Chad Dawson: One might be tempted to focus on the negatives in Dawson’s majority-decision victory over Bernard Hopkins on Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J. Boring fight. Dawson’s relative inactivity. The fact his 47-year-old opponent was competitive. The new RING light heavyweight champ probably didn’t make a lot of fans. Stop and think about what he did, though: Dawson (31-1, 17 knockouts) became the first fighter to decisively outpoint Hopkins since Roy Jones Jr. in 1993, 19 years ago. And this is still a capable version of Hopkins, even if he has lost something to the years. He still has good reflexes. He moves well. And, most important, he’s as clever as ever. That includes playing rough (dirty?) at times, which can make anyone’s night miserable. And, still, the younger man emerged with a one-sided victory and both the RING and WBC 175-pounds belts, an excellent night’s work even if we weren’t enthralled.
Bernard Hopkins: B-Hop is anything but a loser. The man is 47 years old and was competitive in defeat to the best light heavyweight in the world, who happens to be a lot faster and 18 years younger than he is. We are right to marvel at what he is able to do at his age. Of course, that’s no consolation to Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs). He hadn’t lost since he was narrowly outpointed by Joe Calzaghe in 2008. And, again, he hadn’t lost decisively in almost two decades. Indeed, a moral victory – if that’s what this was – means nothing to Hopkins. So what now? This isn’t how Hopkins will want to go out. I think he demonstrated that he can still fight on an elite level, a notion with which he would agree. He’ll probably continue to fight. And if he’s matched against an opponent more suited to his current ability, don’t be surprised if he wins next time.
Mitchell-Witherspoon: No one would suggest we saw a great exhibition of the sweet science but it was sure fun to watch. Seth Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) was hurt so badly by a series of hard punches from Chazz Witherspoon (30-3, 22 KOs) in the first round that he seemed to be finished. We all were thinking the same thing: “So much for the compelling football player-turned-heavyweight.” Somehow he survived – fitness, guts, instinct – and immediately turned the tables, using a ferocious attack to the head and body to take Witherspoon out late in the third round. It was heavyweight action at its most breathtaking. Neither fighter is a threat to the Klitschko brothers – who is? – but we should be grateful for the show they gave us on the Dawson-Hopkins undercard. No one knows how far Mitchell will go but he will never cheat the fans.
Mitchell vs. a Klitschko: Everyone should be impressed with Mitchell’s ability to survive a near-knockout to stop a fighter as experienced as Witherspoon. He undoubtedly made legions of fans on Saturday. We shouldn’t get carried away, though. Witherspoon demonstrated in a dominating first round just how far Mitchell must go to become a complete heavyweight, one who could compete against the best in the business. Mitchell was outboxed and ultimately hurt badly because he lacked the skills to prevent it, something that could spell his doom against a better opponent. He’s fit, strong, athletic and fierce but is still developing as a boxer. Mitchell (25-0-1, 19 KOs) needs more time to work on his craft before anyone even thinks about matching him with the giants from Ukraine, unless a big payday is your only objective. Mitchell vs. Chris Arreola? Love it. The Klitschkos? No.
Paulie Malignaggi: Consider what Malignaggi did in his ninth-round TKO of Vyacheslav Senchenko on Sunday in Ukraine: He traveled halfway around the world to the hometown of an undefeated and naturally bigger titleholder and beat him convincingly to the WBA welterweight title. Not bad for a 31-year-old who has been written off more than once. OK, Senchenko (31-1, 21 KOs) isn’t exactly Floyd Mayweather Jr. He’s solid, though. He has a very good jab and boxes well overall. And Malignaggi, as slick as ever and comfortable at 147 pounds, outboxed the hometown boy. The Brooklyn product even revealed a killer instinct, zeroing in on Senchenko’s puffy eye after it became a factor midway through the fight and made it worse. The injury ultimately prompted referee Steve Smoger to stop the fight. Malignaggi (31-4, 7 KOs) should be very proud of himself. He fought like a champion.
Roman Gonzalez: It’s a shame that small fighters from outside the borders of the United States are generally overlooked here. Take Gonzalez. The Nicaraguan junior flyweight is an absolute terror, a heat-seeking missile that might take a turn or two but inevitably destroys its target. Gonzalez (32-0, 27 KOs) was at it again on Saturday, stopping Roman Garcia Hirales in four rounds to retain his WBA title in Pomona, Calif. Hirales (16-4-1, 9 KOs) is a good fighter who gave his all but ultimately collapsed under the frightening pressure Gonzalez applies. I think of Michael Carbajal and Chiquita Gonzalez, great little fighters from the past, when I watch Roman Gonzalez fight. I only hope that he receives the credit they garnered during their careers.
Seth Mitchell, comparing his wobbly legs when he was hurt to a dance popular with young people: “I did the Stanky Legg a little bit.”
Follow Michael Rosenthal on Twitter @MichalRosenthal