Chad Dawson relieved himself of a burden on his back he carried for several years when he defeated future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins in clear and convincing fashion Saturday night. It was far from entertaining, but it was the win Dawson needed to move forward with his career.
Dawson did so in front of a large and vocal partisan crowd. While he had some support, the majority of the 7,000-plus at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City came to see the Philadelphia native Hopkins for possibly the last time.
Dawson believed Hopkins avoided fighting him for over three years. He believed Hopkins only fought him last year because he was finally backed into a corner when contracts demanded he fight him after beating Jean Pascal for the WBC light heavyweight title. Dawson said Hopkins faked an injury in their first fight because he was looking to get out of the October 2011 bout, which was declared a no-contest after Hopkins dislocated his shoulder after being thrown to the canvas by Dawson late in the second round.
So, the fighter from New Haven, Conn., came in Saturday night looking to finish what he felt had started years before.
The fight started as slow as possible in the first two rounds, even for two fighters often described as "technical." In Round 3, Dawson began setting the game plan in motion that would control the fight. Hopkins circled and Dawson pressed. When Dawson got within range, he used his long jab to start three or four-punch combinations that may not have landed much leather, but allowed him to win rounds on activity. It was a pattern he used throughout the fight.
Hopkins began to make attempts to assert himself in Round 4. His characteristic straight right and lunge forward found the mark a few times. More importantly, a head-butt from Hopkins opened a cut over Dawson’s left eye that had everyone concerned this one would end prematurely like the last fight. The cut was patched well, though, and never factored into the outcome.
In Round 5, with the cut on his mind, Dawson seemed to fight with some urgency and began being more aggressive. He followed the same plan as stated above, but did so with more speed and more willingness to take risks to attack.
The second half of the fight followed a similar pattern. At times, Hopkins would have mild success with the straight right, but the majority of the fight was controlled by Dawson. He was simply younger, faster, taller, more aggressive and the better fighter at this point of his career. The 47-year-old Hopkins seemed to finally succumb to age and an opponent able to use his youth to overcome the ageless wonder’s ring intelligence. As the rounds went by, more of Dawson’s punches seemed to find the mark, although Hopkins was never hurt at any time.
Hopkins made a last effort in Round 12, pressing harder than at any point in the fight. But it was far too little, too late for "The Executioner."
"Bad" Chad had already done enough to pull ahead. Judge Steve Weisfeld and Richard Flaherty had it 117-111 for Dawson, while somehow judge Luis Rivera saw it as a 114-114 draw. The Boxing Tribune had it 117-111 as well.
Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) takes home the WBC and Ring light heavyweight titles and gets past a hurdle he needed to clear to move forward. Afterward he said he would like to take on Andre Ward for his next bout.
For Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs), he may have showed his age, but he has had a career full of incredible performances that is guaranteed to make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. He was soundly congratulated by the many fans that came to see the legend as he exited the ring.
Afterward at the post-fight press conference, the two heated rivals quickly became civil competitors with each other. Hopkins congratulated Dawson, spoke highly of his abilities and said he expects him to do well in the future with his career and his family.
Hopkins, of course, was asked if he would retire.
"We’ll see what it is. Right now, I feel good," Hopkins said. "I’m 47, my shoulder — my other shoulder — is aching and I’m gonna rest up and take care of myself. Right now, I can’t tell you either or."
Dawson came in the interview room while Hopkins was speaking to pay the appropriate respect to someone who has accomplished what Hopkins has in his career.
"Hey man, you’re a legend," Dawson told Hopkins. "It was a hell of a fight, and you’re definitely a legend in my book."