It’s always a win-win situation whenever you have two fighters on the mythical pound-for-pound list, both still their primes, face each other in the squared circle. On September 8, at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California, fight fans may very well witness 2012’s most compelling match-up. If there is an adjective that could accurately describe the contest between light heavyweight kingpin “Bad” Chad Dawson and 2011’s “Fighter of the Year” Andre “S.O.G.” Ward, it would be “intriguing.” Dawson, a southpaw, is coming off a huge victory over first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins in the spring. That said, not many are giving Dawson a chance to make the contractual weight of 168 pounds, let alone win the fight. Dawson, a legitimate 175-pounder, opted to move seven pounds south to challenge Ward, Showtime’s “Super Six” champion and linear champ, for his crown and supremacy at super middleweight.
So as head trainer “Iceman” John Scully helps Dawson prepare for the biggest and toughest challenge thus far in his career, Dawson is training under the big lights and scorching temperatures that rise into the triple digits in the Las Vegas desert. He is expecting to make a weight he hasn’t fought at in over six years. As if that wasn’t enough of a feat to accomplish, Dawson agreed to intrude hostile territory by accepting the terms to face Ward in his backyard of Oakland.
“First of all, there was no way that this fight was happening at a catchweight,” said Dawson, now 31-1 (17) with two no-contests, who exuded pinpoint swag that could be acquiesced even over phone. “Neither Andre Ward nor his camp agreed to coming up to light heavyweight or even fight at a catchweight. With a little more than a month away before the fight, I am currently weighing 179 pounds, just 11 pounds over the contractual weight of 168. I would make 175 easily without any dieting. True story, I would eat cheeseburgers, steaks, mashed potatoes; you name it. I will shock everyone when I make weight. I am looking forward to a great fight and becoming the next champ at super middle.”
Just a couple of weeks ago, New York-based boxing promoter Lou DiBella shared a few brilliant words with the press of “Gotham City” as he promoted the pay-per-view match-up between Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Sergio Martinez. “Making good fights in boxing shouldn’t be rocket science.” Well put! Dawson’s attitude is a testament to DiBella’s mantra. The bottom line is, if fighters want to fight, ultimately they will regardless of the price paid or the sacrifice made. That doesn’t say much for Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao; now does it? But that’s another story. And even though this match-up will make any purist or fight connoisseur salivate, the average fight fan is as indifferent as can be. Boxing fans are a walking contradiction. All too often, you hear fans complaining about how all the good matches are on pay-per-view and the working-class fan is ostracized due to exorbitant prices. The old adage says, “The customer is always right.” However, the customer has to be flexible. Here is a great fight syndicated on national television for free and yet people are still hatin.’ So let’s get this straight; no one is giving a fighter with the capabilities of Dawson much of a chance in the contest and not many are interested in tuning in, even at no cost. Well, you can’t win them all, huh?
“I am not going to sit here and say that I feel disrespected,” assessed the native of New Haven, Connecticut. “In fact, I won’t even say that I feel like I am being overlooked. Whoever wants to go see the fight is going to, so I am not overly concerned about that. But what I am having difficulty with is understanding why are the masses acting like [Andre] Ward is this invincible fighter that can’t be beaten. Don’t get me wrong; [Andre] Ward is a great fighter but he makes a lot of mistakes too. He is very flawed.”
In retrospect, hindsight is always 20/20. Reflecting on Dawson’s career as a whole, you would be remiss to not acknowledge the fact that he gets busy in the squared circle. However, there were some bad moments for Dawson that even he would admit left much to be desired. In the rematch performances against Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver, it was evident that both fights failed to deliver on the excitement that usually gets people talking about it at the water cooler on Monday mornings at work. And in the scrap against Jean Pascal, the general consensus was that Dawson had a really bad night. Dawson would lose to an opponent who was extremely limited, all around. It’s almost as if Dawson’s Achilles Heel is the ability to stay focused over the course of 12 rounds. So maybe to some degree, the anti-Dawson sentiment is warranted. It does appear that he fights up to his competition.
“What the critics say about me goes in one ear and out the other,” said Dawson. “I mean, that’s why they are called critics. They are paid to critique and find fault with everything; it’s their job. Everybody that’s talking has no idea what I do. They have never been to my training camp. That’s the reason why I don’t go on blogs, the internet or read the newspaper. It doesn’t interest me to see, hear or read what people are writing about me.”
If that truly is the case, Dawson wouldn’t be the first athlete to put this practice into effect. But as a competitor, there is always that inner drive, the intrinsic motivation that serves as a great motivator to prove all of the naysayers wrong. Obviously, Dawson wouldn’t be walking into the lion’s den and dropping down to a weight very few outside of his camp feel he could make if he weren’t looking to prove a point.
“Make no mistake about it; this is a very big fight for me,” Dawson told Maxboxing. “Andre Ward is a young fighter; he is 28. I am a young fighter; I just turned 30. These are the type of match-ups that I love and yearn for, the reason being that it brings out the best in me. We will bring out the best in each other.”
Who knows? Maybe the lapses in concentration Dawson has exhibited in the past may have been attributed to being bored. Albeit speculation, maybe Dawson experienced trouble getting up for fights in which meant nothing emotionally. Has Dawson ever been in the ring with an opponent deemed a threat to his professional ranking? Probably not. To reiterate, the “W” over Hopkins was huge. However, stylistically, it was brutal on the optics. Their styles did not mesh well at all, not to mention “B-Hop” was 47-years-old. Hopkins was clearly past his physical peak. However, as the saying goes, there is always a first time for everything. On paper, the scrap with Ward appears to be Dawson’s toughest. He was a favorite to win both times against Hopkins. This time around, Dawson is now playing the role of underdog and, to some respect, villain.
“I have fought bigger and better guys,” said Dawson in an effort to support his claim as to why he will be victorious in “Raider Land.” “I have beaten the likes of [Antonio] Tarver twice, [Glen] Johnson twice and Bernard Hopkins. Even though these guys that I am mentioning may have been old – and, in the case of Hopkins, he was over the hill – but still, they are all Hall-of-Famers. I have beaten three Hall-of-Famers. I am just really surprised at how [Andre] Ward and his team are overlooking me.”
Dawson’s argument may have some credence but, truth be told, those wins are in the past. Those victories didn’t do much in raising his stock amongst the masses flocking over to support the awful MMA bandwagon. Case in point, many of the pundits and so-called experts are knocking this fight. They claim the outcome of the fight will be contingent on what both fighters bring to the ring next month. Both guys are counterpunchers who often fight off of their back legs. At the same time, this duel [Ward-Dawson] could be the reincarnation of Jermain Taylor vs. Winky Wright, which, if you remember, was a great fight that people slept on before and after the fact. Ward is expected to do his thing but will he bring the action to Dawson? Who knows?
“I can’t say that as of yet,” said Dawson, who has a one-inch height advantage over his counterpart as well as a significant reach advantage. “I am looking forward toward the fight. I haven’t been an underdog in a fight in a very long time. So what does that tell you? Here I am, 10 or 11 pounds away from making weight and people are just assuming that I can’t make weight. Everyone thinks that I will be drained and dehydrated, that I will be weak. People are going to be real surprised. It’s crazy how no one sees the errors that Ward makes. He gets on the inside and hits and holds. Just like Bernard [Hopkins]. I like to call him “Young Bernard”. If I can keep the fight on the outside and just box him, it will be an easy fight. There is no way that he can keep up with me by boxing. All I can say is to just tune in.”
Mi gente, this why they fight the fights. This why fans attend the fights. This is why we report on them. WWE Hall-of-Famer Ric Flair would say, “To be the man, you have to be the man.” And after everything that Ward achieved and accomplished in the 2011 calendar year, you would be insane to say he wasn’t the man. It was apparent that the nature of the conversation reflected that Dawson was conscious of this fact.
“Ward is one of the best fighters in the world,” he would say. “I will capitalize on the opportunity. I am the best at 175 and I will be the best at 168. I want the best fights, so I will see what’s available. If it’s Carl Froch, Lucian Bute or Kelly Pavlik, then we stay at ‘68. If its Mikkel Kessler, [Jean] Pascal, or [Tavoris] Cloud, then we go back up to ‘75.”
Jay Gon’s Tidbits
– Dawson was really looking forward to the match-up between Pascal and Cloud. Dawson was anticipating a really good fight and was sad to hear that fight fell through. Dawson wishes Pascal a speedy recovery.
– Dawson’s other favorite sport besides boxing is basketball.
– Dawson is an avid fan of the Miami Heat. He loves the pick-ups of Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis. Dawson predicts that LeBron James will go on a rampage next season and earn his second ring.
– Dawson has been catching the Olympics here and there and said he has caught a couple of boxing matches, swimming races and “The Dream Team 2012” a few times.
– As a result of being in camp, Dawson hasn’t been able to see any summer blockbusters. He did admit he is anxious to catch “The Dark Knight Rises” and may catch it this weekend. Dawson also shared that he was turned off to see the movie due to the fact that someone like James Holmes could do such a horrific thing. Dawson extended his sympathy and condolences to the shooting victims of Aurora, Colorado.
– Dawson is a hip-hop aficionado. He admits he is a big 50 Cent fan but that he is loving the G.O.O.D. Music movement of Kanye West, Big Sean and CyHi Da Prince. Dawson is also a fan of the Maybach Music Group with Rick Ross, Meek Mill, Wale and French Montana. Dawson says, “Ross isn’t real lyrical but he makes great music!”
– Dawson is loving the new Nas Album “Life is Good.” “It’s a different type of album,” he said. “It’s a very soulful album. It’s a hip-hop classic. He took it back to “Illmatic.”
– Dawson feels Nas is an all-time great and he is in the top five regardless of era, age or time.