Is Hopkins' career over after Dawson's shrug?
For the first time in his 23-year boxing career, Bernard Hopkins lost a fight when he couldn't get off the canvas.
The way Hopkins ended up on the canvas Saturday will be debated long after the 46-year-old champion finally retires, particularly if this bizarre loss to Chad Dawson ends his unique career.
When Hopkins leaned over the crouching Dawson after throwing a punch late in the second round, Dawson lifted Hopkins off his feet by standing up, then shrugged Hopkins roughly to the ground. Hopkins landed awkwardly on the edge of the ring, separating a joint in his left shoulder.
Staples Center's fans felt cheated, chanting obscenities for several minutes. Dawson was furious at missing a career-defining moment, goading Hopkins to get up and fight. Hopkins demanded a foul and a no-contest result, then saw cheating and conspiracy when Dawson was awarded a TKO victory.
Yep, just another normal night at the fights.
A month after Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocked out Victor Ortiz with two punches whose sportsmanship and legality were widely debated, boxing somehow topped itself.
''If there's something abnormal to happen, it will happen in boxing,'' said Gary Shaw, Dawson's promoter.
Dawson's new light heavyweight title belt might as well carry a huge asterisk instead of the WBC logo, but Dawson (31-1, 18 KOs) tried to celebrate a victory even while frustration burned behind his eyes.
As for those fans who bought tickets or the $54.99 pay-per-view show to watch a solid undercard and a ridiculous main event, Shaw suggested Hopkins (52-6-2) should refund their money.
''I really wanted the fight,'' said Dawson, who landed only seven of his 55 punches in the fight. ''I wanted to show everybody what I could do. I knew what he'd do. He head-butted me twice in the first round. He had no power, nothing. ... I gave him the shoulder, and he saw a way out of the fight.''
The ugly 5 1/2-minute fight between two of the world's best technical boxers provided no answers about Dawson's ability to maximize his exceptional gifts, or Hopkins' once-in-a-generation toughness. Instead, the second-round TKO just raised several new questions.
Was Dawson's move dirty, or a reasonable response to a clutching opponent? Does Hopkins deserve a rematch of his only stoppage loss, even if he's unlikely to get it? Will the result change after an appeal?
And was it the last fight for Hopkins, who must go through significant rehabilitation for his shoulder injury?
The oldest man to win a significant world title will be 47 in January. Hopkins has said he'll fight until he turns 50, but he's running out of suitable opponents for the big-money fights he craves.
Hopkins, who threw only 29 punches and landed 11 before his injury, was released from a hospital two hours after the fight, his arm in a sling.
He claimed Dawson also grabbed his leg on his way to the canvas, throwing off his balance with a dirty trick, but television replays were inconclusive.
''They want me out of boxing, and this is one way to do it,'' Hopkins said. ''He just wanted to rough me up with dirty tactics. He wanted to get me out of there, and that was the only way he could.''
Hopkins might ask for a rematch of a fight that wasn't hugely anticipated the first time, and the WBC might order an immediate rematch for its belt.
Dawson and Shaw realize the result could be changed to a no-contest after Hopkins' promoter, Richard Schaefer, appeals the result to the California State Athletic Commission this week.
Dawson doesn't care: He wants a rematch with Jean Pascal, the only fighter to beat him.
Dawson renounced his previous two light heavyweight titles in recent years when the sanctioning bodies tried to direct his career, so it's no surprise he'll take whatever matchup he wants - and he wants Pascal, who won an unanimous decision over Dawson last year in Quebec.
Dawson acknowledged getting bored during training camp for that fight, but Pascal already has his attention for the rematch. Pascal showed up at Saturday's show and the post-fight news conference, where he got into a shouting match with Dawson, who told him to ''sit down with your tight ... jeans.''
''That's where I'm going next, to correct the only (loss) on my record,'' Dawson said. ''It's going to be good.''