When future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins entered the ring last Saturday night to defend his WBC World Light-Heavyweight title against former multi-time Light-Heavyweight world champion Chad Dawson for their rematch there were some questions that needed to be answered.
When future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins entered the ring last Saturday night to defend his WBC World Light-Heavyweight title against former multi-time Light-Heavyweight world champion Chad Dawson for their rematch there were some questions that needed to be answered. At forty-seven years of age, could Bernard Hopkins once again defy father time? Would the controversial ending of the first encounter between the two have any influence in the outcome of the rematch? Would Chad Dawson’s youth and athleticism be enough to overcome Hopkins’ skill and experience?
When the fight got underway not surprisingly what transpired was an extremely tactical battle which seemed to favor Hopkins. Dawson, a fighter known for his tremendous hand speed and quickness had difficulty finding his range on an elusive Hopkins. Despite out landing Hopkins in every round of the contest, the rounds were often close due to neither fighter really standing out from the other.
Dawson however was able to step up his pace as the fight progressed and despite sustaining two cuts, one from an accidental clash of heads in round four and one from a punch in round eight, was able to outwork Hopkins. During the course of the fight it appeared in the eyes of this observer that Hopkins’ pace would need to increase as the fight went on. Hopkins was of course facing a fighter who is eighteen years his junior. There were some thoughts that ran through my mind during the fight that although several of the early rounds were close and one may even argue that they were “Swing Rounds” in that it could have gone either way, that Hopkins could have been holding back in letting his offense go. One thought that I had as I watched this fight was that Hopkins was holding back a little with the hope and or, intention of stepping up his offense as the younger Dawson began to fatigue.
Perhaps Hopkins’ strategy was to simply let Dawson be the aggressor and wait for him to punch himself out before really stepping it up. In all truth and honesty even though Chad Dawson landed more punches than Bernard Hopkins in this fight, he did not have the easiest time in there. In many ways this bout was a Bernard Hopkins kind of fight. Clinching, Wrestling, fighting on the inside, simply Ugly. Although Hopkins was not able to out land Dawson, his elusiveness and ability to land punches at certain points made this fight periodically difficult to score.
In my mind Dawson was able to pull ahead of Hopkins in the middle rounds. Despite landing only at a 35% connect percentage for the entire fight, Dawson won the fight in my mind simply because he was more active. Whether it was Hopkins’ strategy to step up his punch output as Dawson tired, it became clear as the fight entered the late rounds that Hopkins likely needed a knockout to retain his title. Despite several of the early rounds being close, it was clear that Hopkins had let the fight get away from him at this point in the contest.
Hopkins was unable to muster a rally in the late rounds as Dawson boxed his way to a majority decision victory by identical scores of 117-111 on two scorecards while the third scorecard had the fight even 114-114. Some may question the scorecard of Judge Luis Rivera of 114-114. I am not so sure if questions or criticism of Rivera is appropriate.
To many it was clear that Dawson won this fight by a wide margin, however, when you think of Hopkins, did Dawson really do it? This was the first time that I in many years of watching and covering Bernard Hopkins’ fights that I have scored a fight against him, scoring this fight 116-112 for Dawson. The basis of my score was Hopkins seemed to win two of the first four rounds. This was a difficult fight to score in the early part of the fight and in rounds where it seems like not much is happening to distinguish one fighter from the other, you have to look at other facets. Defense, ring generalship and, who is landing the cleaner punches, all enter into the mix of scoring.
In some ways this fight very much reminded me of Bernard Hopkins’ loss to Joe Calzaghe in 2008. In that fight, Hopkins was able to get off to a solid start scoring a knockdown of Calzaghe in the first round however was unable to really sustain a consistent rhythm. Despite only throwing one punch at a time and initiating many of the clinches throughout the fight, Hopkins was able to make the fight close simply by neutralizing much of Calzaghe’s speed with his elusiveness. Much like the Dawson rematch Hopkins was able to be effective at certain points with his offense. The difference however is that Hopkins threw a little more in the Calzaghe fight which made the bout down the stretch harder to score.
In fights like this as I’ve said many times over the years it often boils down to what a judge prefers. Aggression and more importantly effective aggression more often than not will give a fighter the benefit of the doubt over an elusive fighter in fights that are fought as this fight was. Even though neither fighter seemed to be really hurt at any point in the fight, Dawson simply threw more and landed more. Sometimes that’s all a fighter needs. There is no disputing that Chad Dawson won this fight.
Following the fight, I commented on social media “Bernard Hopkins will always be a fighter that even if you defeat him on points you don't necessarily look good in doing so and often times there will be debate as to who had the edge simply because of how Hopkins fights”. Dawson won the fight however, I believe he was only allowed to look as good as Bernard Hopkins would let him look. Although I believe Chad Dawson won this fight, the verdict of a majority decision did not shock me one bit.
It was an uninspiring and in some ways unsatisfying fight for all involved., the fighters, the promoters, and most importantly the fans. The question now becomes where do Dawson and Hopkins go from here? For Dawson it appears a bout with unbeaten Super-Middleweight world champion Andre Ward could be on the horizon should Ward opt to move up to the Light-Heavyweight division. There could also be a potential fight with former multi-time Super-Middleweight champion Mikkel Kessler who is currently rated number three in the WBC’s Light-Heavyweight ratings. The possibility also exists of a potential third bout with Hopkins at some point. There are options on the table for Chad Dawson. Which option he decides to choose? Only time will tell…
What about Bernard Hopkins? In the days following the fight I have had the opportunity to gage reaction both from Boxing fans and experts alike. Some have questioned whether or not Hopkins’ age played a factor in his performance in this rematch. I’m not sure… It did appear that Hopkins was a bit tentative in letting his punches go in this fight. It seems to me that this could have been due to his respecting Dawson’s quickness and hand speed more so than age. Age however will continue to be the subject of conversation as long as Bernard Hopkins continues his career as a fighter.
Hopkins refused to give a post-fight interview following the announcement of the decision appearing to be clearly disgusted with the result. In the days following the fight however Hopkins released a statement to the media vowing to fight on. He stated. "Regardless of the result, I will continue my career and challenge any champion in my division. I might be older, but I don't feel a decline in my skills or abilities in the ring. I love to fight and am still competing at a level where boxing cannot deny me the opportunity to succeed”.
If a third fight with Chad Dawson is not on the table for Hopkins there are two realistic options in my mind that Hopkins could consider. Option one may be a challenge of undefeated IBF Light Heavyweight world champion Tavoris Cloud. Cloud, a heavy hitter recently retained his title via controversial decision over former WBA World Light-Heavyweight champion Gabriel Campillo. Many observers, this one included felt that Campillo out boxed the power punching Cloud. Stylistically Hopkins’ elusiveness and ability to make a fight rough whenever he pleases could pose for a difficult fight for Cloud. Cloud is currently scheduled to defend his title against former WBC Light-Heavyweight champion Jean Pascal on August 11th. Hopkins fought to a draw and defeated Pascal in a rematch. Depending on the outcome of that fight, one may argue Hopkins would be a logical opponent for either Cloud or Pascal.
Option two for Hopkins may be a fight with WBO champion Nathan Cleverly. Like Cloud, Cleverly is unbeaten in his professional career. Cleverly has made three successful defenses of his world title since winning the championship in 2010. Cleverly however has yet to be put in with distinguishable opposition that could elevate his status among the pound for pound elite of the sport.
On paper this could be a difficult fight for Hopkins as Cleverly can be at times a slick fighter with good hand speed. Cleverly however has never fought anyone with the skill set of Hopkins and it could very well be an extremely tactical fight if Hopkins decides to pursue a bout with him.
There is the question however that at age forty-seven what does Bernard Hopkins really have left to prove as a fighter after an already Hall of Fame career? The answer is nothing.
So why continue? Bernard doesn’t need fame or fortune and his legacy is etched in stone. So why? My guess is, it’s more than the love of the sport. I believe there is something inside Hopkins that drives him. We have all heard references to an inner being within a fighter, where a fighter’s heart drives them. Even in Rocky VI reference was made to an inner beast.
Bernard Hopkins has always gone against the grain and done things his way. No one can tell him to quit, he won’t listen to it, and probably would use it as fuel to fight on.
Is he done? No! When will he retire? When his heart tells him to…