In 12 fights opposite left-handers, RING and WBC light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins has lost just once, and has vanquished his opponents by knockout five times.
He’ll bring that success rate with him into Saturday night’s defense of his belts against southpaw Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) in an HBO Pay Per View clash from The Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The only southpaw to have beaten the 46-year-old Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) is the now-retired, 39-year-old Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs) of Wales, who edged Hopkins in a disputed split-decision in April of 2008.
“Chad’s fast and he’s a southpaw and he’s tall and rangy. I root for Bernard Hopkins. I’ll be rooting for Bernard against Chad Dawson as well, but I think that Chad Dawson is a dangerous opponent for him,” said Calzaghe in an exclusive interview with RingTV.com.
“But my style is a style in itself, much less the fact that I am a southpaw. I’m tremendously fit and I throw punches non-stop. Maybe you can call them slaps at times, and they may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but they do the job.”
“I love fighting southpaws,” Hopkins told RingTV.com. “I would rather fight southpaws than anybody. My record is excellent against southpaws. The only reason I lost to Calzaghe is that they gave it to him by split-decision. My style is so unorthodox, and I do so much and I can make so many adjustments in style that (stance) really doesn’t matter. If you look at my record against southpaws, I’m something like 12-1 against southpaws. So my record speaks for itself. So I’m ready, man.”
Calzaghe, of course, disagrees with Hopkins’ assessment of their meeting.
“With Bernard, I think that I just wore him down with my pressure and my punch output,” said Calzaghe. “Whether or not Chad Dawson can actually maintain that sort of work-rate, and whether he can throw a lot of combinations, that’s going to be the deal.”
Hopkins has gone 4-0-1 since falling to Calzaghe, with his most recent triumph being May’s unanimous decision over Canada’s Jean Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KOs) to become the oldest fighter in the history of the sport to win a significant title belt.
Calzaghe said the key for Hopkins is to control the tempo of the fight, frustrating Dawson and timing the younger man’s shots. Dawson, said Calzaghe, must try to emulate what Calzaghe did, which was to be active, apply pressure and deliver a high punch output.
“Dawson has got to throw combinations rather than single shot with Bernard. You can’t let him maintain and control distance. You have to overwhelm him,” said Calzaghe. “If you let Bernard Hopkins dictate the pace, then you’re in trouble. You have to dictate the pace against Bernard Hopkins.”
In short, said Calzaghe, Dawson has to make Hopkins feel his age.
“There’s going to be a time when it’s over for Bernard Hopkins. I mean, he’s 46 years old and his time is going to come. He’s a human being at the end of the day,” said Calzaghe.
“There’s going to be a time when Hopkins goes back to the well and there’s nothing there. So he runs the risk of that against Dawson. But it’s going to be an interesting fight and I hope that Hopkins wins.”
So what’s Calzaghe’s prediction?
“My heart says Bernard Hopkins wins by points,” said Calzaghe. “But my head says that Chad Dawson’s going to beat him by points or maybe even by late-round stoppage. I hope that I’m wrong, but that’s what I think.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com