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What’s Next for Chad Dawson?

By: José A Maldonado

A lot has been made of “Bad” Chad Dawson’s rematch victory over Bernard Hopkins, and rightfully so.  Coming into the bout at 52-5-2-32 KOs, The Executioner, though not necessarily loved, is universally hailed a legend.  He defended his middleweight crown a record 20 times, he’s faced this generation’s best fighters, and he holds the record for being the oldest man to win a title.  Most importantly, he simply does not lose, using his notoriously dirty tactics to make fights ugly and his record pretty.

Against Dawson, nonetheless, Hopkins showed his age.  His mauling style was ineffective against Dawson’s length and combinations.  His numerous head butts and rabbit punches were to no avail as the 29 year old, who studied Joe Calzaghe’s win over Bernard Hopkins leading up to this bout, stuck to his game plan.  As I pointed out in an earlier article here, Dawson did what he had to do in keeping his cool, outworking Hopkins, and staying in the center of the ring while keeping Hopkins against the ropes in his decision victory.

With this career-defining victory under his newly-acquired WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight belts, the question now is: what’s next?  After the bout HBO’s Max Kellerman asked just that, to which Dawson surprisingly responded, “Andre Ward,” a perplexing answer since A) Kellerman asked who he wanted to face in the division (light heavyweight) and B) Andre Ward is a super middleweight.

But can you blame him?  Dawson (31-1-17 KOs) is in his prime and he wants to make the best fights with the biggest paychecks possible now, not when he’s 47.  This answer merely shows that, in terms of big money fights, the light heavyweight division has little to offer.  WBO champ Nathan Cleverly, though capable, hasn’t beaten anyone of note and is not much of a name in the US.  WBA champ Beibut Shumenov, on the other hand, is still young and must prove he deserves to be in the ring with Dawson, if that is in fact something he actually wants.

So who should Dawson take on next?  The following is a list of the fights that make the most sense for the light heavyweight king.

Tavoris Cloud (24-0-19 KOs)

 Unification matches in boxing are few and far between, but if IBF champ Cloud can successfully defend his title against Jean Pascal later this year, a bout against Dawson is not too far-fetched.  Cloud has expressed wanting to gain more exposure and fight more often, and while many boxing fans would probably rather have seen Cloud take on Gabriel Campillo in a rematch after their controversial decision, the fact that Cloud has signed a contract for a Pascal bout shows that he is dedicated to fighting big names.  Dawson’s promoter, Gary Shaw, has worked before with Don King, Cloud’s promoter, and after the Timothy Bradley vs. Devon Alexander debacle, which was promoted by King and Shaw, they may want to hook up again to show that they can do better.  Dawson’s height and reach advantages over Cloud, not to mention Cloud’s poor performance against Campillo, would make him a tempting opponent for Dawson, especially since he can pick up yet another belt against him.  Some would argue that a Cloud-Dawson fight cannot be made because of his upcoming matchup with Pascal, but that’s assuming Cloud-Pascal is even made since. . .

 Jean Pascal (26-2-1-16 KOs)

 . . .Pascal hasn’t signed the contract yet, and with Dawson now owning the WBC belt, a title that once belonged to Pascal, who beat Dawson in 2010, the Canadian could be licking his chops and hoping for a rematch sooner rather than later.  The two also have a history outside the ring.  After Dawson’s TKO victory over Hopkins (which was later ruled a No Contest), Jean Pascal was in the post fight press conference room heckling Dawson, to which Dawson responded by making fun of Pascal’s “tight pants.”  If Pascal went as far as traveling to Los Angeles to ask for a rematch, he may not sign the Cloud contract.  The problem here is that Dawson is the champ and, being so, he may demand too much, mainly home turf.  Pascal is a huge draw in Montreal and the money would be a lot bigger if the fight is made there, yet if Dawson asks for a bout on the US’ East Coast, this may be a deal breaker.  But since the first fight was stopped on cuts, Dawson may want to set the record straight and fight Pascal in Quebec again so as to move on with his career having cleaned up the blemishes on his record.  If Pascal, furthermore, truly believes he can beat Dawson again, he may not care where it happens and take the fight in any city, setting up an intriguing rematch that would be fun to watch.

 Andre Ward (25-0-13 KOs)

 Why not?  After a stunning run that ended with the Showtime Super Six Tournament crown, Andre Ward may feel that there’s nothing else to prove at 168.  Ward turned down an offer from Lucian Bute after stating that the IBF champ hadn’t earned a shot at him just yet, but with a big win over Bernard Hopkins, maybe Son of God will deem Dawson worthy of a fight.  During the HBO telecast, in which Dawson called out the super middleweight’s top fighter, Ward answered via Twitter with “Let’s do it baby!!” and “We can get it done!!”  Dawson even said he wouldn’t mind meeting at a catch weight or, get this, at 168!  Ward is a pound for pound fighter with supreme skills, but he would be at a disadvantage if this fight is made at 175, and this is something he knows.  It could be that Dawson called out SOG in the heat of the moment, and Gary Shaw may try to talk him off of that perch, but, if Dawson is serious, this fight could be made, and it would be huge for hardcore boxing fans, if not for ratings and ticket sales.  What will hold this fight back?  Location.  Location.  Location.  Where will this fight be made?  The Bay Area, the only place Ward can sell tickets?  Atlantic City, a place Dawson may have won over with his win over Hopkins?  Vegas?  Also, which one of these guys will agree to fighting in the others’ hometown?  This is obviously a lot to iron out, but if it can be made, this would be the most highly anticipated bout of the year among those who actually know boxing.

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

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