ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – The first bout was marred in controversy, the dubious ending coming when Chad Dawson threw Bernard Hopkins off of him in the second round, leaving the future hall of famer with a dislocated shoulder which was ruled a TKO but later ruled a no contest. For as short as the first match was, it was uneventful in terms of action.
The rematch left off where the first fight ended, another foul-filled bout with sparse action, but this go-around there was a clear victor, as Dawson controlled the tepid 12-round affair to a majority decision victory, winning THE RING light heavyweight championship from the 47-year-old living legend in an HBO-televised bout before 7,005 at the Boardwalk Hall.
One judge tallied 114-114, but was overruled by two reasonable scores of 117-111. Judge Luis Rivera, who ruled the bout a draw, somehow had Hopkins winning going into the championship rounds, before scoring the 11th and 12th for the challenger.
Dawson, 29, used his southpaw jab, youth and superior athleticism to befuddle “The Executioner” from the opening bell. He was the aggressor throughout the contest. Whereas Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 knockouts) was content to use lateral movement and occasionally jump in with a flurry, before clinching.
The rounds were competitive, but fairly easy to score, as Hopkins simply didn’t throw enough punches, more willing to lead with his head and tackle the New Haven, Conn., native.
The CompuBox numbers properly portrayed the landscape of the bout. Hopkins threw a paltry 400 punches, landing just 106. Dawson wasn’t much better, throwing 431 and landing 151.
With the loss and poor performance, this could be the end of Hopkins as a relevant fighter, but Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer thinks Hopkins has reason to fight on, stating “he still is the biggest name in the light heavyweight division.”
Dawson was proud of his performance, crediting Hopkins for his legacy, but also disappointed with the amount of fouls the old-school fighter committed.
“My head is hurting from all the head butts,” said Dawson. “He’s a future hall of famer. He’s a helluva fighter, but he’s a dirty fighter. If you can get through 12 rounds with him you can get through anything. He fought his heart out. I’m the younger guy; I had to be the aggressor. I had to keep my composure even with all the head butts.”
Dawson’s trainer, former light heavyweight title challenger “Ice” John Scully, was happy with the way his fighter executed the game-plan: pressing the fight and being the aggressor.
“He is a master of old-school tactics,” said Scully. “It’s almost impossible to knock him out, but when we turned up the pressure we knew were going to win the fight.”
Predictably, Hopkins felt he deserved the decision.
“What did he do to win that fight?” Hopkins queried. “They did what they wanted to do. I knew the only way I would win that was to knock him out. Let the public judge for themselves.”
But the public likely saw what two of the three judges viewed: an aggressive Dawson and a fighter in Hopkins who seemed shy in the ring.
The first round was a precursor to how the bout would play out, with very little action. Round two was more of the same, with lots of feints but few punches thrown. Hopkins head-butted Dawson and jumped on him, reminiscent of the first bout.
Thereafter, Dawson opened up the attack. And the fouls continued. Referee Eddie Cotton had to warn both for various fouls in the third, while Hopkins began to be more aggressive, but only in spurts.
In the fourth, a Hopkins head butt created a nasty gash over Dawson’s left brow that poured blood. Hopkins taunted Dawson then landed a combination that stung the young challenger. Dawson landed a few power shots, buoyed by the emotional juices flowing from the head butt which was ruled accidental.
The southpaw began to find his groove in round five, though. He came out firing at the opening bell, bullying Hopkins to the ropes and unloading with body shots.
Dawson, whose only loss came to former champ Jean Pascal in 2010, appeared to stun Hopkins with a right to the body in the sixth but didn’t follow-up.
THE RING’s No. 2-reated light heavyweight landed a nice combination in the eighth round, as he continued to press the action. He pinned Hopkins to the ropes and unloaded, but the punches never took a toll on his foe. Another clash of heads opened up a cut over Dawson’s right brow.
Hopkins landed a quick uppercut on the inside in round 10 that sent Hopkins flying into the corner and momentarily stunned, but once again Dawson didn’t capitalize.
Dawson probably didn’t win many new fans with the performance, but he sets himself up for some meaningful fights in the near future.
Dawson called out THE RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward after the bout.
“I did what I came to do – get my belts back,” said Dawson. “I would love to fight Andre Ward; I’m ready to make another statement.”
At 47, where Hopkins goes from here is less certain.
Mike Coppinger is a regular contributor to USA TODAY’s boxing coverage and compiles the “Ringside Reports” for THE RING Magazine monthly. He is a member of the BWAA and the Yahoo! Sports Boxing Panel. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger. Write to him: firstname.lastname@example.org
Images by Naoki Fukuda