by Cliff Rold
Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KO) probably lost the first round (all three judges thought so). He definitely was losing the second. The younger, longer, quicker, man was willing to win just plain old boxing. Hopkins fought, from the opening bell, like someone who didn’t think he could.
Right hand/head lunge combo? Check. The head appeared to be Hopkins’ first landed blow in the bout’s first minute. Holding and hitting, trying to force an opponent to the floor? Check.
To say Hopkins is an encyclopedia of subtle fouls and old school tricks is no exaggeration. It’s typically a compliment. That doesn’t mean Chad Dawson had to find it amusing or put up with it.
History says opponents who let the version of Hopkins who showed up Saturday, the Hopkins who echoes the legendary rule bending of Zivic and Greb, get comfortable having his way are in trouble. Dawson knew his history. He was in no mood to be fouled.
He retaliated and, in trying to make a statement, the result is a circus of unintended consequence. For now it reads “Technical Knockout” in the second round. Give it time. That’s likely to change.
Let’s got to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed –Hopkins B; Dawson A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power –Hopkins B; Dawson B/Post: Incomplete
Pre-Fight: Defense –Hopkins A; Dawson B+/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Intangibles –Hopkins A; Dawson B+/Post: Incomplete
For now, Chad Dawson (31-1, 18 KO) is the Light Heavyweight Champion. Within one to two weeks, the guess here is he will not be. Review of the final moments of the fight could very possibly result in a reversal of verdict, from a win for Dawson to a No Content or No Decision. That returns the title to Hopkins and sets up a rematch.
Don’t get it twisted. This is not a call for a rematch, simply recognition that one is likely on its way. The Dawson camp has made clear they are already looking elsewhere, specifically to Jean Pascal. If the decision does not stand, their tune is sure to change.
The fight itself never really got started. Enough was seen to get some displays of speed and defense but not quite enough for the other categories, thus the grades. Dawson landed the best punch of an otherwise even first round and was outworking Hopkins in the second, even if neither man was doing anything sensational. Dawson did a little hooking of the elbow himself but, from the start, Hopkins was digging deep into the everything-but-clean-boxing bag
Should the verdict stand? There is certainly valid debate about just what happened in the closing sequence, but there can be none about the obvious: Hopkins was in no way felled by a punch. It’s important, in a situation like this, to review not only the multiple angles of instant replay but also the real time replay.
Hopkins threw a right hand, Dawson slipped and ducked, and Hopkins leaned his weight over the back of Dawson. Hopkins moved his right forearm and elbow over the neck of Dawson, a leverage move, and Dawson shook him off.
And with a little leg action.
The leg action is where a lot of discussion will center. Replays showed that it probably wasn’t advertent. Hopkins, as he was leaning on Dawson, pulled his right leg almost into the chest of a hunched Dawson. Dawson never looks at Hopkins, and in fact has his eyes shut, as he leans and pushes off. His left hand certainly touches the leg of Hopkins but, and this is strongly evident in real time, the whole moment was reaction, happening without the what would seem the time necessary for calculation.
This matters in discerning whether what occurred was a flagrant, or incidental, foul. It does not appear flagrant. Sometimes, crap happens. Saturday, it did. Dawson might not have done the ‘right’ thing in a purist, sporting ethics sense but he did the right fighting thing. He was using his body to make a firm statement that he wasn’t there to take a bunch of guff. In retrospect, maybe he should have just nailed him in the cup. Hopkins asked for it and got it but fans didn’t get what they came for in the main event.
It was yet another pay-per-view headliner that didn’t give fans their money’s worth in 2011.
Hopkins is a master in there, and Dawson has seen enough over the years to be justified in initially thinking Hopkins was milking it. Fans recall the nonsensical theatrics Hopkins used in the Roy Jones rematch, fouling consistently and then dropping as if shot from slapping rabbit shots. Late against Joe Calzaghe, he embellished a grazing low blow and also went down from what replays showed was a clean body shot.
Hopkins sometimes fights as if he is trying to engender sympathy from judges to steal close rounds by virtue of the courage he is showing in overcoming foul adversity. That reports indicate this was a real injury make for an ironic ending.
HBO’s Max Kellerman compared it to the boy who cried wolf. Apt comparison. Fortunately for Hopkins, he’s also a fighter who screams all-time great, and it’s a smart bet Dawson’s going to have to beat him, straight up, on another Saturday night before this matter is settled.
Report Card Picks 2011: 34-12
Light Heavyweight: Dawson assumes the champion’s spot for now, but the right is reserved to change that later depending on appeals to the California State Athletic Commission. Nathan Cleverly, after winning the fight of the week, moves up a few slots.
Jr. Welterweight: Danny Garcia enters the top ten with his dominant win over former titlist Kendall Holt.
Lightweight: On, easily, the best fight of the Dawson-Hopkins show, Antonio DeMarco came from behind to score a stoppage in the eleventh round in a savage, bloody battle. Jorge Linares stays where he was while DeMarco gets an earned bump up the charts. Replays should include this one as real fight fans got their red meat here on Saturday.
Featherweight: Celestino Caballero is back among the belted masses, exacting revenge for a robbery loss to Jonathon Barros earlier this year.
The weekend results and more are reflected a page away.
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]