By Lyle Fitzsimmons
When I look at Chad Dawson, I think of Tommy Hearns.
Not in terms of overall ability and ring success – which are fights the “Hitman” wins clearly over “Bad Chad” – but rather in what each man has done and is doing for his son and other young fighters.
In case you hadn’t heard, Dawson is returning later this month from what’ll amount to an 847-day layoff. Now 36, he’ll square off against 32-year-old Quinton Rankin, a North Carolina light heavyweight with 15 wins and 12 KOs against foes you’ve probably never heard of, alongside five losses and two draws in a pro career that stretches back more than eight years.
Dawson himself hasn’t been seen since a 10th-round TKO at the fists of Andrzej Fonfara became the fourth loss in a seven-fight stretch that also included an ill-advised challenge of super middleweight king Andre Ward (TKO 10) and a one-punch erasure by Canadian-based bomber Adonis Stevenson (KO 1).
Ironically, Rankin sparred with Ward to prep the future Hall of Famer for Dawson.
It was a long fall for a guy who’d spent much of six years atop the 175-pound mountain and whose underrated resume includes pairs of scorecard wins over both Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, not to mention wide decision defeats of multi-weight champions Bernard Hopkins and Tomasz Adamek.
He’ll return at Foxwoods in Connecticut on June 29 for what’s portrayed as the first step in a return to light heavyweight greatness, but probably has just as much to do with getting his son over with a paying local audience. Indeed, Chad Dawson Jr. will be featured prominently on a 10-fight amateur card that’ll precede the main show, and both father and son have been included on pre-fight publicity materials.
Father and son have become regulars on Dawson’s Twitter feed, and both look ripped.
Meanwhile, sharing first-time headlining duties with Dawson is unbeaten New Haven featherweight Tramaine Williams, 26, who’s won 17 straight since going pro in 2012.
“If I didn't think I had anything left, I wouldn't be doing it right now,” said Dawson (Version 1.0), also a resident of New Haven. “I want to get back in the spotlight, back into contention and back into the ring with the guys who are at the top now.”
It reminds me a smidge of 2005, when a 46-year-old Hearns – shelved half a decade after a TKO loss to cruiserweight vet Uriah Grant – chose downtown Detroit’s Cobo Arena for a multi-generational homegrown card that also included his son Ronald, then 26 and unbeaten in six fights; and Lanardo Tyner, who arrived having won all eight of his fights, five by stoppage.
The strapping father figure sang a similarly ambitious tune ahead of the comeback fight, promising three or four incremental steps would lead to another chance at glory – this time at light heavyweight, thanks to a noticeable 14-pound weight loss between the Grant and Long appearances.
But after the fight, both Hearns and promoter Harley Brown conceded that generating a buzz for Ronald and the other kids was as important to them as any prospective climb up the ratings ladder.
Indeed, the “Hitman” appeared just once more – stopping 71-fight vet Shannon Landberg in 10 rounds – atop a wintertime card six months later that featured the next fights for both Ronald and Tyner.
And while they didn’t become superstars, history shows the experiment was a mild success.
The younger Hearns eventually won 21 straight and later challenged for a WBA title at 168 pounds in 2011; while Tyner is still active at age 43, went the distance with future champs Canelo Alvarez, Lamont Peterson and Jessie Vargas, and recorded a victory over ex-140-pound king Vivian Harris.
Just how it’ll wind up for Dawson and Co. remains a mystery.
But for Rankin’s sake, he’s hoping to stop the feel-good lineage story before it starts.
“I'm 100 percent confident I can beat Chad Dawson and will do it in impressive fashion,” he said.
“I'll be able to capitalize on Chad's flaws. A lot of fighters have seen his flaws and capitalized on them. Mentally, he isn't counting on how tough I am. I've seen him mentally crushed under pressure.
“I have nothing to lose. If I beat this guy, my whole life changes.”
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This week’s legit title-fight schedule:
WBA light flyweight title – Chiba City, Japan
Hiroto Kyoguchi (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Tanawat Nakoon (No. 10 WBA/No. 35 IWBR)
Kyoguchi (12-0, 9 KO): First title defense; Held IBF title at 105 pounds (2017-18, two defenses)
Nakoon (11-0, 5 KO): First title fight; First fight outside of Thailand
Fitzbitz says: We’ve never met, but I assume Nakoon is a nice guy. So there’s that. But out of 11 wins he’s beat four fighters who were above .500 at the time. He doesn’t belong. Kyoguchi in 10 (95/5)
Vacant WBO junior bantamweight title – Chiba City, Japan
Aston Palicte (No. 1 WBA/No. 14 IWBR) vs. Kazuto Ioka (No. 2 WBA/No. 5 IWBR)
Palicte (25-2-1, 21 KO): Second title fight (0-0-1); Fifth fight in the United States (3-0-1, 2 KO)
Ioka (23-2, 13 KO): Seventeenth title fight (14-2); Held titles at 105, 108 and 112 pounds (11 defenses)
Fitzbitz says: The WBA has them ranked very closely. There’s not a lot to separate. Palicte is taller and longer, Ioka is more accomplished on this level. Experience wins the day. Ioka by decision (65/35)
WBO junior flyweight title – Indio, California
Angel Acosta (champion/No. 6 IWBR) vs. Elwin Soto (No. 14 WBO/No. 71 IWBR)
Acosta (20-1, 20 KO): Fourth title defense; Averaged 8.4 rounds in winning five scheduled 12-rounders
Soto (14-1, 10 KO): First title fight; First scheduled 12-rounder, has never gone beyond eighth round
Fitzbitz says: Acosta may or may not prove to be the biggest deal at 108 pounds, but faced with a guy who’s never left his home turf and never approached this level, he’ll impress big time. Acosta in 5 (99/1)
This week’s trash title-fight schedule:
WBA “world” super featherweight title – Indio, California
Andrew Cancio (“champion”/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Alberto Machado (No. 5 WBA/No. 5 IWBR)
Why it’s trash: I won’t argue it’s not a good match and neither will I suggest either couldn’t give Gervonta a push. But so long as Davis has the top belt with the WBA’s initials on it then his is the only WBA title worth a mention at 130. To suggest otherwise is to condone alphabet foolishness. I won’t.
Last week's picks: 3-0 (WIN: Warrington, Dalakian, Briedis)
2019 picks record: 50-8 (86.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,061-351 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.