By Keith Idec
It took a couple weeks from the time Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson agreed to contractual terms for their rematch for their promoters to finalize a deal to televise the fight on HBO.
That was a mere formality, according to new HBO Sports president Ken Hershman, because he was always in favor of televising Hopkins-Dawson II on the network. Hershman suspects some of the public backlash against their WBC light heavyweight championship rematch stems from the controversial conclusion to their first fight Oct. 15 in Los Angeles, but he expects it to draw strong ratings on April 28 from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
“A lot of people have strong opinions, apparently, about that fight,” Hershman said. “I look at it like that I know Bernard Hopkins is a ratings draw, for sure. He’s one of the living legends in the sport, he has accomplished amazing things. And people like to watch Bernard Hopkins. The ratings bear that out, wherever he’s fought, whoever he’s fought. And he’s also not somebody who’s going to shy away from somebody of the talent level of Chad Dawson, who’s far younger, far faster at this juncture of his career. And I think it’s a real testament.”
Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC), a Philadelphia native who turned 47 last month, is 17½ years old than Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs, 2 NC).
“The industry should be celebrating an athlete who’s willing to [fight Dawson] at this point in his career,” Hershman continued. “He’s not sitting there, saying, ‘I’m 40-whatever and there’s no way I’m fighting Chad Dawson.’ He’s like, ‘I’ll fight Chad Dawson. Whatever.’ So to me, I think it’s something that should be celebrated and I think it’ll do really well for the network. So I’m bullish on the fight. There was a lot of controversy the first time, and whatever you want to say about their styles, maybe it’ll surprise us, maybe it’ll be a stinker in the ring. But something interesting is going to happen in that fight and I think the viewers will like it.”
There wasn’t much to like about their first fight. After a first round that completely lacked action, Dawson hurled Hopkins off his back following an unusual clinch in the second round. Hopkins said he couldn’t continue because he suffered a left shoulder injury during his fall to the canvas.
Referee Pat Russell ruled Dawson a winner by second-round technical knockout, but the California State Athletic Commission later declared the fight a no-contest.
The 29-year-old Dawson, of New Haven, Conn., claims the oldest boxer ever to win a recognized world title faked his injury to get out of what was sure to be a difficult fight at Staples Center. Despite the controversy and the inconclusive nature of their first fight, the response among fight fans to talk of an immediate rematch was mixed.
“I think it’s a little bit of [what happened in the first fight],” Hershman said. “I think it’s a little bit of this Chad Dawson effect. I think that there’s, for whatever reason, a feeling like, you know, that he is not an interesting figure in the ring, with his fighting style. So I think it’s a little bit of that. But I counter that with, you know, it’s Bernard Hopkins and how long can this go on? It’s mind-blowing to me and I want to see what happens.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.