For the last few years we've witnessed Chad Dawson 31-1 (18) fight and appear detached and complacent during certain bouts. And though no one has ever questioned his wealth of physical talent, which is on display every time you see him fight and can't be missed, you just can't help but imagine what kind of fighter he might be if he fought with a sense of urgency and as if winning really meant something to him. Which is not saying that it doesn't, just that it looked as if some fighters stayed with him longer than they should've due to him never really stepping on the gas and opening up for more than spurts during particular fights.
Well, based on his last fight against Bernard Hopkins this past weekend, it looks as if that may be a thing of the past. Forget for a moment that Dawson fouled Hopkins and the fight should've been declared no-contest. The point is, Dawson knew Hopkins was a fighter that incorporates his own brand of MMA rules into his boxing repertoire when he fights in a ring. And Dawson sure seemed hellbent when he entered the ring that he wasn't going to let Hopkins bully or mug him in any way shape or form during their fight.
World class fighters are sometimes motivated and driven by their own perceptions and imagined demons. Larry Holmes was driven to excel because he didn't think he received his due respect. Marvin Hagler imagined that his opponent was trying to take food off of his kitchen table. And everyone knows Hopkins was motivated by the fact that he strongly, and perhaps correctly, believed that in many ways the boxing establishment wanted to take him down and make him irrelevant. And now it appears that Chad Dawson held in a lot of pent up frustration due to his belief that Bernard strung him along and for a couple years denied him his chance to score the signature win of his professional career. Again, it's not relevant if it's true, it's what Chad felt and believed.
It doesn't matter that referee Pat Russell ruled him a stoppage winner over Hopkins, nor does it matter if down the road the bout is overturned and ruled a no-contest. It also doesn't matter if Hopkins deserves an Academy Award for his antics after Dawson dropped him to the canvas or if Hopkins was seriously injured and can never fight again. What does matter is what Chad Dawson really believes. And Dawson wholeheartedly believes beyond all doubt that Hopkins wanted out after less than two rounds of fighting him. Dawson never fought more animatedly so early during a bout than he did against Hopkins, and he was just as animated after the fight when he spoke of wanting a rematch with Jean Pascal, the only fighter to beat him.
Think about what's going through Dawson's mind at this time. Believing that his speed and athleticism convinced Bernard Hopkins that perhaps he was in for a longer night and tougher road than he anticipated, therefore he was forced to look for a way out of the fight to save face, how can he not feel invincible? When you think of all the outstanding fighters who have tried to break Hopkins' will (not saying that Dawson did) and didn't, it's got to be an infusion of confidence if you are convinced that you were the one who finally did.
It's also a good sign that Dawson is back with John Scully, who I believe will get more out of him in the future than either former trainers Eddie Mustafa Muhammad or Emanuel Steward did. Granted, Mustafa Muhammad and Steward are bigger name trainers than Scully, but what does that matter? Eddie expects his fighters to do it like he did back in the day, and Steward isn't at his best when he's not working with fighters who can really punch with their right hand and driven to win by knockout, which is obviously not Dawson's style or approach to fighting/boxing.
Scully will keep Dawson grounded and won't allow him to get too high on himself after his bout with Hopkins. Also, the fact that he's been in Dawson's ear about how great he could be and for him to realize it on Scully's watch will no doubt be a boost for both of their careers. In addition to that, Dawson just may be one of those fighters who needs more attention and cajoling from the man who trains him, something that Scully can definitely handle and he isn't above it or too busy not to be there for him if and when needed.
It also emerged that in Dawson's mind Bernard Hopkins was to him what Mike Tyson was to Lennox Lewis or Muhammad Ali was to Joe Frazier, the fighter who hovered over them at every turn who they had to beat in order for their championship tenure to be validated. And Dawson got past Hopkins in a way that will really give him an infusion of confidence and urgency even if the bout ends up being ruled a no-contest in the record book. The fact is Dawson implicitly feels that regardless of what is said or written, he's so good and formidable that he didn't have to go through with beating Hopkins up to win – he convinced him enough in under two rounds that he wasn't going to win that Bernard looked for a way out. And whether Chad Dawson is wrong or right pertaining to that, it's what he believes and that's all that matters, which is a mindset he'll no doubt carry with him into the ring the next time he fights.
Based on Hopkins' age and decline, along with Dawson's most likely sky-rocketing confidence, I couldn't pick against Chad if they fight again. As for Jean Pascal, I think his style will always bother Dawson, but Chad is simply too skilled and fast, and add to that his injection of confidence, I'd pick him over Pascal too if they fight again.
If Dawson emerges as a better and more determined fighter from this point forward, he can thank Bernard Hopkins for forcing him to find that hidden desire and determination within himself.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com