If you think Chad Dawson’s new head trainer Emanuel Steward was brought in to completely retool the former light heavyweight titleholder think again.
The hall-of-fame trainer says he only worked on minor technical adjustments with Dawson, who suffered the first loss of his career in his last bout, an 11-round technical decision to Jean Pascal last August.
Steward, who trained Dawson for six weeks at the Kronk Gym in Detroit, said minor changes are all the former pound-for-pound rated boxer needs.
“He’s an extremely talented boxer,” Steward told RingTV.com. “He’s a good athlete, well coordinated, with unbelievable balance and footwork. He can move in and out or side to side and stop on a dime to drop a beautiful combination.
“He’s so talented he’s still not utilizing all the tools he has.”
Steward said Dawson neglected two key tools in the Pascal fight — height and reach, which allowed the shorter man to get inside and score with power shots over teh first half of the bout. Giving up his height also set up the accidental clash of heads in the 11th round that prematurely ended the fight.
Dawson (29-1, 17 knockouts) has not fought since his disappointing outing against Pascal but the 28-year-old southpaw has the opportunity to get his once-promising career back on track against Adrian Diaconu, who he fights in the HBO-televised co-feature to the Pascal-Bernard Hopkins rematch in Montreal on Saturday.
The stakes are high for Dawson, who has been guaranteed a shot at the Pascal-Hopkins winner if he beats Diaconu, but fans shouldn’t expect to see a completely changed fighter.
The same attributes that made Dawson THE RING’s No. 1-rated light heavyweight prior to the loss to Pascal — speed of hand and foot, defensive prowess and flashy combination punching — will be on display Saturday.
He’ll just plans to box “taller” and be more aggressive, which he failed to do against Pascal.
“I started late in that fight,” said Dawson, who sustained a fight-ending cut over his right eye from the head butt in the 11th round, which he was dominating. “I didn’t fight with a real sense of urgency until the eighth or ninth round and that allowed Pascal get to ahead on the scorecards.
“I don’t think he would have made it out of the 11th round if the fight hadn’t have been stopped but it shouldn’t have gotten to that point. I should have hurt him earlier in the fight.”
Too much defensive posturing, especially in close, over the first half of the bout prevented that from happening, according to Steward.
“I had to remind Dawson that he isn’t Pernell Whitaker in the gym,” said Steward, bringing up the name of the 5-foot-6 defensive wizard who was recently inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. “I know he idolizes Whitaker but Chad is 6-foot-1 with a good reach. There’s no reason for him to let anyone get in close even if he can move his head and roll his shoulders and make them miss like Whitaker did.”
Dawson said he put in hard work with tough sparring partners while Steward monitored adjustments to his technique.
“I sparred with cruiserweights and heavyweights who are stout and stocky like Diaconu,” Dawson told RingTV.com. “It was tough at first but as I worked on keeping my distance and using my height and reach the sparring became easy.”
A lot of things come easy for Dawson because of his talent and intelligence, including winning, which Steward believes may have been part of the problem going into the Pascal fight.
“He had never lost a fight and he had beaten so many respected veterans, (Tomasz) Adamek, Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, twice each, that he may have just assumed that he was going to beat Pascal,” said Steward. “Everybody, even Floyd Mayweather, was saying that he was going to be the next American fighter to get the top of the pound-for-pound list.
“I’m sure he felt that he could turn up the head and stop Pascal whenever he wanted to, and he almost did in the 11th round, but was too relaxed in that fight. Sometimes you have to have these losses to remind you that you’re human.”
Dawson’s promoter hopes Steward can remind the savvy southpaw that he can be an offensive force in the ring.
“I’m not expecting anything in particular from Chad, technically speaking,” Shaw told RingTV.com. “Taking nothing away from Steward, who I have a lot of respect for, there are no tools that he can give my fighter. Chad’s already got everything. Steward can show him some tricks of the trade or maybe polish the diamond.
“The one thing I hope he brings out is ‘Bad Chad’ not just Chad Dawson. I want to see Bad Chad because we haven’t seen him in awhile. He had the opportunity to knockout both Tarver and Johnson but he wasn’t being aggressive in his fights.”
Dawson says that’s going to change starting with Diaconu (27-2, 15 KOs), a Montreal-based pressure fighter whose only two losses are competitive decisions to Pascal.
“I’m going to steal the show on Saturday,” he said. “I know Diaconu will come out and try to press me because he might think I’m done or that I’m shaky after my first loss but he’ll be really confused when I stick a jab in his face and back him up with quick combinations.
“He’s never been pressed by a fighter with my height, reach and speed.”
That’s what Steward wants to hear from his new pupil, especially before what could be a hard fight. He believes Diaconu, a 32-year-old native of Romania who has an ardent following in Montreal, will test Dawson’s technique and conditioning.
“Under the conditions we’re going to have in Montreal, I think we’ve got a tough fight ahead of us,” Steward said. “Diaconu has a tight defense and underrated boxing ability. He’s going to be motivated by the hometown crowd.
“I need to see Chad take control.”