He’s starting to get it.
Chad Dawson, a nice young man from Connecticut, is learning that it’s helpful to have a bit of bite in your game, verbally, if you want to carve out a name for yourself.
Of course, it helps to have a nice parcel of skills, including hand speed, solid punch placement, good foot movement.
Fight fans like all those things as they search for boxers who can replace the Generation X superstars who are edging ever closer to hammock time. But the ability to talk the talk, as well as walk it, is as important as it ever was.
In this era, with the internet taking over as the repository for boxing coverage, and with so many sites out there providing content, a fighter has to cut through the jumble of words, the unedited conference call transcripts, and boilerplate releases. It appears that Dawson, the 25-year-old southpaw who took the WBC light heavyweight crown from Tomasz Adamek last February (UD12), has come to comprehend that ideally the mouth should act in concert with the fists to build the bank account.
He now knows that he has to inject an air of drama, before the fight, with some trash talking. He knows that he needs to stir it up, and help manufacture interest in a bout, rather than wait for a manager, or a promoter, or fans on message boards, to do it for him.
Nicknames are nice. “Bad Chad.” “Awesome Dawson.” But catchy nicknames are a slim sliver of the overall pie. A fighter has to have the goods in the ring, of course, but this society is as much transfixed by drama, real or manufactured, as it has ever been. “Reality TV” is the television equivalent of McDonald’s—cheap fare, satisfying to ingest, but at the end of the day, a nutritional strikeout. We consume news of this starlet in rehab, or that one’s sextape, instead of taking in news of substance. That is our bed, we’ve made it, and a sportsman has to contend with that collective mindset and give the people what they want.
For sure, there are exceptions.
Manny Pacquiao isn’t prone to conference call blowups, or offering much in the way of witty putdowns of foes, and still has an army of followers. But a young gun, looking to scratch his way up in a tweener division, like 175, would be well advised to talk some trash, if they want to collect the cash.
On a recent call to hype his April 12th Showtime fight against another Gen X holdover hitter, Glen Johnson, Dawson started off with the typical remarks one would expect from a relative newbie taking on a rock-solid ring mechanic.
“Everybody knows Glen Johnson is a tough fighter,” Dawson said. “But I'm here, and I'm going to be on my ‘A’ game. Training has been going great. I’ve been training for seven weeks, and I've been ready for the past two weeks. I'm definitely looking forward to taking on Glen Johnson in the fight. He is real aggressive, but it's basically all about me being in tip top shape. I have the skill, I have the talent. I'm in shape, and I've got my ‘A’ game. I'm not worried about anything. I just let my hands do the talking.”
Then Dawson gave a requisite “I’m just so honored to be mentioned in the same breath with these legends” soundbite, not the sort of rhetoric you want to hear from a newbie who is frothing at the mouth to supplant long-in-the-tooth stalwarts.
“I'm just fortunate enough to be a young guy in the Top 10 with these guys,” he said. “Antonio Tarver has had a great career, Glen Johnson's had a great career. Roy Jones Jr., has had a great career. I'm just honored to be mentioned among those names.”
Not the route to go when you are trying to convince fans and suits that you should be replacing those boldface names with strong legacies. But don’t worry, Dawson got heated up a little later, and started slingin’ smack. The smack was directed not at his foe, but a boxer who he’d been flirting with for two years now, Antonio Tarver. That Tarver was his target is understandable, as Johnson is a consummate gent, and anyone would be hard pressed to summon up enough bile to spew at The Road Warrior.
Interestingly, Dawson hit Tarver below the belt after Johnson went a tad south of the border himself.
“In Tarver's last couple of fights, I wasn't impressed at all,” Johnson said when asked if he liked Tarver or Clinton Woods in their April 12th co-feature from Tampa. “So I would give Clinton Woods an edge, based on that. But Tarver is able to come out and fight, so we'll see what happens on the 12th.”
Then Dawson followed the old dog’s lead, lifted his leg, and marked his turf.
“In Tarver's last two fights, he has shown nothing,” Dawson said. “He's like a dead fighter to me. Clinton Woods is not going to back up and he's not going to back down. Like I said, Tarver looks like a dead man to me.”
There we go! Now we’re talking.’ Talkin’ smack that is, Grade A- trash talk (not in Miranda's or Hopkins' league) ready made for cutting and pasting for drama hounds like me.
Dawson’s career arc will be dependent on his skills, but also his mouth’s ability to pay the bills. It’s looking like he’s learning the lesson that in rings skills pay the bills, but a mouth can manufacture bigger bouts, and bigger bills.