VAN NUYS, Calif. — The commissioners didn’t deliberate long after watching the video numerous times and hearing the testimony of referee Pat Russell.
The video seemed to show that Chad Dawson committed an unintentional foul when he put Bernard Hopkins on the canvas with a shoulder shove and injured him Oct. 15 in Los Angeles. And Russell testified that upon reflection he believed his decision to award Dawson a second-round TKO victory should be reversed and ruled a no-decision.
Thus, members of the California State Athletic Commission voted 5-1 to do as Russell suggested on Tuesday in the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles.
That allows Hopkins to retain his RING light heavyweight championship and maintain his record of never having been knocked out.
Hopkins also retained his WBC 175-pound title when that sanctioning body took it upon itself a few days after the fight to rule it a no-decision. Dawson was left with nothing but bitterness.
“It’s not whether I had a good lawyer or a good team, which I do,” Hopkins said afterward. “It’s about the truth. The tape, the evidence. The right thing happened here. The right thing happened with the WBC.
“This is what is right for boxing.”
A disgusted Dawson doesn’t agree.
“The sport of boxing is deteriorating, as we saw today,” he said. “I don’t really have any feelings about this. I showed up for the fight. I came to fight. I knew what was going to happen in the fight.
“Like I said, the sport is deteriorating because of people like Bernard Hopkins. That’s all I have to say.”
Hopkins and Dawson were engaged in a rough-and-tumble fight when Hopkins missed with a straight right, after which he ended up draped on Dawson’s shoulders because of his momentum.
Dawson reacted by shoving Hopkins off, which sent the 46-year-old to the canvas and apparently injured his shoulder. Hopkins was writhing in pain on the ground when Russell, with advice by ring doctor Pearlman Hicks, stopped the fight.
Dawson was declared the winner by technical knockout because Hopkins couldn’t continue, which Russell ruled wasn’t the result of a foul on Dawson’s part. Hopkins appealed that ruling, which was heard on Tuesday.
Dawson testified in his soft voice that he didn’t shove Hopkins, that he merely straightened up to avoid being pushed the canvas as a result of Hopkins’ roughhouse tactics.
However, video of moment in question seemed to show Dawson throwing Hopkins off of him with his body, principally his right shoulder.
And Eric Melzer, Hopkins’ attorney, seemed to demonstrate that Dawson’s actions constituted a foul – even if he didn’t intend to hurt Hopkins – because it wasn’t a legal move in boxing.
Melzer cited a passage in the California Code of Regulations: “The only fair blow is a blow delivered with the padded knuckle part of the glove on the front or sides of the head and body above the hip line.”
“What happened here cannot be seen as fair under the laws of the state of California. That’s impossible,” Melzer said.
Leon Margules, Dawson’s attorney, suggested that Hopkins wasn’t necessarily injured. If that were the case, it would mean Hopkins refused to continue fighting and could be declared the loser.
And Margules seemed to demonstrate that no concrete evidence exists that proves Hopkins suffered a dislocated or separated shoulder even after a visit to a local hospital immediate after the fight. Dr. Hicks said Hopkins’ medical report indicated some sort of separation but, he said, “There was nothing to back that up in terms of X-rays.”
Hopkins apparently had an MRI later on, as Hicks understands it, but the results were not presented as evidence.
And, obviously, that didn’t matter: The commissioners, as well as Hicks, believed that Hopkins had some sort of injury that legitimately prevented him from fighting after his fall.
The knockout punch at the hearing seemed to be the testimony of Russell.
The veteran ref, who has 27 years experience, awarded Dawson a TKO victory because he believed no foul was committed. However, he acknowledged that he wasn’t in the proper position to see exactly what led to Hopkins’ injury.
Russell still doesn’t believe Dawson’s committed a foul, calling his actions “incidental contact,” but said during dramatic testimony that he now believes he should’ve ruled the fight “no-decision.”
“I did everything by the book,” Russell said afterward. “I called what I saw at the time. … (But) when you don’t have a punch that caused it or an intentional foul that caused it, you have this gray area.
“I think what we ended up with was a championship fight that aborted itself because of the roughhousing. In fairness to everyone, it wasn’t legitimate. There just wasn’t enough there to make a decision.”
That seemed to be enough for the commissioners. Commissioner Van Lemons spoked for the five who voted to overturn the decision when he said: “It wasn’t a fair blow that ended this match. I do agree with Mr. Russell. The fairest thing in my mind is to bring this to a no-decision.”
Dawson’s handlers were shocked by Russell’s testimony, particularly after he filed a report shortly after the fight – but before he saw the video – that seemed to confirm his initial decision.
“Obviously, I’m not happy with their decision,” said Gary Shaw, Dawson’s promoter. “I didn’t think that it was the right decision. I have a lot of respect for the one member [Mike Munoz] who voted to keep the decision the way that it was in light of everybody else. It’s nothing you can do. When Pat Russell ruled that it was a TKO, and then he wrote in his opinion to the attorney general saying that he stands by the TKO, and then he walks in today and he changes his mind totally. That’s what happened. He changes his mind and he says that I think that it should be a no-contest.
“Once that happens, then you know that the writing’s on the wall. You might as well get up and go to the airport. No recourse. The commission says that they believe that the WBC should rule an order for an immediate rematch, but we’ll see what happens.”
Dawson said afterward that he’d love another shot at Hopkins. “Hell yeah,” he said. “Ask him, though. He’ll say yes but he won’t really mean it.”
Hopkins was asked about a possible rematch and served up the standard response: “I’ll talk to my promoter.”
He doesn’t need to. Richard Schaefer, his promoter, made it very clear that Dawson is not near the top of their list of prospective opponents moving forward.
The events that led them to Van Nuys on Tuesday obviously exacerbated any bad blood that existed beforehand. It seems unlikely that these two will ever be friends.
“I’m not interested,” Schaefer said. “I told Bernard, ‘I’ll do any fight you want.’ The only one I don’t’ want is Chad Dawson. The chairman of the commission even said that people don’t want to see them fight because of their styles.
“And, honestly, I don’t want to be on the dais with this guy.”