By Jake Donovan
It was an ending so bizarre, that not even Ripley himself could believe it.
A card sponsored in part by ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not’ ended in truly inexplicable fashion as Chad Dawson was awarded a second round stoppage over the legendary Bernard Hopkins in the main event Saturday evening at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. With the controversial win, the 29-year old southpaw has become - for the moment - the recognized lineal light heavyweight champion.
How long that moment lasts will depend on the number of appeals filed and the steps that the California State Athletic Commission chooses to take given the way the bout ended. Hopkins was ruled unable to continue after he was shoulder lifted and tossed to the canvas by Dawson, landing on his elbow and jamming his shoulder blade.
Some will argue that the aborted ending was a blessing in disguise as the early action – or lack thereof – suggested the styles matchup would play out exactly as expected.
Dawson was the busier fighter – as to be expected as he enjoyed a height, reach and considerable age advantage over the 46-year old Hopkins – but not landing a heck of a lot as his jab mostly caught air. Hopkins did what he does best, which is bring the action to a grinding halt. Any punch landed or even thrown was immediately met with a clinch or his circling away from Dawson’s effective punching range.
As little as there was to go on in scoring the opening round, more of the same occurred in the second. A case could be made that Dawson was laying the foundation to eventually take over the fight. He appeared on track to eventually solving Hopkins’ crafty style and figure out a way to land punches.
Whether or not that would have ever come to fruition will most likely remain unsolved, even with an ending that warrants a re-do.
Dawson attempted a punch on Hopkins, who came in and leaned over the top of Dawson’s right shoulder and on top of his back. Fighting in reactionary mode, Dawson stood himself up and pushed forward in an effort to get Hopkins off of him and create punching room.
Instead, he ended the fight without another punch being thrown. Hopkins landed on his left elbow, which caused his shoulder blade to pop out of position (or so verified by HBO color commentator Max Kellerman during their post-fight interview). Because he was unable to continue and that - in the eyes of horribly faded veteran referee Pat Russell – no clear cut foul had taken place, the sequence was ruled as a technical knockout due to injury.
“The referee never called it a foul – be it unintentional or intentional, and he was unable to continue, therefore it was a technical knockout victory,” explained George Dodd, Executive Officer of the California State Athletic Commission, when asked why a no-decision wasn’t instead called. “That’s something we have to discuss with the referee, but he didn’t make the ruling which is why we have to call it a TKO victory for now.”
‘For now’ could be a key statement, although the answer won’t come publicly as of press time. Both referee Pat Russell and CSAC Chairman John Fryer were escorted out of the arena to avoid contact with the media, which means that as of Saturday evening, the TKO verdict will stand.
The official time was 2:48 of the second round.
Dawson’s record advances to 31-1 (18KO) with his second straight win since falling short against Jean Pascal in their vacant lineal light heavyweight championship last summer. While on paper it will list as the biggest win of his career, the actual result wasn’t the least bit satisfying for the confident southpaw, who felt there was a lot more fighting to be done.
“Bernard Hopkins disappointed a lot of fans tonight,” Dawson insisted admist a chorus of boos from the sparse crowd that turned out for the horribly misplaced card loaded with East Coast fighters. “I came out to fight. He cut my night short. He was faking it.”
The hostility in Dawson’s tone stems from four years of pursuing a fight with Hopkins, who never showed any interest in taking on the young gun while there was demand for such a clash.
“I came in here to fight. I trained eight weeks. This is the fight I wanted for three years. He showed that he didn’t want to fight me.”
Hopkins has long insisted that the fight was never financially worthy of his consideration, which was why it didn’t happen until Dawson became the mandatory contender to the title he won in his revenge-fueled win over Pascal earlier this year.
Whether or not he gets a chance to redeem himself is largely unknown, though all Hopkins truly asks for is that the fight is reviewed by the CSAC and that the actions speak for itself.
What he would’ve preferred on this night was a clearer explanation of how the fight would be ruled, and at least afforded the chance to continue if it came to that.
“Listen to the tape, don’t take my word for it,” Hopkins responded when asked if he was ever given the choice by the referee to fight on. “I would’ve fought with one arm. Look at my (second) fight with Antwun Echols.”
The moment to which Hopkins referred is when he spent the last four rounds of his rematch with Echols fighting with a separated shoulder after being thrown out of the ring by his opponent. Hopkins went on to score a 10th round stoppage that evening in a fight that served as a prelude to HBO’s (and Don King’s) middleweight tournament that was capped by a virtuoso performance over then-unbeaten Felix Trinidad to become the first undisputed middleweight king in well over a decade.
Hopkins’ very next fight proved to be a historic moment, stopping Carl Daniels in nine rounds to set the record for most ever middleweight title defenses.
On this particular night, Hopkins was the oldest fighter to ever defend a major title, five months after becoming the oldest to win one. By the end of the night, it becomes the first time in his 22-year career in which he was ruled a TKO loser as his record falls to 52-6-2 (32KO).
In the absence of a true knockout blow – or even legal scoring punch – Hopkins remains puzzled as to how that could be the case.
“I was backing up. He picked me up by my legs and threw me down on my shoulder. I rolled my shoulder. My shoulder blade is popped out (shows unbalanced shoulders). Chad Dawson knew that he wasn’t in there with a 46-year old man.
“This should’ve been called a no-contest. He picked me up and threw me down with a blatant foul. This isn’t the MMA. They want me out of boxing? This is one of the ways to do it.”
What he is out of - pending further review – is the top spot of the light heavyweight division. If the ruling sticks and Dawson remains champ, a rematch is what he has in mind.
Just not one with Hopkins.
“I want Pascal,” Dawson insists, eager to reverse the lone loss of a career that included a three-year stay as a light heavyweight titlist beginning with his breakout performance against then-unbeaten Tomasz Adamek in February 2008.
Even though a far more conclusive ending to Saturday’s affair is in order, the lack of demand for such a fight in the first place most likely won’t go very far in trying to secure a rematch.
As far as Dawson sees it, there’s no reason to even entertain such a notion.
“A rematch (with Hopkins)? For what?”
One of the lone bright spots of the evening came in the chief support bout, where Antonio DeMarco rallied back from a huge deficit to score an upset 11th round stoppage over Jorge Linares.
Linares was up 99-91 and 98-92 (twice) at the time of the stoppage, but suffered a massive cut at the bridge of his nose midway through the bout. His corner did a good job of controlling the bleeding, but it became a gusher once DeMarco turned up the heat in the championship rounds.
The rally came at the perfect time for the Mexican southpaw, whose corner told him at the end of the 10th that he needed a knockout to win. DeMarco delivered big time, taking the fight to Linares and pounding him into submission. Linares found himself heavily under siege late in an 11th round that will surely be remembered as one of the best rounds of the year and also producing one of the year's biggest upsets.
Unfortunately for the talented Venezuelan, it was also the moment when his championship dream ended, as referee Raul Caiz Sr came to his rescue.
The official time was 2:32 of the 11th round, without protest from Linares’ camp.
DeMarco is now a lightweight titlist, picking up a vacant belt that was at stake. He improves to 26-2-1 (19KO) with the win, his third straight since suffering a fourth round knockout loss in what turned out to be the last fight in the career of the late Edwin Valero last February.
It’s back to the drawing board for the heavily-hyped Linares, who falls to 31-2 (20KO). Both losses have come inside the distance. An upset knockout loss to Juan Carlos Salgado two years ago led to significant changes in Linares’ career, including hooking up with famed trainer Freddie Roach. He appeared to return to the level of promise so heavily heaped upon him, but this latest loss is a considerable setback.
Unbeaten 140 lb. talent Danny “Swift” Garcia is now one fight away from receiving a title shot after easily outhustling former titlist Kendall “Rated-R” Holt in their 12-round elimination bout. Despite the dominant performance, the Philly native was forced to settle for an inexplicably scored split decision.
Holt was in control early but the tide permanently shifted after Garcia caught him with a looping right hand atop his head at the end of the second round. From there, it was easy pickings for Garcia, as Holt refused to let his hand go, and ate enough right hands for his left eye to rapidly swell shut.
A dedicated body attack also served Garcia well, breaking down Holt and limiting his opponent’s offense to a bare minimum.
Scores were 117-111 (twice) in favor of Garcia and an atrociously scored 115-113 card for Holt turned in by Wayne Hedgpeth, normally a referee but asked to fill in as a late replacement after another judge was forced to withdraw his services from the bout.
Garcia improves to 22-0 (14KO) in scoring by far the biggest win of his career. Holt snaps a two-fight win streak after having hit a two-fight skid, falling to 27-5 (15KO).
Former 140 lb. titlist Paulie Malignaggi continues to enjoy his new life as a welterweight. The motor-mouthed Brooklyn native has now won three straight after taking a wide decision over a determined but largely ineffective Orlando Lora in their pay-per-view televised opener.
Scores were 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92 in favor of Malignaggi, who boxed brilliantly and outlanded Lora in each of the 10 rounds according to Compubox statistics.
Lora had his moments in several rounds, including a right hand that briefly buckled Malignaggi’s knees in the opening rounds. However, his best moments were often isolated as he was largely outboxed for the rest of each round in which he enjoyed any sort of success. The Mexican was also forced to contend with a nasty gash over his left eye, while Malignaggi spent most of the fight nursing a mouse under his eye.
Malignaggi advances to 30-4 (6KO) with the win; Lora falls to 28-2-1 (19KO) in going 10 rounds for the first time in his career.
The incredible tale of Dewey Bozella has its storybook ending, as the 52-year old man wrongfully imprisoned for half of his life lived out his dream by engaging in a pro fight. Climbing into the ring was victory enough, but he made it an official win with a 4-round decision over winless Larry Hopkins (0-4).
Bozella (1-0) struggled out of the gate but came on strong in the third and fourth round, also benefitting from Hopkins losing a point for excessively spitting out his mouthpiece in the final round.
Scores were 39-36, 38-36 and 38-37 in what figures to be Bozella’s first, last and only pro fight. He plans to continue working with kids and serving as a motivational speaker around the country, now with one more incredible story to share with the public.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox