Dawson: No doubt I'll beat Hopkins

Dawson
Dawson
Posted: October 14, 2011

HE IS the opponent hardly anyone wanted for the latest installment of Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins' continuing march into boxing history.

When the 46-year-old Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) defends his WBC and The Ring magazine light-heavyweight championships against former 175-pound titlist "Bad" Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) tomorrow night in Los Angeles' Staples Center, it won't be because there was mounting public pressure to make the match. For global appeal, Hopkins-Dawson doesn't carry nearly the clout that a potential pairing of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. would.

But now that it's finally here, after years of wrangling by representatives of both sides, a larger question emerges: Did Hopkins avoid fighting Dawson, 29, in the past because he perceived him as too great a threat to his living-legend status, or because there were bigger, more profitable fish to fry than the skilled-but-drab southpaw from Hartford, Conn.?

Hopkins, who grew up tough in the Badlands of North Philadelphia, scoffed at the suggestion that he ever ran scared of Dawson.

"I duck no one," Hopkins said.

Dawson, who said he has been "chasing" Hopkins for 3 years, begs to disagree. He claims B-Hop has avoided him as if he carried a communicable disease, and took this fight only because he would be stripped of his newly won WBC championship belt if he declined to do so.

"I don't see any way he can beat me," the soft-spoken Dawson said of Hopkins, who is anything but. "I've thought that for the past 3 years. I still think it. He wouldn't be fighting me now unless he was forced into it."

Jean Pascal is the conduit through which Hopkins and Dawson were brought together, although no one could have known it at the time. After Pascal upset Dawson on an 11-round technical decision on Aug. 14, 2010, thus retaining his WBC title and claiming the vacant Ring belt, he grabbed the microphone and announced to the world that, yes, he'd like to kick Bernard Hopkins' butt next.

"I jumped up out of my rocker and nearly spilled my hot chocolate," Hopkins, who constantly pokes fun at his elder-statesman image, said of his reaction to Pascal calling him out on worldwide television.

The first time Hopkins and Pascal squared off, on Dec. 18, 2010, in Quebec City, Pascal held onto his titles with a controversial majority draw, the third judge scoring the fight for Hopkins, as did most observers. The WBC did the right thing and ordered an immediate rematch, with the provision that the winner proceed directly to Dawson, who was Pascal's mandatory challenger and had agreed to temporarily step aside so Pascal-Hopkins II could be made.

Hopkins then proceeded to tune up Pascal as if he were an off-key piano on May 21 in Montreal, displacing George Foreman as the oldest fighter to win a widely recognized world championship. Just like that B-Hop was again one of boxing's hottest growth properties, more than 16 years after he won his first world title.

Except that he was already locked in for what many anticipate will be an exercise in boxing tedium against Dawson, another fundamentally sound fighter who isn't much for chest-thumping and bold predictions.

"When Chad goes to a restaurant, nobody knows he's there and he couldn't care less," said Gary Shaw, Dawson's promoter. "You have to prod him to talk."

If you expect Dawson to berate B-Hop as a geezer whose time has come and gone, you're apt to be somewhat disappointed. Trash-talking is not Dawson's way.

"I give Bernard all the respect in the world," Dawson said. "I grew up watching Bernard Hopkins. He's a great fighter. I take nothing away from him. But we know everything he's going to do. He's not the busiest puncher. If he throws 30 punches a round, I'm going to throw 80, 90 or 100. And while I'm not the biggest knockout artist, I do feel I have the strength to hurt him."

In some ways, Dawson is a chameleon, changing trainers the way people change underwear. After having Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward as his chief second for his most recent bout, a 12-round unanimous decision on the same night Hopkins dethroned Pascal, he has gone back to his original trainer and fellow Hartford resident, John "Ice" Scully. Dawson also has worked with Dan Birmingham, Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad.

The latest corner change reportedly occurred because Steward wanted Dawson to train in Detroit while Dawson preferred to stay closer to home and set up camp in the Poconos.

Dawson also brought in Winky Wright, who lost a one-sided decision to Hopkins on July 21, 2007, because he said Wright "knows all of Bernard's tricks."

Hopkins seems bemused by the rearrangement of Dawson's corner team, if a bit disappointed that he and his lead trainer, Brother Naazim Richardson, won't get the opportunity to match wits with Steward.

"He got rid of the great Emanuel Steward and hired Winky Wright?" Hopkins asked, feigning amazement. "He actually hired Stinky Winky? The Winky Wright I sent into retirement?

"I don't see how in hell Winky Wright can give Dawson any advice about Bernard Hopkins, other than how to get himself beat up. But you know what? It won't make any difference once the bell rings. It'll just be me and him in there then."

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