Chad Dawson – 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 will keep Dawson from becoming another victim of The Executioner.

Keep Cool
At 29 years old, Chad Dawson is still relatively young and, as such, he is still prone to emotional outbursts. After only 2 rounds against Hopkins, Dawson was apparently tired of the veteran’s dirty tactics and he (inadvertently) ended the fight by pushing him off. Shortly after shoving Hopkins to the ground, Dawson began yelling at the older fighter, calling him a number of unprintable epithets (one of which rhymes with “wussy”). During his post fight interview he continued his tirade against the Philadelphian and at the post fight press conference got into a shouting match with Jean Pascal. In the days leading up to the fight Dawson has continued his verbal assault on Hopkins, calling his heart into question and continually referring to him as a “punk.” This can all play into B-Hop’s hands, a fact that The Executioner himself pointed out when he said that Dawson’s anger was something he would take advantage of, adding that frustrated fighters make mistakes. But what if Dawson keeps his cool? What if he can dig deep and find a well of maturity and stability against Hopkins? It could be that Bernard will rely too much on this factor, and should he not find it, the tables could be turned. Dawson’s best bet is to not let Hopkins’ dirty tactics inside the ring (holding and hitting, rabbit punches, kidney punches, head butts, etc) bother him and just continue with his game plan. Keeping a calm demeanor will only increase the likelihood of a new champion being crowned on Saturday.

Outwork B-Hop
Bernard Hopkins is a future hall of famer, he defended his middleweight title a record 20 times, has won titles in three weight classes, has fought some of the best fighters in the world, and last year, at age 46, he became the oldest fighter to win a world title when he beat Jean Pascal in Pascal’s hometown. But let us not forget that he’s 47 now, facing a 29 year old fighter who is not afraid of him. Hopkins, furthermore, will be looking to conserve energy, picking and choosing his spots as has been his wont over his past couple of fights. If Dawson wants that WBC belt back (a belt he was stripped of when the California Commission declared his victory a No Contest), he’ll have to use this to his advantage and outwork the older, energy-conscious Hopkins. Working the jab and throwing constant combinations, if not effective, will at least persuade the judges that Dawson is the busier man, a task that shouldn’t be hard since Hopkins isn’t exactly known for lighting up CompuBox screens. With a high work rate, Dawson can get Hopkins caught up in a frenetic pace, one he’d rather avoid, and catch the champ with some clean punches. As we’ve seen recently with guys like Shane Mosley and Glen Johnson, it is quite possible for a fighter to suddenly age in one night, and if Dawson can press the issue enough, then maybe, just maybe, Dawson can become the first man to stop Bernard Hopkins.

Pin Hopkins to the Ropes
Chad Dawson is 6’1 with a reach just over 76 inches. He’s a lanky fighter with a southpaw stance, meaning he will keep his right foot in front and just inches away from Hopkins’ lead left. In addition, Dawson has a knack for keeping a wide stance. By keeping his feet so far apart, he uses up a lot of real estate in the ring and is excellent at cutting off the ring. After some nudging and corralling, his opponents have only one place to go: the ropes. This is hardly a refuge, however, and his foes have found this out the hard way. Those who are unable to escape the canvas’ fringes have paid by becoming subject to Dawson’s punishing blows. Top fighters including Antonio Tarver, Tomasz Adamek, Glen Johnson, all found out that Dawson’s blazing speed and variety of punches are difficult to combat when your back is against the ropes. Only one fighter, Jean Pascal, was able to figure out that the best way to fight Dawson is to back him up. But it will be difficult for an aging Hopkins to press forward against Dawson the entire night, opening up an opportunity for Chad to keep him against the ropes, right where he wants him.

José A Maldonado is senior staff writer at punchrate.com and contributing writer for realcombatmedia.com

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