ATLANTIC CITY– Chad Dawson was on the scale first, stepping off after being announced at 174 1/2 pounds during Friday’s pre-fight weigh-in in the lobby of Caesar’s Hotel and Casino.
Next up was 47-year-old RING/WBC champion Bernard Hopkins. Wearing black spandex and nothing else, Hopkins was jeered by one of the 200 or so observers as being “100 years old” before tipping the scales at 173 1/2.
Then came the wait. As Hopkins re-dressed, Dawson wondered if the older fighter would participate in the customary post-weigh-in staredown after having refused to do so following a New York press conference touting Saturday’s rematch at Boardwalk Hall.
This time, however, Hopkins approached Dawson and stood nearly nose-to-nose and eye-to-eye with his younger adversary for a few, tense seconds. The stone-faced Hopkins was the first to step away, nodding and glaring at Dawson before turning and leaving the stage.
“You never know with Bernard. At first it looked like he didn’t really want to do it,” said Dawson, 29, who has accused Hopkins of being afraid to look straight into his eyes since their controversial first meeting in October. “But I think that with all of the fans here, that he felt like he had to do it and that he was obligated to do it, so he did it.”
In a match that is being billed “Once And For All,” Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 knockouts) will defend his light heavyweight belts in an HBO-televised rematch with Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs), who has consistently questioned Hopkins’ intestinal fortitude since their initial bout.
That fight ended in a no-contest after Hopkins was shoved to the canvas and deemed unfit to continue by referee Pat Russell. Hopkins was diagnosed with a left shoulder separation following what was initially ruled to be a second-round TKO victory for Dawson, but later changed to no-contest ruling by the California State Athletic Commission, which allowed Hopkins to retain his belts.
But in returning to Boardwalk Hall, Hopkins is back at the site of two of his biggest career victories. He was the perceived underdog before defeating Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik at the same venue.
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 vanquishing Pascal, Hopkins, then 46, became the oldest man to earn a major boxing belt.
“I know he is not going to come after me. I have to take the fight to him. I am not the same young fighter as Pavlik or Pascal,” said Dawson.
“They don’t have the same options that I have in the ring. I can box, switch up. He is not going to get into my head. Mind games don’t work with me.”
But Hopkins said he was in his “comfort zone” as the underdog during a Thursday roundtable interview with the media.
“My motivation has always been adversity. If things are too good, I’m suspicious. If things are too good, I’m worried. If things happen the way that it’s supposed to happen, that’s something I’m not used to,” said Hopkins.
“It’s like taking a kid who has been in a rough environment and then you put him in Beverly Hills. That’s the same way I feel when I’m not the underdog. So right now, I’m at my comfort zone.”
Where Dawson said he saw “no fire” in the eyes of Hopkins during their first fight, he is hoping that things are different this time.
“He looked a little mad and upset today,” said Dawson. “But we’ll take care of that tomorrow night.”