Bernard Hopkins' TKO loss overturned
Two months after Chad Dawson was ruled a second-round knockout winner against Bernard Hopkins in their light heavyweight championship fight at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the California State Athletic Commission heard Hopkins' appeal on Tuesday and changed the result to a no decision.
After a hearing in the Los Angeles suburb of Van Nuys that lasted for more than two hours, and included about a dozen viewings of the controversial ending of the fight, the commission voted 5-1 (with one commissioner recusing himself) to overturn the original ruling of referee Pat Russell, who declared Dawson the winner Oct. 15, but testified at the hearing that he missed the call that ended the fight.
The fight came to a sudden end when Hopkins missed with a right hand in the second round and wound up draped over Dawson's back during his follow-through. Dawson grabbed Hopkins by the leg, lifted him and shoved him down to the canvas. Hopkins landed awkwardly on the edge of the ring, suffered what was later diagnosed as a dislocation of the joint connecting his shoulder to his collarbone and the fight was stopped.
Hopkins was ruled unable to continue -- although he told the ringside doctor and Russell while he was on the canvas that he could go on using one arm. Instead of calling the fight a no-decision because Hopkins could not continue as the result of an unintentional foul, which would have rendered it a no-decision, Russell said no foul had been committed and awarded Dawson a TKO victory.
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Hopkins appealed the ruling and the hearing was finally held two months later. But it was worth the wait for him.
"Pat Russell, a guy that said he saw something in the ring on the night of the fight, said he saw something different as he watched the tape," Hopkins told ESPN.com. "I respect the guy even more now. Pat Russell looked at the tape today and they asked him, 'Do you see something today that you didn't see in the ring that night?' He said, 'Yes.' They asked, 'What did you see?' He said, 'Chad Dawson lifted and threw me down and watching it now it should be a no decision.' You could hear a pin drop. Pat Russell only said what the tape revealed."
Russell had ruled a TKO on fight night and a few days later wrote a report to the commission backing up his ruling before changing his mind after reviewing the video.
"I think that it's the right decision," Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, Hopkins' promoter, said. "Obviously, if you are allowed to lift someone off their feet and slam them to the ground, and there are no consequences, it would really destroy the sport."
Although Dawson was originally ruled the winner of the fight, the WBC, which sanctioned the bout for its 175-pound title, did not recognize him as champion and ruled Oct. 24 that it considered the fight a technical draw, leaving Hopkins as its titleholder. The technical draw is not an official result because only a state commission can file official results with record keeper Fight Fax. Ring magazine, which recognizes lineal champions, also kept Hopkins as the light heavyweight champion, pending the outcome of the hearing.
"Of course, I'm disappointed," Dawson, a former two-time titleholder, said. "I felt the night of the fight that I came to the ring ready to leave as world champion. What happened happened. I was announced the winner of the fight and I am frustrated that Pat Russell changed his decision. He said he thought it should have been a no decision."
"I don't think Chad threw him down. It is what it is," Gary Shaw, Dawson's promoter, said. "But Pat Russell changed his mind about what he saw during his testimony and suggested that it be (a no decision). The commission took a vote that it was an unintentional foul, but they didn't say if the foul was Hopkins being on Chad's back or Chad trying to get out from under Hopkins. They just said it was rough housing."
With the fight officially going down as a no decision, Hopkins and Dawson will have their records changed. Hopkins is 52-5-2 with 32 knockouts and two no-decisions. Dawson's record is 30-1 with 17 knockouts and two no-decisions.
After initially being declared the winner, Dawson said he would not give Hopkins a rematch. Tuesday, he said he wanted one.
"Hopefully, we could do the rematch, but I don't think Bernard wants the rematch," Dawson said. "I am definitely open to it. It's easy money for me, money in the bank for me because I know I can beat Bernard Hopkins. It's like the fight didn't happen. I think the rematch should be mandatory."
Hopkins, however, has not forgotten about the night of the fight and said he would not give him a rematch.
"They have no class on that side from the promoter down to the fighter," Hopkins said. "So I don't think he should be in the ring with a living legend like myself until he raises his popularity and shows some respect. He's not worth my time. Also, he's the first one who said he wouldn't give me a rematch after he thought he had won. If you look at what he said then, fine, I agree with him. I'm not interested in no rematch."
Said Schaefer, "We are happy with the decision and we will be moving on, but moving on does not include Chad Dawson again. We have no interest whatsoever in a rematch. Zero interest in a rematch. I think styles make fights and the styles of those two guys don't mesh. There was not much interest in the first fight and I am not gong to go through it again. I think there are bigger, more attractive fights out there for Bernard."
The more likely reason the Hopkins side has no interest in a second fight is because the first one was a dismal commercial failure both in terms of the buys on HBO PPV -- as little as 40,000, according to Golden Boy -- and the gate at Staples Center. Only 3,888 tickets were sold (with 3,151 free tickets distributed) for a gate of only $285,677. HBO, which "flipped" the card to pay-per-view in a budgetary move, paid about $3 million for the fight.
Hopkins has one fight remaining on a three-fight deal with HBO and would like to return in March or April. Schaefer said he is speaking with the network about Hopkins' next fight.
In May, Hopkins, at age 46, became the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world championship when he went to Jean Pascal's hometown of Montreal and won a decision in their rematch of their draw last December.
Dan Rafael is the senior boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.