OAKLAND, Calif. – Andre Ward and Chad Dawson met on Monday at the Courtside Club in Oracle Arena to formally announce an unprecedented fight – RING champion vs. RING champion.
The super middleweight and light heavyweight kingpins will face off Sept. 8 at the same building in Oakland, Calif., at 168 pounds for Ward’s strap. HBO will televise and is heavily-hyping the fight, billed “Made in America.” Plans call for a 24/7: Road to Ward-Dawson one-off, an edition of “Face-Off” and an episode of 2 Days: Portrait of a Fighter on Ward.
“We’re treating it as a big fight on our network,” said Kery Davis, V.P. of Programming for HBO Sports. “You can’t ask for much better in terms of athleticism, in terms of what we expect in the ring, in terms of competitiveness. You will get a big fight treatment from HBO, because this fight deserves it.”
Dawson, who recently defeated Bernard Hopkins to wrest away the 175-pound championship, called out Ward in the ring following his victory in Atlantic City, N.J. The 29-year-old from New Haven, Conn. even said he would be willing to drop to 168 for the chance to simultaneously hold two RING crowns. Not long after, the bout was made. It is Dawson (31-1, 17 knockouts) who made both concessions – agreeing to fight at Ward’s weight and his hometown. He believes this is the first time in his career he will be the underdog. And he relishes the role.
“It’s going to be a Ward crowd, but I’ve never strayed away from a challenge,” said Dawson, whose only loss came to Jean Pascal in 2010. “I went to Canada two times, I’m not scared of some boos. “I’m looking to go out and prove something that everyone thought I never had, and that’s that killer instinct. I’m happy to be in a fight of this magnitude.”
Ward (25-0, 13 knockouts) is quick to point out that although he has the hometown advantage and the fight is being contested at his natural weight, Dawson has advantages of his own.
“The height advantage is in his favor, the reach advantage is in his favor,” said Ward, who won the gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games. “But it’s nothing I haven’t dealt with before. He’s a tall order, literally and figuratively. That just adds to the intrigue of the fight. We have the next two months to come up with a plan that’s gonna chop this tree down.”
Furthermore, the 28-year-old from Oakland, Calif. says making 168 is no picnic for himself and he envisions a light heavyweight campaign seven pounds north in the not-so-distant future. He even thinks he could be at heavyweight one day, provided he didn’t face fighters “the size of Klitschko.”
“I don’t know how many more fights I have at ’68, but I definitely want to be a multi-divisional champion,” said Ward. “I realistically think before my career’s over I can have a fight at heavyweight.”
“This is a talent fight – two guys with supreme skills,” said Dawson’s trainer “Ice” John Scully. And no one will argue that. But most observers anticipate anything but a crowd-pleasing fight. In fact, a downright tepid affair is expected given the styles of the two combatants. For a crossover star to emerge from this bout, the general sentiment is the fight needs to be exciting.
Ward disagrees. He points to Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was recently named the world’s highest-paid athlete by Forbes — a fighter who became a PPV star despite his lack of thrilling brawls.
“[Critics always said] ‘Oh he’s not a draw.’ ‘Oh, he can’t hit.‘ ‘Nobody wants to watch him fight.’ He’s breaking pay-per-view records right now. I just have to continue to be myself.”
Dawson also doesn’t seem bothered when queried about his lack of action fights. As long as he wins, that is.
“They’ve been saying it about me my whole career, so it doesn’t bother me at all,” said Dawson. “At the end of the day, I’m one of the best fighters in the world. I’m a three-time world champion — I do what I have to do to win. It’s all about winning. As long as I’m winning, I’m happy.”
Dawson said holding two RINGS belts at the same time would mean “the world.”
“It would mean more recognition,” Dawson continued. “It would solidify my spot as one of the top pound for pound in the game.”
Dawson’s promoter Gary Shaw said his fighter would decide which RING belt he would relinquish within 10 days of the fight. But if Ward has his way, there won’t be any decision for Dawson to make.
“It’s a big deal,” Ward said of fighting another RING champion. “In the midst of all the hoopla, in the midst of fighting at home … it’s about getting it done. I’m locked in on executing, come fight night.”
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Photos / Alexis Cuarezma-Goossen Tutor and Naoki Fukuda