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Bernard Hopkins – Keys to Victory

By: José A. Maldonado, MFA

 

This Saturday at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall, Chad Dawson and Bernard Hopkins have some serious unfinished business to attend to in a rematch featuring absolutely zero love lost and the WBC light heavyweight title at stake.  The two hope to put on a much better show than in their first outing which, though initially ruled a victory for Dawson, was later changed by the California Commission as a No Contest.

 

Going into the first fight, few expected an entertaining affair, but no one could have predicted what ensued; in only the second round, with Hopkins hanging on his back, Dawson decided to shove him off of his body and onto the canvas.  Hopkins  injured his shoulder, thus preventing him from continuing, prompting referee Pat Russell to stop the fight and Dawson to go into a profanity-laced tirade against the aging legend.

 The second time around will be even more difficult to call.  Hopkins will now be 47 years old, while Dawson has been given even more time to stew in his anger for having his WBC title taken from him after such a short reign.  And in spite of some fight fans voicing their discontent at this fight having been made, feeling that Hopkins’ style is simply not for television, this will undoubtedly be an intriguing affair considering the emotions leading up to it. 

 So who has the upper hand?  Will Hopkins’ guile and experience outdo Dawson’s youth and flair?  Can Hopkins prove he can still fight with the best at his advanced age, or will Dawson usher in the dawn of a new era?  The following are a few strategic points that Hopkins must execute if he is to be successful against the much younger “Bad” Chad Dawson.

 Keep It Close

Dawson is a tall, lanky fighter who is most effective when he keeps his opponents at a certain distance.  When his arm is fully extended, the danger zone for Dawson opponents is somewhere between the end of his fist and his forearm.  Hopkins would be able to stay in this pocket and get away with it against most fighters, but Dawson would make him pay dearly for doing so.  Surprisingly, Dawson also likes to mix it up inside and has done so with success.  But when it comes to in-fighting, Bernard Hopkins is on a whole other level.  Working the angles, using clinches, and that ever-so-sneaky overhand right (not to mention a few choice head butts) make Hopkins a nightmare on the inside for any fighter.  The trick is actually getting there against Dawson without getting caught.  It’s one thing to stay outside the younger man’s range the whole fight, but the trick will be getting from out there to inside safely, especially with Dawson’s devastating uppercuts and hooks in his repertoire.  Luckily for the Executioner, he has superb defense that he can use to his advantage in accomplishing this mission.  Once on the inside, he can wreak havoc on Dawson, who has proven to be a rather limited fighter when being backed up.  Hopkins, therefore, will have to really grease up that overhand right, because he’ll be needing it a whole lot while working in close quarters.

 Make It Nasty

Hate him or love him, one of the attributes that has enabled Hopkins to work his way to the top of the fight game is his rule-bending approach to the sweet science.  Be it holding and hitting, pushing his opponent’s head down, sneaky elbows or rabbit punches, the Philadelphian fighter’s bag of tricks is overflowing and always close.  In a fight in which he will be outgunned by both age and athleticism, Hopkins needs to figure out a way to frustrate Dawson and get into his head, a tactic that has never been difficult for the grizzled veteran.  All trainers know that a frustrated fighter makes mistakes.  They start loading up on punches and letting their emotion get the better of them.  This will be especially key for Hopkins since Dawson has proven to be a hothead.  Shortly after their first fight Dawson stood over Hopkins yelling obscenities at him.  During the post fight press conference he was easily goaded into a shouting match with Jean Pascal, who was in the crowd.  Hopkins can use this personality trait to get Dawson out of his game plan and start committing mistakes.  Also, keep this in mind: with Hopkins’ experience, he has mastered the art of committing fouls without getting caught.  Dawson’s violations, on the other hand, are not so subtle, as demonstrated by his fight-ending shove against Hopkins.  If the future hall of famer can get the 29 year old to retaliate and even lose some points, Hopkins can steal some rounds and put some crucial points in the bank.

 Stamina, Stamina, Stamina

Perhaps more than anyone in recent memory, Bernard Hopkins is a testament to what taking care of your body can do for you.  While some would call him a freak of nature, he points out that his secret is not drinking, always eating well, and never being of shape.  Whatever you want to attribute his physical condition to, he is going to need every ounce of energy he can muster out of his 47 year old body to take this victory.  This means he’ll have to practice more discipline than usual.  He’ll have to conserve energy by not getting tangled up in wresting with Dawson on the inside, and he’ll definitely have to refrain to doing push-ups between rounds.  Dawson is a hungry, angry fighter, so he’s going to want to take B-Hop out early.  If he can get through the first four or five rounds unscathed, Hopkins will have a major mental advantage over his foe.  There is only one problem: Dawson won’t be winded by round 6. Or 7.  Or even 8.  That’s where the stamina comes in.  Hopkins will not only need to survive Dawson’s assault early on, but he’ll need to have enough energy to make it count in the later rounds, which will most assuredly be close.  Should Hopkins take Dawson into deep waters and hang with him, the Executioner will have a chance of flipping the switch on his age once again.

 José A. Maldonado, MFA is senior staff writer at punchrate.com and contributor to realcombatmedia.com

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