(From Left to Right) WBC and Ring Magazine Light Heavyweight World Champion Bernard Hopkins, Albert Cadabra of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum and former Light Heavyweight World Champion Chad Dawson (right) pose on August 9, 2011 in New York City at a press conference to officially announce Hopkins’ and Dawson’s October 15, 2011 world title fight at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. (Hogan)
Some fightwriters look forward to press conferences about as much as they do visits to the dentists. Promoters droning on about this stellar matchup, and that marvelous advertising partner can indeed start sounding as repetitive as the drill when you've got a cavity to fill. But I've always enjoyed Bernard Hopkins at press conferences. The Philly native is a skilled orator, owns the room when he's at the mike, and I like to try and dissect his speeches, try and discern when he's indulging in trashtalking, or is engaging in psychological warfare.
There was some of each at BB King's in NYC on Tuesday afternoon, as Hopkins, who turns 47 in January, swung in to town to promote his Oct. 15 HBO PPV clash with Chad Dawson. It was Hopkins who had to carry most of the weight to try and create more buzz around this fight, as Dawson, most known for his technical chops as a pugilist, not as a promoter, didn't try and up the ante in the talk realm.
Now, there are some that feel this scrap is sort of an oversimmered stew. Dawson's cred has slipped a bit from three years ago, when he first started to try and lure Hopkins into a bout. The Connecticut fighter has dealt with managerial, promotional and family squabbles since then, and no one is quite sure if he peaked back in 2008, or has moved beyond his August 2010 title loss to Jean Pascal. Some question his level of desire, and never mind his love for the game, even his tolerance for it. He told the press that he'd show his fire on October 15.
“I'm more of a laid back boxer,” said Dawson on the dais, “but I'm going for the kayo (on Oct. 15).”
Hopkins (52-5-2) during his turn at the mike and in one on ones after said he certainly hoped the 6-1 lefty Dawson (30-1) would be fiery and looking to be aggressive in their scrap. A win against a safety first Dawson, Hopkins said, wouldn't do all that much to reward fans spending their hard earned dough in this recession. “Let's work together to see who can whup each others' ass,” Hopkins said.
I admit that I think this style matchup might be something of a letdown, that there could be lengthy periods of posturing, of looking for that perfect opening. We can hope otherwise…
Hopkins hammered the point. He hoped Dawson “is going to be what he says, not what his personality shows. Bad Chad Dawson has to be bad, or he's going to be embarrassed. No real man wants to be embarrassed like that. Chad Dawson, please be out of character, be “Bad' Chad Dawson. That will bring the best out of me…We all win. The fans win, those who pay $55 in a recession don't want to see two guys dance.”
Later, I asked Hopkins if he was getting tricky, asking Dawson to be super aggressive. In my inexpert opinion, an aggressive Dawson, one who ups his typical work-rate, might be harder to handle for Hopkins than one who allows Hopkins to set the tempo. Hopkins admitted he sometimes uses the press to get his message out, but didn't cop to trying to use reverse psychology on Dawson.
Hopkins alluded to the fact that some fighters (Jermain Taylor, Kelly Pavlik, maybe Jean Pascal) haven't been what they were after they met Hopkins, and hinted that the same fate could befall Dawson.
The old master, he introduced the notion that he's a graybeard when he admitted he gets cramps, gets aches, and isn't immune to the ravages of aging. So why didn't he take on Dawson, a much more polished and less mentally unstable fighter than Pascal, when he was a more youthful 43? Because, he said, the storyline wasn't there. He took full credit for restoring buzz to the light heavyweight division, and said that because of the buzz, this fight makes more sense now. Probably so, as three years ago it would have been a harder PPV sell. “The light heavyweight division is alive and cooking now,” said Hopkins, who by the way admitted he has been working on luring Joe Calzaghe out of retirement for a rematch.
He said that fight does weigh on him, that he thinks he deserved the nod, and told me that he worked on Calzaghe at the last Amir Khan fight. Calzaghe, he said, didn't close the door on coming back.