By Jake Donovan
Big time boxing is finally back upon us.
Rare is the occasion these days when two lineal champions step into the ring to face one another. The last occurrence was way back in Dec. ’07, when then-welterweight king Floyd Mayweather punched his way to Fighter of the Year honors after scoring a 10th round knockout over then-unbeaten 140 lb. ruler Ricky Hatton.
Four years and nine months later – to the day – the very best at 168 and 175 step to each other in the ring. In an even rarer occurrence these days, light heavyweight kingpin Chad Dawson moves down in weight – adding yet another advantage on top of traveling to Oakland, where he will face hometown favorite and reigning super middleweight champ Andre Ward at the Oracle Arena.
Both fighters enter the ring on the heels of the biggest wins of their respective careers. Dawson (31-1, 17KO) is more than four months removed from his 12-round rematch title winning effort over legendary Bernard Hopkins. Saturday’s fight is his first at 168 in more than six years.
Ward (25-0, 13KO) fights for the first time in 2012. Last year’s campaign saw the Oakland native earn the lineal super middleweight crown, the Super Six finals trophy and Fighter of the Year honors, all following his 12-round win over Carl Froch last December. A hand injury along with the wear and tear of two straight years against top shelf competition prompted the 2004 Olympic Gold medalist to take an extended break to heal physically and mentally.
The oddsmakers had Ward open as a considerable favorite. Surprisingly, the odds continue to climb. Perhaps even more surprising is how the Boxingscene.com staff foresees the action going down.
“I actually like Chad Dawson to win by split decision. I think his size and overall skill-set will give Andre Ward problems, pushing him out of his comfort zone. I don't see either guy dominating the other. This has all the makings of a tactical, patient, methodical fight. I think Ward is the emotionally tougher fighter, but Dawson probably has more to prove in this fight, and that will finally motivate him to put forth his best effort to date and begin to realize his potential as a fighter.”
- Mitch Abramson (Dawson)
“My gut says Dawson via SD. I have a feeling that the man coming down will be the busier fighter and pull off the upset. Ward has the better defense and the home field advantage but I have a feeling Dawson's reach and punch output will have everyone believing he won by a comfortable 116-112 or 117-111 type of score. The final tab will have 2 of the 3 judges agreeing with my thinking.”
– Ryan Burton (Dawson)
“Dawson would have to be a fool to go to Oakland and believe that his past fighting style will be enough to sway the judges. Having been reunited for a full year with original trainer John Scully, I expect Dawson to revert to his old pre-title ways and go all in against Ward. It should be enough for Chad to win big… which in Oakland will translate to a majority decision. 114-114, 116-112 (twice).”
– Jake Donovan (Dawson)
“In most scenarios, the idea of a guy cutting seven pounds to fight the best in another class is folly. But in Dawson's case, you have someone who's fought at 168 several times and has long claimed he'd do so again in order to chase a big event. Against Ward, he's got a chance at the career-defining result he's craved while cleaning out senior citizens at 175. It says here that the all-around potential we've all seen in him for several years will become reality in Oakland. Dawson UD 12”
– Lyle Fitzsimmons (Dawson)
“Chad Dawson TKO6. Ward hasn't seen this type of talent in a long time and I think it will show in this fight.”
– Ernest Gabion (Dawson)
“Andre Ward SD12 over Chad Dawson. This fight could go either way, despite the 3-1 odds in Ward's favor. Ward will turn it into the type of physical fight on the inside that favors him just enough to edge Dawson, who'll need consistent distance to do his best work even though he is the bigger, slightly stronger fighter.”
- Keith Idec (Ward)
This is a tough fight to predict but it is a match up us boxing fans love to see. The #1 Light Heavyweight is moving down to face the #1 Super Middleweight. We have yet to see anyone give Andre Ward problems in the Super Middleweight division. He coasted through the Super 6, but it not exactly "Mr. Excitement". I expect Dawson to bring his "A Game" and use his significant height advantage to keep Ward off of his game plan. Even though it will be tough to take a decision in Oakland I expect Dawson to work behind his jab and execute the game plan his trainer John Scully laid out for him. My prediction is Dawson by SD.”
- Tim Kudgis (Dawson)
“Andre Ward UD12 Chad Dawson. I think Ward weathers an initial surge from a motivated Dawson in the early rounds and closes the distance on his taller, longer foe. Once he neutralizes Dawson's reach and makes him fight in the pocket, where the defending champ is surgically accurate, the fight will swing Ward's way in a competitive decision.”
- Ryan Maquinana (Ward)
“Ward Dec. Dawson: In a fight that could get bogged down early with grappling inside, Dawson is probably the better athlete while Ward is the smarter fighter. If Dawson can handle the weight loss and let his hands go without thinking, he has the tools to pull it off. But, in a thinking man's fight, the stronger man mentally has the advantage. Ward has the mind and maturity to stand ahead of almost anyone in the crowd.”
– Cliff Rold (Ward)
“As much as both fighters have vowed to give us a thrilling affair, I think we'll eventually see a tactical fight with spurts of action sprinkled in between. While its hard for me to pick against Ward, I just think Chad possesses skills and physical advantages Ward hasn't dealt with before. Overall Chad's long reach and size will make a difference. In an ironic ending, I believe Dawson walks away with a very close unanimous decision in Oakland in a fight most think Ward would've got the nod in considering he is the hometown fighter. Dawson UD.”
- Luis Sandoval (Dawson)
“Chad Dawson has went on to say that he will not fall into Ward's pace and fight his fight on September 8th. I expect the complete opposite. Ward will adapt to whatever Dawson brings to the table on fight night and frustrate Ward for the majority of the evening. Dawson will wake up on September 9th still being the strongest fighter at 175lbs. September 8th he will be the fighter who took the wrong fight at the wrong weight class. Ward by UD.”
- Frank Stea (Ward)
“Ward UD12 Dawson. It's quite unusual for a champion to move down in weight and to face another reigning champ on his territory. One of the last such cases that instantly touches my memory is a fight between James Toney and Charles Williams, and it has been fought in the very same weight class, and it has ended bad for a bigger guy. I feel the same is going to happen this time because I don't think Dawson is ready for such a task: physcially - he will be too weakened after a bigger-than-usual weight loss, and it will affect both his stamina and his punch; mentally - cause he tends to lose concentration at times, and it'll be fatal against a monster of determination like Ward. So, Dawson will have his chances early, maybe he'll take a couple of rounds but down the stretch Ward will outbox him in a dull, tactical fight. I expect scores like 117-111 or 116-112 - for the SOG.”
– Alexey Sukachev (Ward)
Total: Chad Dawson 7, Andre Ward 5
The Ward-Dawson lineal super middleweight championship headlines a televised tripleheader on HBO. The Ward-Dawson showdown will be preceded by the live co-feature between lightweight titlist Antonio DeMarco and John Molina at the Oracle Arena in Oakland and a tape-delay of Vitali Klitschko’s bout with Manuel Charr from earlier in the day in Russia (Saturday, 9:45PM ET/6:45PM PT).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]