by David P. Greisman
“If ever there was a fight to be called unfinished business, it’s obviously this one,” said John Scully, trainer to Chad Dawson, whose rematch with light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins was recently made official.
Dawson, 30-1 with 17 knockouts and 2 no contests, will face Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs, 2 no contests) on April 28 in Atlantic City, a rematch of an October bout that ended with injury and controversy. Originally ruled a second-round technical knockout win for Dawson, that result was overturned and called a “no contest.”
Scully recently spoke with BoxingScene.com about the rematch, Dawson’s strategy for Hopkins and more.
BoxingScene.com: After everything that happened with the last fight and the appeals process, did you think this rematch was going to get made?
Scully: “I did. It was mandated by the WBC. A lot of people were saying Hopkins wouldn’t take it, but I just felt that as a fighter, he knew regardless of the business end of things that if he vacated the title rather than face Chad, that the common person would say he was scared of Chad. I don’t think he wanted to live his life having people say that about him.
“A fighter is a fighter, and you want a definitive ending, and I think both guys wanted that. I think Hopkins doesn’t want to leave any questions. Win, lose or draw, he wants to find out the real ending.”
BoxingScene.com: Is this the fight you wanted next for Chad?
Scully: “I’m a fighter at heart still, and I know the way it ended, I wouldn’t have wanted to just move on to somebody else. It was unfinished business. If ever there was a fight that could be called unfinished business, it’s obviously this one. As a fighter, you want to find out, ‘Could I have really beaten this guy? Would I have beaten this guy?’
“The other guys will still be there after: [Tavoris] Cloud and [Jean] Pascal, they’ll still be in the mix, and the other kid, Ismayl Sillakh, he’s the one to watch, that down the road is going to be the big, interesting fight.”
BoxingScene.com: What are your thoughts on this fight being on the East Coast instead of the West Coast again, and in Atlantic City instead of Los Angeles?
Scully: “That was the right move. Clearly it’s an Atlantic City/New York fight. Maybe Atlantic City gives Hopkins theoretically a little edge. Atlantic City basically is Philadelphia. But by the same token, it’s only a few hours from Connecticut, so Chad is surely going to have a lot of people. I wouldn’t be surprised if on fight night, as far as personal friends, I would think that Chad actually might have more people in the building for him than Hopkins will. Obviously it’s a northeastern fight. That should’ve been the move the first fight.”
BoxingScene.com: How might that benefit Dawson?
Scully: “The fact is you get a jolt. When you walk out in the arena and see 10, 20 30 people right on the line of sight to the ring that are yelling your name that you recognize, it adds a little spark. It’s like jumpstarting a car. You come out in L.A. and are literally looking out at a couple thousand strangers. You’ve never seen these people before, and so there’s no personal connection. I definitely think seeing people that he knows from New Haven [in Connecticut] there at the fight will definitely be a plus.”
BoxingScene.com: What was the strategy for the first fight with Hopkins?
Scully: “It was basically just to be himself, Chad at his best, just let his reflexes take over and just fight his fight. We looked back on tapes of him against Tarver and Johnson and Adamek, and I said ‘Watch yourself here. When you let your hands go, you’re the man in boxing.’ As a combination puncher, I think Chad is pound-for-pound the best at combination punching. When he lets his hands go, there’s nobody that does that better.
“I know the knock on him is he hasn’t visibly shown the hunger and the desire and the spirit and all the things of that nature, but when he does, he’s the man. You’re going to see a lot more of that for this fight.”
BoxingScene.com: It seems you really didn’t get to see that in the first fight because they were still feeling-out rounds.
Scully: “I think if anything, the feedback I’ve gotten is a lot of people noticed the look on his face, they noticed his intent. His intentions were clear. That’s why after the fight he had that verbal outburst. A lot of people didn’t like that, but that was his intensity coming out. I mean, people wanted to see him intense. Well, they saw that. He wanted to fight. He clearly wanted to fight, and I have no doubt that’s going to carry over to this fight.
“Chad really wants this fight. He really wants to beat Bernard Hopkins. That’s been a dream of his for years. Anytime you see a guy, I mean, look at Roy Jones against certain guys, and then look at him against other guys. In his prime, when he wanted to make a statement and prove a point, he really showed himself. And I believe that’s the case with Chad.”
BoxingScene.com: Considering how little we saw in the first fight, are there any changes you need to make for the rematch?
Scully: “Not particularly. I just feel like, at this point, the best of Chad beats the best of Hopkins. If Chad does what he’s capable of doing and fights his fight, it can be — I don’t ever use the word easy — but a clear victory. Chad just has to be Chad. He has to do his thing. That’s what he has to do every fight. He has to do that every fight.
“Chad is what I call a guy that dictates. When you fight Chad Dawson, nine times out of 10 you’re going to have to adjust to him. He’s not going to have to adjust to you. Chad just has that type of style. Again, I compare it to a Roy Jones type of thing. When people saw Roy, he was the problem, not them.”
BoxingScene.com: How does Chad keep it from getting ugly, like what some people have accused Hopkins of being?
Scully: “That goes to what I was saying about Chad just maintaining his abilities and fighting his fight. It’s a type of thing where Bernard does all those things. Everybody knows what he does, and that benefits him. And against the best of Chad Dawson, those types of things will never come into play.
“Chad at his best is not the type of guy, stylistically, that Hopkins can exploit. We’re just looking to go out there and be in top shape, Chad being in top shape and being mentally just ready to rumble, ready to box, ready to perform. I just think he’s a couple steps ahead of Hopkins.”
BoxingScene.com: When do you hope to get Chad in camp?
Scully: “He’ll be in the gym Monday [Jan. 30]. We’ll be way ahead of schedule, especially compared to the last fight. Condition, obviously, will be no problem.”
BoxingScene.com: That seems like a long camp.
Scully: “Yeah, well we’re not going Monday and starting crazy. We’ll ease our way into it. We’ll still shoot for the proper amount of time before the fight where we really step it up a notch. I don’t want him spending the next few weeks doing nothing. He’s got to keep his body loose and limber.”
BoxingScene.com: What are you going to tell Chad to do if Hopkins gets up on his back again this time?
Scully [Laughing]: “Just stay still. Let the ref come and do his job. You got to harness your emotions. He’s been through that. He’s experienced that. And if anything, if Bernard ends up on top of him, he’ll probably just grab Hopkins. If it was me, knowing the situation and the back story, I would probably just do everything I could in that moment to defuse that situation and not let it get out of hand.
“I’m hoping enough people around Hopkins, or certainly on the Internet, I hope Hopkins reads what tons of people were saying: ‘Man, I hope this doesn’t happen again. I’m sick of this guy. He’s always on top of people and under people and he’s hitting people here and there.’ I hope Hopkins realizes that act has gotten old. It’s not fun. It’s not interesting. It’s not boxing. It’s not old school. It’s just ugly. It’s ugly to watch.
“He tries to come across like he’s the pay-per-view draw, but he’s got to realize he’s part of this equation why the fight did not sell last time. You can look up old message board posts where people actually said before the fight, ‘Don’t be surprised if the fight ends in disqualification.’ It’s amazing how many people said that, and that was before the fight even happened.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter at twitter.com/fightingwords2 or on Facebook at facebook.com/fightingwordsboxing, or send questions and comments to [email protected]