Light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins has continued to deny Father Time with his ageless antics in the squared circle, and will look to do so yet again in the first defense of his RING and WBC belts against Chad Dawson Saturday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
After winning the IBF middleweight title from Segundo Mercado on April 29, 1995, Hopkins went on to defend it with knockouts against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Robert Allen, Simon Brown, Glen Johnson, John David Jackson and Carl Daniels.
Overall, he successfully defended his belt a record 20 times before losing to Jermain Taylor by a split decision on July 16, 2005.
After that fight, and a subsequent rematch loss, Hopkins garnered victories over Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Enrique Ornelas, and Roy Jones at light heavyweight. His only loss was a split-decision against Joe Calzaghe.
The other blemish on Hopkins’ record was a fight with 28-year-old Jean Pascal in December of last year, in which Hopkins rose from knockdowns in the first and third rounds to salvage a disputed draw.
To end the controversy a rematch was signed, and in May the 46-year-old Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) became the oldest man to win a significant crown with a unanimous decision over Pascal.
But Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs), a 29-year-old southpaw, is out to prove himself under the weight of criticism regarding his allegedly fragile psyche.
Even Hopkins has questioned the inner toughness of Dawson, who bounced back from an 11th-round technical decision loss to Pascal in August of last year by out-pointing former titleholder Adrian Diaconu in May.
Nearly a month ago to the day, Dawson made the switch from legendary trainer Manny Steward to a former instructor John Scully, and also has sought advisory assistance from ex-titleholder Winky Wright, a southpaw whom Hopkins already has vanquished.
RingTV.com gathered the opinions of 12 knowledgeable observers as to what they believe will transpire on Saturday night.
In the end, I think Dawson’s youth, athleticism and lanky frame will carry him to a tight and controversial points victory to claim the lineal and RING light heavyweight championship.
Kevin Cunningham, trainer of former WBC/IBF junior welterweight beltholder Devon Alexander
That wasn’t because I thought that Pascal was so much more the superior fighter. But it was because me and Bernard, we’re the same age. I’ll be 47 in December, and Bernard will be 47 in January. So, I just couldn’t believe that he could pull it off.
But after that rematch with Pascal, and seeing that he’s still got his reflexes, his ability and his agility, and most off all, Bernard beats these guys mentally. He takes their minds and then he breaks their body down throughout the fight.
So, I mean, I can never pick against Bernard again for those reasons. I’m just picking Bernard to win the fight. I pick Bernard to win a decision.
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Chad Dawson: Bernard Hopkins by close, perhaps controversial, decision. I think Chad Dawson will give the 46-year-old champ fits during the early rounds with his stiff jab, quick combinations and constant lateral movement.
Dawson might even hurt or drop Hopkins at some point during the first four rounds. But I think the future Hall of Famer will time Dawson with counter-right hands and left hooks in the middle rounds of the bout and gradually slow down the pace of the fight with a number of veteran tactics — most legal, some, not-so legal.
The older man will take the fight to the young challenger in the final rounds, scoring to the body as he forces Dawson back on his heels. Hopkins will do his best to close the show inside the distance, but he’ll have to settle for a narrow points win that some — mainly Dawson and promoter Gary Shaw — vehemently dispute.
Norm Frauenheim, www.15rounds.com
Hence, he has stayed busy, maintaining skills, instincts and know-how acquired over 23 years. Only five months have passed since his rematch victory over Jean Pascal. The irony is that Chad Dawson, whose only loss is to Pascal, would seem to have time on his side.
At 29, he’s the much younger man. He’ll still have time enough to establish himself, figure out who he is. For Hopkins, however, it’ll be too late. Dawson squandered critical weeks with a late switch in early September from trainer Emanuel Steward for a reunion with John Scully.
By the time, he re-establishes a working relationship with Scully, Hopkins will have an insurmountable lead on the scorecards.
Virgil Hunter, trainer of WBA super middleweight titleholder Andre Ward
He’s had three or four trainers in the last few years, and each one brings a different philosophy and different elements to the table. I’m sure that’s affected him somewhat mentally. Depending on what type of relationship that he has with John Scully, if he can bypass all of the things that he picked after their first departing and come back intact to their beginning, I’m sure that would be beneficial.
I think Bernard has some mid-range area advantages, where Chad is not allowed to work at arm’s length, and where he’s forced to work from Bernard’s chosen length. I think that Bernard has the ability to shorten that space, neutralize his reach and to make him defend in an offense that he’s not accustomed to defending.
I know that Dawson was successful against Glen Johnson, but Glen Johnson more or less walks to you in the same cadence. So it was easy for Chad to pick up on him and to time him. But Bernard can get there get in so many ways and make adjustments as to which mid-range arsenal he wants to use. I could see a unanimous decision or a stoppage by Bernard.
I’ve seen Chad down, and I’ve seen him hurt with the types of punches that Bernard throws pretty accurately. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came to that, but I would look for a Hopkins to win a unanimous decision.