elephant in nearby Margate City? Have you seen Lucy the Elephant yet?