Bernard Hopkins has made a career of overcoming the odds.
When he met Chad Dawson in October of last year — a fight which Dawson claims he had chased for nearly three years — Hopkins, the perceived underdog, vowed to show his younger adversary the ropes, if not the canvas. But Dawson refused to cooperate, and it was the older man who wound up on the floor and out of the fight, albeit controversially.
Hopkins was diagnosed with a left shoulder separation following what was initially ruled to be a second-round TKO victory for Dawson — and later a no-contest — after Hopkins was shoved to the canvas and deemed unfit to continue by referee Pat Russell.
Although the ruling allowed Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 knockouts) to retain his RING and WBC titles, the 47-year-old will put them on the line yet again against the 29-year-old Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) in Saturday night’s HBO-televised rematch from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
In December of 2010, Hopkins rose from two knockdowns to salvage a draw with former RING light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal in the latter’s native Canada. In his next fight, Hopkins returned to Canada and defeated Pascal by unanimous decision to claim the RING and WBC belts for himself.
In victory over Pascal, Hopkins, then 46, became the oldest man to win a major title in boxing.
For his part, Dawson appears to be determined to demonstrate that the last fight’s ending was the result of more than just a freak injury, having called Hopkins a “punk” and otherwise questioned the titleholder’s heart and intestinal fortitude.
“I’m going to keep saying this: Bernard did not want to be in the ring with me that night,” said Dawson. “I looked into Bernard’s eyes that night and Bernard did not want to be in the ring with me that night.”
Despite the first bout’s abbreviated ending, Dawson thinks he has seen enough to predict not just a win, but the first knockout loss of Hopkins’ career.
“When he looks at me, it’s like, ‘I can’t do nothing with this guy,’” said Dawson, who predicted a sixth-round knockout of Hopkins. “That’s the reality of this fight. I don’t think that he’s going to make it to the finish.”
Dawson’s record includes wins over Tarver, Tomasz Adamek, Glen Johnson and Adrian Diaconu, with his one loss coming by way of an 11th-round technical decision against Pascal in August of 2010.
So will Hopkins’ proven skills and savvy be enough against a determined, athletic and youthful opponent such as Dawson?
RingTV.com gathered the opinions of 18 knowledgeable observers:
Chad Dawson UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: I expect the bout to be a tepid affair, but I think Chad Dawson’s youth, athleticism and precision-punching will be too much for the 47-year-young Bernard Hopkins.
The first third of the bout will be close, and every round will be competitive, but Dawson will edge the cards, settling the drama of the first bout.
Chad Dawson TKO 8 Bernard Hopkins: Bernard Hopkins has surprised us all before, again and again. But when he goes to the locker this time, it may be Old Mother Hubbard time. After returning for supplies time after time, it could finally be bare.
Hopkins’ inimitable style of hit, hold, antagonize, slip and slide, all the time edging rounds, won’t work against Chad Dawson.
No pleasure in writing this. But Father Time — plus speed and power — will catch up with B-Hop in this fight. If Dawson is fit, Hopkins is in for a very rough night. Dawson wins by eighth round TKO
Chad Dawson UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: Whether he’s said it or not, this is the fight Bernard Hopkins hasn’t wanted for quite some time. Chad Dawson is technically sound, has above average activity for the division, and won’t blindly approach him.
That pretty much nullifies what Bernard does at this point, which is capitalize on his opponent’s lulls, hit them and hold. Not much can be taken from the abbreviated outing the first time, but in my opinion, Dawson was making Hopkins fight at a pace he didn’t want to fight at.
He was applying the right kind of pressure. I think he’ll be able to get the win this Saturday. That doesn’t mean Hopkins can’t beat other light heavyweights, or make a miracle run in another division if he gets ambitious. It just means he can’t beat Chad Dawson right now.
Chad Dawson W 12 Bernard Hopkins: I’ll go with youth in the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson rematch. I think the 47-year-old champ, who I believe is an all-time great, will trouble Dawson with his rough and cagey style.
But the younger man will generally outwork him and maybe rock him a few times during an intense boxing match. Dawson by decision.
Chad Dawson UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: Chad Dawson, unanimous decision. Bernard Hopkins has proven me wrong before and I hope he does so again. My heart says Hopkins, mostly because he consistently reminds us that boxing is a thinking man’s sport.
That will be his legacy, one of many. But it is hard to think of a way that Hopkins can win this rematch. If – perhaps a very big if – the athletic Dawson uses his 77-inch reach consistently, it will be hard for Hopkins to get inside for the counter-punching attack that he has employed for so long and so efficiently.
Then, there’s Dawson’s southpaw style. Conventional wisdom dictates that Hopkins circles away and to his left. If he does, however, he’ll circle straight into Dawson’s potent right.
But Hopkins has always shown he can set traps that confuse younger, more athletic fighters and lead away from what they do best. That’s Hopkins’ advantage, but Dawson has the versatility to sidestep several traps. I’m not sure how many more Hopkins has.
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Chad Dawson: In the first fight I chose Chad Dawson because I felt his youth, volume, athleticism and southpaw style would carry the day. However, based on the rather brief time spent together in fight one, Bernard Hopkins showed he could slow Dawson’s work rate down to a comfortable pace just like he had against everybody else in recent years.
Worse yet, Dawson fell under Hopkins’ spell despite an extreme awareness that he had to pick up his work rate to win. Also, Dawson’s recent history suggests he fights at roughly the same rate as his opponent, which is strategic suicide against Hopkins. Unless he has a profound change of temperament, I can’t see Dawson winning this time.
Chad Dawson UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: Bernard Hopkins is one of the best fighters of our era, but this is a young mans game and I believe Chad Dawson will win a unanimous decision.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Bernard Hopkins pulled of the victory though, because he always seems to prove everyone wrong. His drive to win is unbelievable.
Chad Dawson UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: Chad Dawson by unanimous decision. Picking against a motivated Bernard Hopkins usually isn’t the wise choice. But Dawson is too big, too fast, too strong and too young for the 47-year-old Hopkins to beat.
The crafty champion will use every bit of his experience and intelligence to make this a competitive and probably boring fight, but Dawson will leave Boardwalk Hall with the WBC title.
Chad Dawson W 12 Bernard Hopkins: I never, ever, underestimate Bernard Hopkins. The man is way too good and way too smart. But we saw a massive speed difference between them in October when they fought, and I don’t see how Hopkins can cope with that over a long fight. Plus, I think Chad Dawson’s confidence will be buoyed by a strong first-round performance last time.
Chad Dawson W 12 Bernard Hopkins: I like Chad Dawson to defeat Bernard Hopkins via 12-round decision. Wrong style at the wrong time for Hopkins, who has to overcome deficits in speed and range on this night.
Chad Dawson UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: I got Chad Dawson on this one. Bernard Hopkins has proven himself time and again, but it just seemed like the pace of that first fight was already starting to make him uncomfortable while Chad was just getting started.
Chad Dawson is probably the best light heavyweight in the world, regardless what people may say about his quiet demeanor it should have nothing to do with how he is judged as a fighter because he has all the tools.
Youth beats experience in this one, Bernard is a sly and wily veteran though so it will go the distance. Dawson by unanimous decision.
Chad Dawson UD12 Bernard Hopkins: Every time the public tries to push Bernard Hopkins into boxing’s version of a nursing home, he responds with the type of performance that makes you think mankind will colonize Mars before “The Executioner” finally decides to hang them up.
But while his first meeting with Chad Dawson only lasted less than two rounds, it gave me the feeling that the young southpaw’s speed and power would be just enough to overcome Hopkins’ wealth of ring intelligence and guile the second time around.
Chad Dawson KO 9 Bernard Hopkins: We saw just enough to know that 1) Bernard Hopkins has never wanted any part of Chad Dawson, 2) Dawson was a little tight early but warmed up nicely, and, 3) Dawson has no fear of Bernard Hopkins and that confidence has grown exponentially since Hopkins claimed he was injured in their first fight, something that has yet to be proven satisfactorily.
I’m going out on a limb. Hopkins comes out fast, Dawson responds by dropping him. If Hopkins does not go into full retreat and clutch and punch mode, Dawson stops him in nine.
Jack Obermayer, USA Boxing News
Chad Dawson D 12 Bernard Hopkins: A split Draw. This “fight” will be ugly, and thus leaving the judges with glazed eyes, and not enough solid information to go on.
Scores: 115-113 each and 114-114, but you maybe have to leave room for a point deduction for foul play. And thus a disputed decision. Oh well, so goes boxing again.
Chad Dawson W 12 Bernard Hopkins: Chad Dawson by decision. I’m sticking with the same pick as last time. Dawson’s youth, length, and speed should be enough to win what is easy to predict as an ugly fight. Last time, Dawson reacted to a Bernard Hopkins’ foul with a worse one to end the fight.
How will he react this time? That’s the big question. He can’t let Hopkins get into the melodramatic acting that sometimes marks fights where the elder man is concerned about the scoring.
He needs to find a way to make the referee enforce the rules and instead let Hopkins get frustrated with his inability to draw calls.
Chad Dawson UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: I hate to pick against Bernard Hopkins, who has surprised us many times. But I think Chad Dawson is too good and too quick for the old man this time.
Plus, Dawson is angry that their first fight ended up as a no-contest. He’s motivated. Dawson will win a unanimous decision.
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Chad Dawson: Bernard Hopkins always comes up with a way to defy logic when it comes to fights. Felix Trinidad, Jermain Taylor, Kelly Pavlik and Antonio Tarver. Surprises all.
Logic says that Chad Dawson, who is younger and possibly stronger, should get the best of Hopkins. But you never pick against the old man. Hopkins by decision.
Chad Dawson W 12 Bernard Hopkins: I have Chad Dawson by decision. Ten years ago, Bernard Hopkins would have won this convincingly, but I think Dawson is catching Hopkins at the right time.
The experts favor the youthful exuberance of Chad Dawson to dethrone the veteran Bernard Hopkins, 15-2, with one man believing that it will end in a draw.
Photos by Jeff Fusco, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Scott Foster, Fightwireimages.com
Photo by Ed Mulholland, Fightwireimages.com
Photos by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org