by Cliff Rold
A fight many worried would be a bore turned out to be a sensational showcase for the man who may be the best prime fighter in the world right now. 28-year old lineal World Super Middleweight Champion Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KO) of Oakland, California, successfully defended his WBC and WBA belts against outmatched 30-year old lineal and WBC World Light Heavyweight Champion Chad Dawson, scoring three knockdowns in the fight and forcing Dawson to surrender in the tenth in front of a hometown crowd at the Oracle Arena in Oakland.
It was a sort of dominance reminiscent of Floyd Mayweather’s win over Diego Corrales or Roy Jones Jr.’s undressing of James Toney.
Dawson, whose title was not on the line, came down the scale and weighed in at the Super Middleweight division limit of 168 lbs. Ward weighed the same. The referee was Steve Smoger.
As they awaited the opening bell, Ward paced the corner while Dawson bounced on his toes. It was perhaps more exciting then the first minute of the fight as both men began methodically, Dawson trying a couple right hands, Ward throwing a short hook in the fight’s first clinch. Three more clinches marked the second minute of the fight, single hard shots thrown in between, Dawson looking to the body. Ward landed a nice short right to slip out of the blue corner late in the round.
Ward opened up more to start the second, a combination to the body scoring. Ward walked into a pair of muffled lead right hooks from the southpaw Dawson. The heads began to collide and Dawson suffered a bloody nick over his right eye as the pattern of punch and clinch continued from the first. Ward landed a sharp right near the minute mark but Dawson was often slipping the shot by dropping and letting it fly over the shoulder. The tactic led to ample grappling.
Landing three jabs to start the third, Ward added a straight right to the body. Ward’s jab continued to work. The clinching continued as well, including an exchange of headlock at center ring near the middle of the round. Then, suddenly, it was a moment of big offense.
Dropping Dawson’s guard with a right to the body, Ward leapt in with a sizzling lead left hook and Dawson dropped to a knee. Rocked, Dawson beat the count and nodded he could go on. Smoger waved the fight to continue and Dawson weathered the storm to make it back to corner.
Another storm was coming. Caught with another left hook early, Dawson was dropped and Ward ended up on the floor as well as they became tangled while Dawson fell. Dawson took a battering for much of the time remaining, and there was much of it, but did not fall again. By the final minute Dawson began to assert himself again, if only a bit, perhaps the cobwebs clearing.
Action slowed considerably in the fifth as Dawson played safe and Ward played deliberate. A Ward left hook blasted Dawson just before the bell and, while Dawson wore an affected expression, he kept his feet.
Dawson began the sixth bouncing and working the perimeter of the ring. Ward slowed him down with a pair of nasty left hooks to the head. Ward piled up points, outjabbing Dawson until a brief respite in the form of a long, connecting right from Dawson. Ward shook it off easily and resumed landing his hook through the ample openings left him.
Round seven and eight saw Ward in peak form, busting Dawson up when they worked inside and controlling Dawson when at range. In the latter round, Dawson attempted a couple of raking combinations but failed to find the target. Heading into the ninth round, Dawson was told in the corner a decision was already out of reach.
Nothing happened in the ninth to change Dawson’s scoring deficit. While the challenger opened up a bit more, the return fire stayed overwhelming, and bruising. Before what would be the fateful tenth, Dawson was told in the corner he needed a big comeback.
Instead, he found his way to the exit.
Inside the final minute of the tenth, Dawson was blasted with a left hook he never saw coming right behind the ear. Dawson’s knees caved in on each other as he attempted to find his balance but Ward was having none of it. Another left landed to set up a salvo of exact power punching, Dawson forced to his knees near the ropes. Dawson was up early in the count but showed no desire to go on. Asked by Smoger if he was done, Dawson nodded and said, “Yes.”
Smoger wrapped his arms around the beaten man to halt the action at 2:48 of round ten.
Ward put it all in simple terms during the post-fight interview. “I love to win…I’ve gotten a bad wrap early in my career. A lot of people said I didn’t have it and that’s okay because that’s what young fighters get. I’m still working but, like I tell everybody, finishing guys off is the last piece of the puzzle and we’re on our way to doing that.”
Ward was uncertain about what comes next in his career, though he didn’t rule out a move to Light Heavyweight. He’s all but cleaned out Super Middleweight. Having already beaten the lineal champion of the class soundly, he could almost get away with calling himself the uncrowned king in a class he hasn’t fought in for a title yet.
“I’ve gotten spoiled with the Super Six (Super Middleweight tournament, which Ward won prior to the Dawson bout), having my opponents set out in front,” said Ward. “It’s kind of strange not knowing what’s next. All we did was eat, sleep, and drink this guy, literally, because you can’t play with a guy like Chad Dawson. He’s beat future Hall of Famers so, as you know, we’ll sit down with the team and see what’s next. A move to Light Heavyweight at some point is not out of the question.”
Dawson remains the Light Heavyweight champion officially and was gracious after the bout. “I did everything that was asked of me. I came down to 168. I came to Oakland, to his backyard. He’s a hell of a fighter. I take nothing away from him. He was a lot faster than I thought he was. Strong. I mean, he’s a great champion. I wanted to fight the best. I fought the best.” Dawson did hint that coming down a class might have affected him. “I thought I felt good at 168 but I couldn’t get off.”
Dawson stated he’d head back to continue his reign at Light Heavyweight. Dawson will find opponents there, including the first man to defeat him in Jean Pascal. He’ll need opponents to move beyond a harrowing defeat.
The fight most expected to be the action guarantee for the night didn’t last long.
In explosive fashion, 26-year old WBC Lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco (28-2-1, 21 KO) of Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico, made his second defense of his belt with a first round stoppage of 29-year old John Molina (24-2, 19 KO) of Covina, California. It was DeMarco’s fifth win in a row, fourth inside the distance, since being stopped by the late Edwin Valero. A six-fight win streak for Molina is ended with his first knockout loss.
The referee was Jack Reiss.
It took only moments for the fireworks to get started. Unfortunately, it was the sort of firework that gets its sparks out before most realize what they’re seeing. Molina, 134 ½, came out looking to jab. DeMarco, 134 ¼, did the same. Molina took a second too long to survey the man in front of him at mid-ring and paid for it by taking a sense shattering straight right down the pipe.
His legs shot, Molina wobbled backwards towards the ropes and DeMarco paused just a moment, almost surprised at the sudden turn, before pouncing on his man. Covering and slipping, Molina fired a landing left and right before a DeMarco left sent him off balance towards the neutral corner. A left, right, and left landed for DeMarco and Molina brought his gloves up.
Letting loose with both fists, Molina bent over at the waist, his knees bent, and brought his hands over his head. Offering no resistance, Molina was a sitting duck and Reiss stepped in to halt the bout at :44 seconds of the first round.
Speaking through a translator in the post-fight interview, DeMarco admitted surprise at his early finish and couldn’t recall a quicker finish in his career. Asked if he would be willing to face former Jr. Lightweight titlist Adrien Broner (24-0, 20 KO), DeMarco said he’d be willing as soon as tomorrow.
If it could happen tomorrow, DeMarco could at least say he got in some last minute sparring. Surely more time will be allowed, but DeMarco made the possibility intriguing in less than a minute on Saturday night.
The card was broadcast in the U.S. on HBO as part of its “World Championship Boxing” series, promoted by Goosen Tutor and Gary Shaw Productions.
Cliff Rold is a Managing Editor at BoxingScene, and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]