But in the aftermath of his majority decision that dethroned Hopkins as RING and WBC light heavyweight champion at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday, the 29-year-old southpaw had nothing but praise for the man whose roughhouse trickery had left him with deep cuts over his eyes.
“You’re a legend. I don’t care what anybody says. You fought a helluva fight tonight,” Dawson (31-1, 17 knockouts) said of his 47-year-old adversary, who slipped to 52-6-2, with 32 knockouts. “It was not an easy fight. It was a helluva fight. It was a great fight. You’re definitely a legend in my book.”
Dawson-Hopkins II was a return bout from the one at Staples Center in Los Angeles. 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.
The second ruling, by the California boxing commission, allowed Hopkins to retain his RING and WBC titles, which he brought with him on Saturday night. Long after many media members had left the press conference, Hopkins allowed Dawson and three of his four, young sons to pose with his belts.
“One thing I was paying attention to was Chad Dawson’s three sons. I know they’re going to grow up to be as big as me one of these days. Chad Dawson deserves to be where he’s at,” said Hopkins.
“He fought a helluva fight, and he dug down and I dug down. I hope that he represents it as I tried to represent it. I know that he will do well and that he will give anybody fits. At the end of the day, I really wish the brother right. I wish the brother well.”
THE JUDGES CARDS
Judges Steve Weisfeld and Richard Flaherty scored the fight for Dawson, 117-111, while Luis Rivera had it even at 114-114.
Dawson and Hopkins, of course, had different views of Rivera’s card, which was read first.
“I was shocked. I thought I won the majority of the rounds,” said Dawson. “I thought there were maybe two or three rounds that he picked up he might have stolen, but I guess that’s what that judge saw. But the other two judges, they got it right.”
What was Hopkins’s initial reaction to Rivera’s verdict?
“I said, ‘Damn, I got to fight this cruiserweight again?’ I thought it was closer than the other judges had it, but that’s neither here nor there. We’re here to fight, you all are here to watch,” said Hopkins.
“I was like, ‘Aw, a draw, that means I can’t get out of this guy’s life, and he can’t get out of mine.’ Within seconds, that’s what I thought of the 114-114. I thought, ‘We got to talk bad about each other for another six months.'”
Shaw was disappointed.
“I don’t like to criticize judges. But I don’t know how Luis Rivera could have seen that fight as an even fight. There’s not a chance. The problem is that it doesn’t help boxing,” said Shaw.
“Boxing fans have eyes, and they can look and judge who won. It wasn’t that close. But he was one of three judges. Two had it right. At the end of the day, that’s all that counts.”
HOPKINS’ BEST PUTS DAWSON TO THE TEST
This time, Hopkins could not overcome the younger man, unlike when he was the perceived underdog before scoring victories over Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik, the last two in Atlantic City.
Nor could Hopkins summon the two efforts he was able to execute against former RING light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal. In December of 2010, Hopkins rose from two knockdowns to salvage a draw with Pascal in the latter’s native Canada, and then returned to Canada for the rematch to defeat Pascal by unanimous decision to become the oldest man to win a major boxing title at age 46.
Dawson called Hopkins his most difficult fight, including victories over two wins over Tarver and Glen Johnson, one each over Tomasz Adamek and Adrian Diaconu, and the one loss by an 11th-round technical decision against Pascal in August of 2010.
“That was the most difficult fight that I’ve been in during my career. The first time I fought Glen Johnson, I fought through adversity. I was hurt and really rocked for the first time, but this right here, if I can make it through this, I can make it through anything. This guy is a legend. He’s going to be in the Hall of Fame, and I’m just pleased that I can say that I was in the ring with him,” said Dawson.
“I was in the ring with a legend tonight, and I look like I’m the one who took the beating. I mean, look at my face. I feel if any fighter could make it through that, I can make it through anything. It was definitely difficult to try to keep my composure. He’s a very, very intelligent fighter in the ring. I think that he would beat any other young guy coming up. I think he helped me to raise my stature to another level.”
IS ANDRE WARD NEXT FOR DAWSON?
Dan Goossen, the promoter of RING super middleweight and WBA champion Andre Ward (25-0, 13 KOs), told RingTV.com on Thursday that he would consider fighting the winner between Dawson and Hopkins.
“If Dawson beats Hopkins, that would be a great fight…” said Goossen. “Those are the types of challenges Andre likes.”
Not long after Dawson challenged Ward in the ring during his post-fight interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman, Ward responded on his Twitter account.
“Why is my Twitter blowing up?” wrote Ward. “Y’all know how the game goes. We can get it done!”
During the post-fight press conference, Dawson re-iterated his willingness to drop weight if it means facing Ward.
“Right now, I’ll fight anybody. I’ll go to 168 or I’ll stay at 175. I’m not saying that I would prefer to come out of my comfort zone, which is 175, but I can make 168,” said Dawson.
“I come into camp at about 178 pounds. I know that I look bigger than what everybody thinks. I could make 168 or I could stick around at 175. But I’m just looking for some big fights.”
HOPKINS NOT LIKELY TO RETIRE
Met with the question of what he has left to prove in the sport, Hopkins was unclear about whether or not he will retire.
“If you think tonight is the night that my swan song was sung, no, because I believe that there are a lot of people out there who won’t fight me. They’ve already said that. It all depends on the motivation,” said Hopkins, who would like to face southpaw IBF super middleweight beltholder, Lucian Bute.
“If the motivation is Bute, then it’s something significant where I can prove again that I’m worthy of not only being the king of a division. As fars as tonight being a night where I say that it was great, it was fun, it was hard, it was hard, it was a struggle, I’m done? I’m going to have to look at the whole landscape. I will figure out what I want to do and what I want to do.”
Hopkins said he wants to leave the game with “dignity.”
“There’s a lot of times I could have left. The Tarver fight. The Pascal fight. The Kelly Pavlik fight. The fight tonight. But to make a decision after the fact, I don’t feel like I embarrassed myself,” said Hopkins.
“I don’t feel like I really looked old tonight. You seen a 47-year-old fight his a– off with a young, strong worthy champion. We’ll see what it is. Right now, I feel good.”
Photos by Tom Hogan, Hogan photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com