BERNARD HOPKINS vs. CHAD DAWSON
When: Saturday, Oct. 15
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View, 6 p.m. PT / 9 p.m. ET
Weight: Light heavyweight (175 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Hopkins’ RING championship and WBC title
Also on the card: Antonio DeMarco vs. Jorge Linares, 12 rounds, for vacant WBC lightweight title; Kendall Holt vs. Danny Garcia, 12 rounds, WBC/IBF junior welterweight title eliminator; Paulie Malignaggi vs. Orlando Lora, 10 rounds, welterweights; Dewey Bozella vs. Larry Hopkins, 4 rounds, cruiserweights.
Height / Reach: 6-1 (185cm) / 75 (191cm)
Nickname: The Executioner
Turned pro: 1988
Record: 52-5-2 (32 knockouts)
Trainer: Naazim Richardson
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: Light heavyweight champion
Titles: IBF middleweight (1995-2005; 20 defenses; lost it to Jermain Taylor); WBC middleweight (2001-05); WBA middleweight (2001-2005); RING middleweight (2001-05; lost it to Taylor); WBO middleweight (2004-05); RING light heavyweight (2006-2008; lost it to Joe Calzaghe); RING light heavyweight (2011-current); WBC light heavyweight (2011-current).
Biggest victories: Segundo Mercado, April 29, 1995, KO 7 (wins first title); Glen Johnson, July 20, 1997, KO 11; Felix Trinidad, Sept. 29, 2001, KO 12; Oscar De La Hoya, Sept. 18, 2004; Antonio Tarver, June 10, 2006, UD 12; Winky Wright, July 21, 2007, UD 12; Kelly Pavlik, Oct. 18, 2008, UD 12; Roy Jones Jr., April 3, 2010, UD 12; Jean Pascal, May 21, 2011, UD 12 (wins RING and WBC titles; most-recent fight).
Biggest losses: Jones, May 22, UD 12; Taylor, July 6, 2005, SD, 12; Taylor, Dec. 3, 2005, UD 12; Calzaghe, April 19, 2008, SD 12.
Draw: Jean Pascal, Dec. 18, 2010, MD 12
Height / reach: 6-1 (185cm) / 76½ (194cm)
Hometown: New Haven, Conn.
Turned pro: 2001
Record: 30-1 (17 knockouts)
Trainer: John Scully
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 3 light heavyweight
Titles: WBC light heavyweight (2007-08; stripped); IBF light heavyweight (2008-09; vacated).
Biggest victories: Tomasz Adamek, Feb. 3, 2007, UD 12 (wins WBC title); Glen Johnson, April 12, 2008, UD 12; Antonio Tarver, Oct. 11, 2008, UD 12; Tarver, May 9, 2009, UD 12; Johnson, Nov. 7, 2009, UD 12; Adrian Diaconu, May 21, 2011, UD 12 (most-recent fight).
Loss: Jean Pascal, Aug. 14, 2010, TD 11 (for WBC title).
Skills: Both Hopkins and Dawson are boxers. Hopkins, a versatile roughneck technician, is the definition of cagey. Dawson is also versatile. The rangy southpaw likes to stalk his opponents behind a jab and break them down with combination but he’s probably most effective when sticking and moving. Both light heavyweights are complete fighters but Hopkins has a degree of ring generalship that surpasses even most elite boxers. The 46-year-old veteran is a master at controlling the tempo of a fight and thanks to his intelligence and experience he can adapt to almost any situation.
Power: Both fighters possess respectable power but neither is known for his punch. Hopkins has a fraction of a higher KO percentage (53.33 to 53.13) but all of his knockouts occurred at middleweight. He has yet to score a knockout at light heavyweight and he has not stopped an opponent since putting Oscar De La Hoya down with a body shot in 2004. Dawson hasn’t recorded a KO since stopping Epifanio Mendoza in 2007. He’s never stopped a world-class light heavyweight, but the hunch is that, punch for punch, he hits slightly harder than Hopkins does.
Speed and athletic ability: Even when he was in his absolute athletic prime (1997-2002), Hopkins didn’t “wow” anyone with his speed, reflexes or agility. He’s always relied on boxing fundamentals, conditioning and mental sharpness. Dawson does posses the kind of raw athleticism and natural talent that turns heads. He’s got quick reflexes, excellent hand-eye coordination, fast and fluid footwork, and good balance.
Defense: Both Hopkins and Dawson are difficult to hit, but for different reasons. Hopkins protects his chin with old-school technique. He keeps it tucked behind his left shoulder and his right hand up. Hopkins also blocks punches and rolls or ducks under with shots very well. Dawson avoids getting tagged by keeping his opposition behind his long jab and by utilizing a lot of lateral movement. He pivots well off his front foot during or after an exchange, which also prevents his opponents from drawing a bead on him. Dawson sometimes leaves his chin exposed when he lets his hands go in combination. Hopkins can be caught above and around his tight guard (high on his head) by overhand and roundhouse-type punches.
Experience: Dawson has a lot of experience for a 29-year-old pro with only 31 fights. He has fought the 12-round championship distance seven times against top opposition including two victories over former champs Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson each. However, Hopkins is arguably the most experienced active world-class fighter in the sport. He’s fought the 12-round distance 21 times against 16 fighters who have held one or more major titles. More than a few of Hopkins’ former foes will likely wind up in the International Boxing Hall of Fame, including Roy Jones Jr., Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Joe Calzaghe.
Chin: Both fighters have tasted the canvas. Hopkins was down twice in both of the two draws on his record — against Segundo Mercado in their first bout back in 1994 and against Jean Pascal in their first fight last December. However, he has never been stopped in 60 pro bouts and his chin has held up against some of the most feared punchers in recent years, including Trinidad, Antwun Echols and Kelly Pavlik. Dawson was dropped against Tomasz Adamek and Eric Harding, but didn’t appear hurt in either fight. However, he did appear to be seriously buzzed when he was rocked in the 10th round of his first fight with Johnson. Hopkins was stunned a few times during his rematch with Pascal (especially in the final round). He also had extreme adverse reactions to rabbit punches (illegal shots to the back of the head) landed by Jones during their rematch. The thought is that Hopkins had a better chin than Dawson during his prime, but age has evened it up.
Conditioning: Both fighters are accustomed to fighting the 12-round distance. Hopkins is more dedicated to training but he also knows how to pace himself (or slow down the pace of a fight to prevent fatigue). Dawson’s busy stick-and-move style requires more energy and he trains hard in order to sure that he can do what he does best for 12 rounds if necessary.
Wear and tear: Hopkins is as well preserved as a boxer in his mid-40s can be but 23 years in the pro game and 444 rounds fought (a whopping 239 more than Dawson) takes its toll.
Corner: Much has been made about Dawson’s switch from hall-of-fame trainer Emanuel Steward to former trainer John Scully during the camp for this fight. It says here that the move was a good one for Dawson, who is clearly more comfortable with his fellow Connecticut native. Scully has known Dawson since the southpaw was 10 years old. The former 168-pound contender and light heavyweight title challenger worked Dawson’s corner a few times during amateur tournaments and trained the fighter for three bouts over the course of one year (2004-’05) early in his pro career. Scully doesn’t have a fraction of the accomplishments of Steward (few trainers do), but he knows boxing, strategy and he brings a positive energy to his camps and to Dawson, who will need that enthusiasm on fight night. Hopkins has a more experienced head trainer in Naazim Richardson, an understudy to the late Bouie Fisher. Richardson, an accomplished amateur coach, has trained (or co-trained) Hopkins for more than 13 years and has worked with other championship-level fighters.
Outcome: Dawson promised to return to a more aggressive style of boxing against Hopkins and he will do his best to take the fight to the older champion, scoring well behind a stiff jab in the early rounds of the bout. Dawson will outwork and outmaneuver Hopkins, who will patiently stalk the faster, busier challenger and occasionally land a well-timed jab or right hand between the younger man’s quick combinations. Dawson will rock Hopkins with right hooks in the second and third rounds, but the ultimate veteran will return the favor with damaging counter right hand toward the end of the fourth. The “old man” will take advantage of Dawson’s disorientation by charging the slight betting favorite at the start of the fifth, outworking the challenger while applying steady pressure. Dawson will attempt to stand his ground and fire back whenever Hopkins gets past his jab or pins him to the ropes. Both fighters will score with telling blows in the middle-to-late rounds. Dawson will continue to out-punch Hopkins during their exchanges down the stretch of the fight, but the champion will land more accurate power punches, including the straight right and hooks that land over Dawson’s southpaw jab. The fight will appear up for grabs going into the championship rounds and Hopkins will impress the Los Angeles crowd and the judges by surpassing Dawson’s punch output.
Prediction: Hopkins wins a close, perhaps controversial, unanimous decision.