Bernard Hopkins gets title back
The WBC did not wait for the California State Athletic Commission to have a hearing on the bizarre outcome of last Saturday night's Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson light heavyweight championship fight at the Staples Center.
Instead, the Mexico City-based sanctioning organization reinstated Hopkins as its 175-pound world champion and declared the fight a technical draw on Thursday.
"I feel very happy. I feel that justice was done," Hopkins told ESPN.com.
The fight ended in a storm of controversy with Dawson being declared a second-round winner by technical knockout. It happened after Hopkins, who missed a right hand, wound up draped over Dawson's back during his follow through. Dawson then grabbed Hopkins by the leg, lifted him and shoved him down to the canvas. Hopkins landed awkwardly on the edge of the ring, suffered a dislocation of the joint connecting his left shoulder to his collar bone and was unable to continue.
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Referee Pat Russell did not rule that Dawson had committed a foul -- be it on purpose or accidentally -- and awarded Dawson a TKO victory despite no punch landing. Had a foul been ruled, Hopkins would have retained the title on a no contest.
"I'm disappointed that the WBC saw fit to call it a technical draw," Gary Shaw, Dawson's promoter, told ESPN.com. "I'm sure, as sure as I can be, is that the WBC will put Chad as the No. 1 mandatory again. I don't think it was the right decision. We believe Hopkins committed the first foul by going on Chad's back. Chad did what anyone would do and tried to get him off his back. I accept their ruling but I don't agree with it."
Although Hopkins has been given back the WBC belt, the organization's ruling of a technical draw is more symbolic than anything else. While the WBC controls the belt, it does not have any jurisdiction over official fight results. That is up to the commission overseeing the bout. The commission then forwards the official results to Fight Fax, which is the official record keeper of boxing results.
"I said all along that Bernard Hopkins did not lose that fight, there is no question about it," said Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, Hopkins' promoter. "I am happy that Bernard continues to be the light heavyweight champion of the world."
For now, the knockout loss remains on Hopkins' record and the knockout victory stays on Dawson's until the California commission overturns the result, which it may or may not do when it meets on Dec. 13, its next regularly scheduled meeting.
Hopkins, who is due to get the results on Friday of the MRI he had Tuesday on his injured shoulder, filed a formal protest of the fight result to the California commission on Tuesday and is seeking to have the result changed to a disqualification victory in his favor. Hopkins' camp wants the commission to have a special hearing so they don't have to wait two more months for a ruling.
The WBC moved quickly.
"The head offices of the WBC sent videos, medical reports and the WBC corresponding rules to the Board of Governors, that unanimously declared a technical draw on the fight. Therefore, Bernard Hopkins is still the WBC light heavyweight champion of the world," WBC president Jose Sulaiman wrote in the ruling.
Hopkins, who, at age 46, became the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world championship in May by outpointing Jean Pascal, reveled in the WBC's decision.
"I'd like to thank Mr. Sulaiman and the board for looking at the tape and just for taking the time to look at the tape," Hopkins said. "They came up with what I think is the right decision. Like me or hate me, I think most people will think it's the right decision that they made.
"I'm a little surprised it was this soon and now I am hoping the commission in California can (have a hearing) sooner than Dec. 13. But if not, I can wait. I'm normally on the end of bad decisions, like in the Joe Calzaghe fight or the Jermain Taylor fights. It feels good to be on the right end of a decision."
According to Sulaiman's ruling the WBC board:
• Reviewed the fight video and "unanimously declared that the action reflects a clear intentional lifting the body followed with a push by Dawson to Hopkins that made him fall on his left side with part of his body out of the ropes."
• Considered Hopkins' medical report on the night of the fight that said he "has been released from the California Medical Center in Los Angeles after being X-rayed and examined by Dr. Sam Thurber, MD, who diagnosed Hopkins with a separation of the acromioclavicular joint, which connects the collar bone and shoulder blade."
• Considered its rules governing fouls and found Dawson's shove to have been a foul because it views them as "any rough tactics other than clean punches."
Sulaiman also cited several other rules governing fouls and injuries and how to handle them. One of the rules he cited states that if a fight cannot continue because of "injuries from head butts, elbows or other accidental or illegal actions" there will be a point deduction or a technical draw will be declared before the start of the fifth round (or it would be a technical decision after the fifth round begins).
"The WBC respects and cannot intervene in the decisions of the boxing commissions where the fights happen, but it does intervene in regards of the recognition of a WBC title," Sulaiman wrote. "We hope that the California commission will review our ruling on their next meeting in December."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.