By Cliff Rold
Eventually, Harry Houdini succumbed. The cause of his end was a ruptured appendix. Houdini’s act reportedly sometimes included tightening his abs and show people what shots he could take. It was one more escape he could dazzle the masses with.
Legend has it the famed escape artist was felled by an onlooker who tested his abdomen with shots Houdini didn’t really see coming. By the time he reacted, it was too late.
There is an analogy to fighters as they age. Most need not fear anything as dire as Houdini’s fate. Reflexes dull, desire wanes, and yesterday’s blow so easy to absorb is an end come without warning. The fighters who can hold off time longer build an aura around them, a touch of magic.
Houdini kept his until the age of 52.
World Light Heavyweight Champion Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KO) enters the ring for his rematch with Chad Dawson (31-1, 18 KO) this weekend at only the tender age of 47.
Hopkins has always come to the ring as the “Executioner.” In recent years, he has dug into a deep bag of fistic tricks and come up with his own sort of magic. Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal could only shake their heads at the end.
Dawson hasn’t experienced the magic yet. Given his youth, seasoning, and overall skill set, he might not have to. The two rounds they went through in October 2011 certainly weren’t anything to leave fans with a feeling of awe or whimsy.
Given time to think about the ugly finish of Hopkins-Dawson I though, one can wonder if Dawson has already fallen under some of the spell.
While his combination punching, push-up displays, and ability to get off the floor were all worth getting excited about in the fights with Pavlik and Pascal, Hopkins also draws on what one might call the dark arts of his trade. Against Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones the second time around, he seemed to over dramatize fouls real and imagined while never shying from the rough stuff himself.
Hopkins is a master of timing and defense. He’s also a master of holding and hitting, leaning, and digging elbows. Dawson was prepared for the latter in the first fight and it cost him.
With Hopkins laying over him and pressing his forearm down on the neck, Dawson gave him a hard shove with a little leg action (feel free to debate intentional versus inadvertent). Hopkins injured his shoulder. There has been debate about degree.
In the end, Hopkins wound up still the king at 175 lbs.
If he came in a little wound up, a little too ready to react, Dawson certainly wasn’t the first. Antwun Echols dumped Hopkins hard in their rematch after being befuddled for much of their first contest. Keith Holmes was looking for fouls early and often. Knowing who Hopkins is at his best, combined with knowledge of what he’s willing to do to win, seems to have a taxing effect on the mind.
While there seems to be a trend towards picking Dawson to win this weekend, the mental aspects of the fight remain an x-factor. Dawson has shown mental lapses over the years. In his fight with Jean Pascal, moments of brilliance were overruled by tentativeness. Against Antonio Tarver, the second time, there were times when he lost focus.
He’s an almost complete package heading into a fight where every bit of pressure is on him. Hopkins can lose and it doesn’t matter. He’s going to the Hall of Fame and is already part of the tapestry of boxing history.
Where does he rank with the great Middleweights?
Where does he rank with the greatest fighters over 40?
Where does he rank with the great ones, period?
Hopkins is part of all those discussions already. All he can do is add new footnotes because the bulk of his tale is told. There must be comfort in knowing the only real challenge is to the self, in the quiet moments alone when Hopkins has to wonder “can I do it one more time?”
The great magicians are like that. Houdini went from handcuffs, to the Chinese Water Torture cell, to vanishing an elephant, to being buried alive. The game of can-I-top-it went for as long as he could sustain it.
Chad Dawson has to show he’s got the head to go with the body as an antidote to whatever Hopkins has cooked up for him this weekend. That Hopkins is in the fight at all is magic all its own.
We can anticipate it while it lasts.
Sooner than later.
It will be gone.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Stevenson Shells: http://www.boxingscene.com/suddenly-stevenson-statement-making-blitz-quebec--52014
Chemito Shines: http://www.boxingscene.com/get-chemito-weekend-review-ratings-update--52115
Updated Division Ratings: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--52116
Cliff’s Notes… Four solid fights on one Showtime card? At subscription fees? That’s stretching the dollar in the right direction…Daniel Bryan: YES! Just because…If Jhonny Gonzalez can make it twelve straight KO’s this weekend, wouldn’t a showdown with fellow Mexican Orlando Salido be worth calling for?...Counting down to Kazuto Ioka-Akira Yaegashi in June. This Strawweight fight is worth getting excited about early…Patrick Connor did some incredible work on the great Kid Chocolate this week over at Queensberry Rules. Check it out at: http://www.queensberry-rules.com/2012-articles/april/victoria-aut-mors-kid-chocolate.html…Is it a safe bet Guillermo Rigondeaux and Anselmo Moreno will be competing for the valuable promotional tool of ‘most avoided’ in the next year or so?...Washington Nationals pitching is worth waking up for.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]