by Cliff Rold
The college football bowl season delivered some gems in the deservedly maligned BCS matches. The Rose Bowl was outstanding. So was the Fiesta. Before the opening kickoff, there was concern the National Championship Game, a rematch between Alabama and LSU, wouldn’t match their thrills.
The first game between the two, a battle of big defense, field goals, and single digit scoring, was evidence as to why.
The rematch, an eventual rout in favor of Alabama, was a gem for hardcore football fans in love with big hits and great defense. For everyone else, hey, the remote control can land many a place.
Alabama-LSU II was a reminder major sports can exist on two platforms: competition between the best and entertainment. They aren’t mutually exclusive accept when they are.
On Wednesday, boxing fans were informed a rematch has been signed between ageless lineal World Light Heavyweight Champion Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KO) and former 175 lb. titlist Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KO). Hopkins already bested former lineal champion Jean Pascal, victorious in their second fight after a debated draw the first time around. In Dawson, he has an opponent who meets the standard of competition between the best.
Dawson is, on merits, the next best Light Heavyweight after Pascal.
Whether fans will be entertained remains to be seen. Slotted for Atlantic City on April 28th, it will be no surprise if tickets are still available during the co-feature. It wasn’t hard to find a seat the first time they faced off.
And, while the ending provided ample discussion, an entertaining fight it wasn’t.
Squaring off after years of banter at the Staples Center in Los Angeles last October, Hopkins-Dawson I was playing out as a methodical chess game. Landed punches were at a premium. Clinches were inevitable. With a heightened awareness of Hopkins’ ability to make fights rough and ugly when he needs to, Dawson reacted to efforts to a grind on the back of his neck with a forearm in round two by shaking Hopkins off with a little leg action to boot.
Fight never really started. Initially ruled a loss for Hopkins, the verdict was rightly overturned to a No Contest by the California State Athletic Commission in December.
Fans who saw what was unfolding, and how it ended, fans who paid for it on pay-per-view no less (and most tallies didn’t out the buys number too high), couldn’t be blamed for not wanting to see it again. From an entertainment standpoint, Hopkins and Dawson can be better matched.
It is still the right fight for April 28th. Hopkins and Dawson is still unfinished business. Whether it ends up worth what is paid for it, on regular HBO rather than pay-per-view this time, remains to be seen. From the standpoint of competition, it’s hard to criticize.
Hopkins, as the years and decades pass, may ultimately come to be seen as the best fighter of his time. His lengthy rule of the Middleweight division has been followed by an incredible run in his 40s. He hasn’t had the volume of fights the great Archie Moore did in his 40s, but he’s beating the best of his time at an older age. One can make a strong case, excluding Felix Trinidad in 2001 and maybe Glen Johnson in 1997 (Johnson was a far cry from what he’d become), the now 47-year old Hopkins has had best run of opposition has come when most fighters are well into retirement.
Beginning with two fights against an undefeated Jermain Taylor in 2005, his run has included a reigning Light Heavyweight champ in Antonio Tarver, leading Middleweight contender Winky Wright, undefeated Super Middleweight king Joe Calzaghe, undefeated Middleweight king Kelly Pavlik, and now four straight against Pascal and Dawson. A brief dip against Middleweight Enrique Ornelas and long faded rival Roy Jones is the lone lull spot.
Asked at the post-fight press conference for Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson why his choice of opponents is often ballsier than men a decade and younger than him, Hopkins replied, “Because I have big balls.”
There was a period where Dawson looked like the mountain Hopkins wouldn’t, didn’t want to, climb. Contractual obligations may have pushed the first encounter, but he went through. He’s doing it again, with a nudge from the WBC mandating a rematch.
And the 29-year old Dawson is no slouch. With a win over Hopkins, he can clear a big hurdle to full recognition of a strong Light Heavyweight run. Since coming off the floor to defeat Eric Harding in 2006 and become a serious contender, he’s faced a who’s who of the class.
His first belt (WBC) came with a near whitewash of eventual Cruiserweight king Tomasz Adamek, blemished only by a late knockdown. He survived a thrilling war with Glen Johnson and put wide distance between the two in a rematch. Between those bouts, he won a pair of lopsided decisions against Tarver, the first for a title (IBF) held by Tarver.
His lone blemish still needs correcting. Matched with Jean Pascal in 2010 for a chance to truly stamp himself the true king of the division, Dawson struggled with a man whose speed was greater than his. One day, he may get a chance at vengeance.
It would mean a lot more if he can get by Hopkins first. In a division with a strong core of young talent like IBF titlist Tavoris Cloud (23-0, 19 KO), WBO titlist Nathan Cleverly (23-0, 11 KO), and impressive contender Ismayl Sillakh (17-0, 14 KO), Dawson has the challenges available to claim the finest competitive run at Light Heavyweight since Michael Spinks.
No, Roy Jones fans, that’s not the same as saying he could have beaten the best of Jones. The loss to Pascal will always be heavy leverage against the position. It is to say he may one day be able to claim to have beaten better fighters overall at 175 lbs.
That’s a good enough point to start a conversation. Time will tell if he can beat any of those men. Time will tell, in just a few short months, if he can beat Hopkins. He hasn’t proven it yet. Hopkins hasn’t proven able to get past him either. In terms of quality of talent, it is the best match the division can offer and a question worth resolving.
It is boxing as sport before entertainment.
The other names will have to bring us our Rose and Fiesta Bowls later.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Rigondeuax Strikes Gold: http://www.boxingscene.com/guillermo-rigondeaux-arrives-wins-gold-pro-ranks--48774
Which Means?: http://www.boxingscene.com/-plate-ribs-please-weekend-review-ratings-update--48836
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--48866
Cliff’s Notes… Given a choice, Floyd Mayweather-Miguel Cotto at Jr. Middleweight is better than Manny Pacquiao-Cotto II at Welterweight or some lame catchweight. It’s a better choice period since it hasn’t happened already in lopsided fashion. Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley is a dangerous fight for both that can be contested at Welterweight and gives fans the best two fights available of what is being discussed. For those who say Bradley isn’t a big enough name? Yawn. If Pacquiao is the superstar he is made out to be, and he is, he should be able to sell with a fighter of Bradley’s quality. Hell, Oscar De La Hoya once did big business with an ancient Yori Boy Campas...Gennady Golovkin-Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam would be a solid Middleweight fight. Any clash of the top ten would be. It’s weird though. The whole class seems stuck with everyone wanting one fight but not another. Where is the man who says he can lick them all? Find him please…Is Showtime Haymon-izing? Showtime allegedly turning down a surefire battle between Lucian Bute and Carl Froch stinks. Would anyone be surprised if we get Bute-Andre Dirrell instead?
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]