Super middleweight champion Andre Ward will attempt to defend his RING, WBC and WBA betls against RING/WBC light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson on Sept. 8 in an HBO-televised clash of two of the sport’s premiere fighters.
Both gifted athletes, Ward is rated No. 5 among THE RING’s pound-for-pound best, with Dawson being No. 10. They will meet on Ward’s turf in Oakland, Calif., and at his weight of 168 pounds.
A 2004 Olympic gold medalist, Ward (25-0, 13 knockouts) unanimously decisioned Carl Froch to add the Englishman’s's WBC super middleweight belt to the WBA crown that he already owned, in addition to earning him the Showtime Super Six World Boxing Classic Cup and THE RING’s vacant title.
Ward more or less brutalized his Super Six opposition, out-pointing former four-time beltholder Mikkel Kessler, once-beaten contender Allan Green and former middleweight titleholder Arthur Abraham. Prior to facing Abraham, Ward waged war with Sakio Bika over 12 rounds in a non-tournament bout.
Ward fought through a broken left hand to defeat Froch, later being named Fighter of The Year for 2011 and the recipient of the Sugar Ray Robinson Trophy from the Boxing Writers’ Association of America. Ward’s corner man, Virgil Hunter, was named to receive the Eddie Futch Award for Trainer of The Year from the BWAA.
“I know, coming from my end, Andre Ward is not a boring fighter,” said Hunter. “When you dominate, he could appear boring, but when we talk about action, he’s an action fighter, without a doubt.”
A 30-year-old southpaw out of New Haven, Conn., Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) has vanquished a strong list of fighters in his own right, and is coming off a majority decision win that dethroned the legendary Bernard Hopkins as RING and WBC light heavyweight champion in April.
Dawson considers the Hopkins bout to have been his most difficult, even as he has two wins each over Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, as well as one each over Tomasz Adamek and Adrian Diaconu, and the one loss by an 11th-round technical decision against ex-beltholder Jean Pascal in August of 2010.
Still, there are questions about Dawson’s heart, given the belief that he had an opportunity to finish off Pascal, but did not.
“I’m surprised that, after seeing Chad in the first fight with Glen Johnson, the way that he responded like a warrior, I think that a lot of people think that it’s a weakness in him,” said Dawson’s trainer, John Scully.
“But I’ve read where people have said, ‘oh man, Andre’s going. to get inside,’ and, ‘he’s going to do this and that.’ I actually think, and Chad can tell you better, but I think that Chad wants him to come like that.”
“The fact of the matter is, and I know this from knowing Chad since he was a kid, there is so much talent and power and explosiveness that the fact is he’s never shown,” said Scully.
“Chad hasn’t had to show it because he’s won the majority of these fights so easily, so I think it could very well turn into the fight people want to see. I think contrary to the belief of some people, I think it’s going to favor Chad if it turns into that kind of fight.”
Regardless of whether or not Ward-Dawson is a knock-down, drag-out affair, however, Hunter believes that it will be a classic.
“There’s always got to be a certain — to me — a division of fans who are going to appreciate what boxing is truly all about,” Hunter said. “There’s also going to be those fans who really don’t understand boxing and can’t get a grasp of what this sport truly is, unless they see something that they consider exciting today, in terms of a hundred head shots landing within five rounds, and bloody noses and busted eyes and things like that. It is what it is, but I expect a great fight.”
Do the experts agree? RingTV.com culled the opinions of 14 insiders for their thoughts on what will transpire on Saturday night:
Andre Ward UD 12 Chad Dawson: Andre Ward has a couple of key advantages. Chad Dawson’s height and reach figure to be an early puzzle for Ward.
But there’s not much that Ward hasn’t seen in his rise to pound-for-pound contender. He’s a quick read, a problem solver.
By the fourth or fifth round, the guess is that Ward will have calculated the range and timing he’ll need to first offset and then overcome Dawson, who might tire in the later rounds in front of a pro-Ward crowd in Oakland, Calif.
Dawson is coming down in weight, from 175 pounds to 168. That might leave him depleted of energy at a time when he needs it the most.
Andre Ward W 12 Chad Dawson: First I have to applaud Andre Ward and Chad Dawson for fighting each other, because boxing should be about the best fighting the best, and that’s what we have here in this fight.
Although I think Chad Dawson is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, I think Andre, who is also pound-for-pound one of the best, is going to pull off a split decision.
I think Chad will win the early rounds, but Andre will make the proper adjustments and come down the stretch to pull off the victory.