Yes – 29 year old Chad Dawson 31-1 (17) outpointed 47 year old light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins 52-6- 2 (32) this past weekend and distinguished himself as the top light heavyweight in boxing. I scored the fight 116-113 / 7-4-1 in favor of Dawson. The fact that judges aren't allowed to score even rounds is one of the more absurd things in boxing. Neither Dawson or Hopkins warranted the first round being scored for them based on a feint or missed jab during the closing seconds of the round.
So what's the take away from the fight?
To be perfectly blunt, Dawson looked lousy and father time has gained another step on Hopkins. Yes, Bernard's body looked softer than it ever has before during a fight and it was astounding how many times he was either frozen by or totally faked out by Dawson's hand and shoulder feints, a sure sign of Chad's terrific hand speed and Hopkins' lack of confidence in his once spectacular instincts, so he over-corrected. That said, once again, despite in an effort in which he came up a little short, Hopkins made another outstanding fighter look sub-par, even though none of the head-butting, sporadic charges along with the headlocks and holding and hitting were a surprise to either Chad or trainer John Scully. Actually, they counted on Hopkins to stick to form, yet for the first five rounds of the bout it was correctly pointed out by Emanuel Steward and Max Kellerman how Dawson was fighting Bernard's fight and was being totally taken out of his game.
For a majority of his career and especially beginning in his late thirties, Hopkins has managed to disrupt, stymie, neutralize and befuddle every fighter he faced with the possible exception of Jermain Taylor. To say that he does that sounds easy when it's just words….but when you really think about it, it's astounding how he does it to everybody. What is missed so much by so many writers, broadcasters and fans is – just how hard it is to fight, forget about doing it correctly and scientifically, just doing it. Professionals, in order to excel at the highest level must do it correctly and scientifically every time out.
Combat sports, regardless of whether we're talking about boxing, mixed martial arts or greco Roman wrestling, are the hardest sports for any athlete to master. There's recently been a lot of cookbook analysts and tutorials all over the internet and in boxing publications on how to fight. Everything is written within the realm of the perfect world, which doesn't exist for one single second in actual combat. Sure, if you give this guy movement or pivot when you throw a certain punch anticipating the counter, you get a pre-determined result by mastering A, B, and C. Right. So why not manufacture the next world beater? Cause it can't be done, fighters, real fighters that is, are born, not built or manufactured.
Every fighter is different. They all jab different, feint different, move different, hold their hands different and despite all of them trying to accomplish the same thing, none of them go about it the same way. Yet for a decade, regardless of who the fighter was in front of him, Bernard Hopkins managed to find their weakness and force them to fight from it a majority of the bout. The only things that have somewhat neutralized him is spectacular speed and athleticism, as we saw this past weekend during his bout with Chad Dawson.
Think about it – Dawson may be the most athletically and physically gifted light heavyweights since Roy Jones when he was at his peak. All Chad had to do was let his athleticism take over and force Hopkins to have to deal with that. But no, once he's in front of you and you really don't know what to expect, Hopkins brings you down to his level. Again, everyone knows this going in before the fight, yet every fighter is put off and thrown out of sync by Hopkins' antics and tactics.
Prior to the fight the cookbook called for Dawson to push the fight and overwhelm Hopkins with his speed and volume punching. As long as Chad stayed busy and forced Hopkins to defend without making the fight a war or street fight, he would have no problem with a fighter who looks to slow the fight down and isn't capable of putting together multiple punch combinations. However, once he was in there and the presence of Hopkins projected that there's nothing but minefields and trapdoors in front of me, Chad fought at a pace where Hopkins saw everything and was able to time him with lead right hands and a few short hooks inside. Smartly, Dawson's trainer John Scully saw this and implored his fighter to not fall for Hopkins' subterfuge and start to assert himself.
From the start of the fifth round on Dawson fought more of his fight and used his reach and speed just enough to the point to where he filled the holes and there wasn't much left for Bernard to work with. And once Hopkins was forced to create his own offense he was more vulnerable to counters. And that's one thing that really bothers Hopkins – getting hit cleanly. No, he's not afraid to get hit nor is he ever hurt when he is caught. What messes with him more than any fighter in recent memory is how Hopkins is embarrassed when he is nailed, no doubt because it happens so infrequently. The thought of embarrassing him stymies him more than anything else. Show him you're capable of doing that to him and you may have something.
To finish where I started, yes, Dawson won a three point victory over Hopkins and is now at the top of the light heavyweight food chain. But is he really the man based on his showing against Hopkins? Perhaps that's yet to be determined. But he sure didn't handle Hopkins the way he should've and may even be physically capable of doing. Dawson may have won the boxing match, but I come away thinking more about how once again Bernard took an outstanding fighter and forced him to fight down to the level that he needed him to in order to have a chance to beat the almost 18 year younger fighter, than I do being overwhelmed by how Dawson looked or fought.
When all is said and done – the difference was Dawson landed a couple more punches in more rounds than Hopkins did. I'm not sure that constitutes the beginning of a new era, and it may not even be the end of the Hopkins era. Fighting is the hardest thing any athlete can attempt to master – yet Hopkins has repeatedly taken the best of the best in the professional ranks and regardless of their age, size, style or mentality, he brings them down to the level he needs them to be at and makes them look as if they're fighting in the big time for the very first time.
Dawson just has a style that's bad for Hopkins. I'd say that Bernard can no longer perform at the elite level, but he'd still beat a lot of guys currently out there.