Will there be a "scale fail" on fightnight, will Dawson be drained down the stretch against Ward? Or will he buck the odds and pull off the upset against the 168 pound ace?
Gary Shaw, being a promoter, was promoting Chad Dawson’s fight with super middleweight champion Andre Ward the best way he could this week.
“Can you believe the 175-pound champion of the world is a 3-1 underdog?’’ Shaw asked rhetorically.
Well, since he’s being asked to fight Ward at 168 pounds, yes I can.
Were Ward coming up to light heavyweight one could easily find ways to make a strong argument for Dawson but he’s going DOWN to Ward’s division, couldn’t break an egg with a hammer in either division and is meeting UP with Ward in Ward’s hometown of Oakland, Ca. Any chance he’ll let them tie his feet together, too?
The last time Dawson ventured into someone else’s home territory is the only time he’s been beaten, losing a 11-round technical decision to then WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal at the Bell Centre in Montreal. That fight was stopped with Pascal in serious trouble and being rocked by Dawson just before Pascal head butted his way to the scorecards.
Ward’s unlikely to take such a dastardly route because when your nickname is SOG (Son of God) how could you? But Ward’s skills are far more formidable than Pascal’s, especially at 168 pounds, so why would Dawson accept such a weighty challenge at a time when he held both the WBC and RING magazine light heavyweight championships?
Well, because boxing is a business and to make big money Chad Dawson had to lose weight. So it goes in boxing but will it matter?
The traditional road would have been for Ward to move up from the 168-pound division to challenge the 175-pound champion but he knew he didn’t have to do any such thing. Ward had a number of ways to get paid a reasonable purse for his next title defense but no way to get what Dawson has brought him – which is a chance to gain some of the recognition he has long deserved but received little of despite being an Olympic gold medalist and one of the half dozen best pound-for-pound fighters in the country, if not the world.
For Dawson, on the other hand, this was about maximizing his income while at the same time putting both himself and his sport in the spotlight. It was, to be frank, a calculated risk, one Dawson took willingly because he believes not only that losing seven pounds will not drain him but also that his superior boxing skills will serve him well even against the best super middleweight in the world.
“I wanted to fight him,’’ Dawson said this week. “I wanted to go down to 168 for the last year or two. I have no trouble making the weight. I believe in my skills.’’
Well he should, but will they be blunted by the draining effort to get to 168? While Dawson will likely rehydrate himself back to 180 pounds or so after the weigh-in, the cost of the effort to pare off seven pounds can often be severe, especially late in a fight.
To his advantage is something that has in the past been a disadvantage however, which is Dawson’s tendency not to fight with blistering enthusiasm. To say he is a defensive fighter who limits his exposure to harm’s way would be an understatement but in this case it would seem to be one way to conserve his energy and counter-balance what he may have given up physically to reach 168. In this case, the race may go not to the swift but to the plodding.
Ward, on the other hand, will try to push the pace and hope to dismantle Dawson the way he stunningly did Carl Froch in December. But while Froch is a tough pedestrian practitioner of boxing’s dark arts, Dawson (31-1, 17 KO) is a brilliant boxer who seldom puts himself in a position to be hit by a combination so the job will be more complicated unless exhaustion intervenes.
Even as wily a veteran as the aging Bernard Hopkins could find no way to get to Dawson in what was an easy victory for Dawson in April despite one judge blindly calling a one-sided fight a draw. So will Ward be able to reach him?
That, like the effects of Dawson’s weight loss, remains a mystery for another 24 hours but the fear is both fighters are such technicians that nothing may happen, a situation that would make weight loss insignificant and the fight disappointing.
Shaw, being a promoter, doesn’t see it that way and neither does the undefeated Ward (25-0, 13 KO).
“We didn’t pick Chad because we saw weaknesses,’’ Ward has said. “We picked Chad because he’s the best in his division and I’m the best in my division. When’s the last time two fighters in separate divisions met because they were the best?’’
Good question but will a depleted Dawson be at his best?
“Saturday night I will walk out as super middleweight champion of the world,’’ Dawson insists. “ I did everything I said I would to make the weight. Now it's time to fight. I am an underdog in this fight and I understand that but I’m looking to take my career to the next level just like he (Ward) is."
To do it, he had to take his weight to the previous level. If the price of that is not too high, Chad Dawson may surprise a lot of people Saturday night, including Andre Ward.
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