The past twelve months for Bernard Hopkins have managed to show boxing at its best and its worst. Since last December the forty-six year old surefire Hall of Famer has made an astonishing return to form after a couple of lackluster performances against inferior opponents following his incredible upset victory over Kelly Pavlik in 2008. When he struggled against the faded Roy Jones Jr. most were ready to consign the Executioner to boxing’s past along with his longtime rival.
But then in two fights against Jean Pascal, Hopkins showed the truth behind the old adage that the last thing to go is a boxer’s brain. In what is usually a young man’s sport that demands from its participants much in terms of conditioning and durability, Hopkins was able to use every trick in the book to minimize his physical limitations and maximize his mental advantage. Using the ring knowledge that he’s accumulated over two decades lacing up the gloves, The Executioner twice took the play away from his younger opponent and became boxing’s oldest ever world champion in May this year.
It was a miraculous story not least because Hopkins was nearly denied his moment of history by the decision of the judges in the first fight to score the fight a draw. Denied the victory that many thought was rightly his, it was only the commercial and legal firepower of his promoters Golden Boy that managed to secure him a second shot at the title. After the events on Saturday night he will need that same firepower if he’s to hold on to that title he fought so hard to win.
As part of the deal to secure the second Pascal fight, Hopkins finally agreed to face Chad Dawson should he emerge as champion. It was a fight that Dawson had been demanding for years, only for Hopkins’ camp to repeatedly turn it down due to a belief that it didn’t make commercial sense. It was belief that was seemingly vindicated by the lack of media coverage for the challenger, the lack of real interest from Showtime or HBO in broadcasting the fight and the heavy discounts on tickets in a last-gasp attempt to fill out the Staples Center for what was one of the biggest fights of the year. Unfortunately those watching in the arena or on pay per view did not get their money’s worth.
As expected Dawson would start aggressively, no doubt in attempt to mirror Pascal early strong start in his first fight against Hopkins. Hopkins however was crafty enough to take only one clean shot in a first round devoid of action. It was more of the same in the second round as Dawson allowed Hopkins to make the fight ugly. With thirty seconds left in the round both men were in the clinch and Dawson responded by tackling Hopkins to the ground. That is no exaggeration – he literally grabbed Hopkins’ leg and threw him to the ground. To compound matters, Hopkins landed awkwardly and dislocated his shoulder so bringing the fight to an unsatisfying and premature conclusion.
A calamity was turned into a crisis by the bad call by referee Pat Russell who ruled the contest a Technical Knockout for Chad Dawson when Hopkins couldn’t continue. It was a decision that even by the often inept standards of modern boxing officiating is a baffling one. Even if you accept Russell’s belief that there was no deliberate foul (which is debatable to say the least) that still doesn’t evade the fact that the end of the fight was caused by a non-boxing move. Therefore it should have been ruled a no-contest.
After the chaotic scenes at the end of the Floyd Mayweather vs. Victor Ortiz fight, the last thing boxing needed was yet another controversial finish to a fight that viewers had paid upwards of $55 to watch on pay per view. Worse than that match, this was completely inconclusive. After years of waiting we still don’t know whether Chad Dawson has what it takes to defeat Hopkins. And it doesn’t look anyone’s particularly keen to find out. Even though Golden Boy are to sue on behalf of Hopkins to reclaim his title, neither they nor Dawson’s camp are calling for a rematch between the two fighters. Indeed Dawson’s promoter Gary Shaw is already on record saying that if they have to give up the title then they will…after all they have done so before.
Whether he won or he lost, we should today be looking back at the wonderful career of Bernard Hopkins and the inspiring story of him furthering his legacy at an age most boxers start shredding theirs. Instead we’re in the middle of another bout of recriminations after yet another fight marred by bad behavior from the fighters, incompetence from the officials and lack of class from the promoters. It’s depressingly difficult to disagree with promoter Lou DiBella that this was “another advert for MMA”.
Tags: Bernard Hopkins, Bernard Hopkins vs Chad Dawson, Boxing, Chad Dawson, Gary Shaw, Golden Boy, Jean Pascal