By: Guest Boxing Writer Bryan Bradley
Premature endings to boxing matches are one of the many facets of the sweet science that leave fight fans curious and wondering what may or may not have been. Whether the stoppage is the result of an accidental head butt rendering a fighter unable to continue battle inside the square circle, or a quick stoppage administered by an overzealous referee, we all want to know what would have happened next.
Last October at Staples Center in Los Angeles, WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins and challenger “Bad” Chad Dawson were engaging in a feeling-out process in the opening stages of their highly anticipated title fight. At the end of the second round, Hopkins went in for a clinch and Dawson slammed him to the canvas. As a result, Hopkins claimed to have injured his shoulder and was therefore unable to continue in the fight. Many at ringside, including world hall of fame trainer Emanuel Steward, believed the bout should have been declared a No Contest. Veteran referee Pat Russell felt differently, as he declared Dawson the winner by technical knockout and awarded him the championship.
Immediately after the fight, Dawson was furious as he accused Hopkins of using an injury as a means to withdraw from the fight. Most fight fans would agree that a tackle is no way for an elite-level fighter to win a world title. Following an appeal process, both the WBC and the California State Athletic Commission overturned the initial ruling and appropriately declared the bout a No Contest.
Five months later, Hopkins and Dawson are eager to settle the score as they face each other on Saturday, April 28 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Many had wondered why their first fight was staged on the other side of the country in California, when Hopkins is a native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Dawson, who is originally from South Carolina, now hails out of New Haven, Connecticut. On this go-around, both of these East coast fighters can take pride in claiming a home court advantage going into their rematch.
“The Executioner” has been no stranger to appearances in Atlantic City, having produced some of his finest performances there in recent years, which include lopsided decision victories over previously undefeated Kelly Pavlik in 2008 and defending light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver in 2006. Hopkins was the decided underdog entering both contests.
Look at both combatants, Dawson is the younger and more fluid boxer who fights effectively with fast hands and exceptional foot work from the southpaw stance. Hopkins has established a reputation as a brawler and mauler who also has the ability to outbox one-dimensional opponents, as he did against Pavlik and Felix “Tito” Trinidad. Having defeated savvy southpaw and former world champion John David Jackson as well as a number of southpaws throughout his career, Hopkins has grown accustomed to the southpaw style. Jackson would later accept the roll of assistant trainer to the two-division world champion. Following the first loss of his professional career against Jean Pascal in August of 2010, Dawson reunited with his original trainer and former boxer John Scully. With Scully in back in his corner, Dawson looks to regain the form that made him such a hot prospect and world champion.
There are questions to ask of these two boxers. As boxing fans we hope to find answers to those questions on the evening of April 28. Who do you like? Can Dawson outbox the 47-year-old champion to legitimately seize the light heavyweight championship of the world and dethrone the oldest man to ever win a world title? Will Hopkins, who has an uncanny familiarity with southpaw opponents, adjust to Dawson’s athleticism, neutralize his best weapon, and stylistically break him down as he did against Pascal in Montreal last May?
Will Dawson once again be “Bad” and execute a brilliant strategy as well as a career-defining performance to dethrone the reigning champion and future Hall of Famer? At such an advanced age for this young man’s game, will Hopkins once again assume the role of the seasoned veteran who scores the dramatic upset when skeptics are boldly doubt his ability to do so? Be sure to witness the epic conclusion of this intriguing yet significant crossroads matchup.
Also, undefeated Seth Mitchell will take on Chazz Witherspoon in a 10 round heavyweight contest to begin the televised doubleheader.
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