Five keys for Chad Dawson
Plotting a path to victory for Chad Dawson against Bernard Hopkins
Bad fights are a dime a dozen, but the massive failure of a light heavyweight title match between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson last October has to rank with the worst of them. Staged in Los Angeles, where neither fighter had ties, the bout received considerable build-up and pay-per-view treatment even as most experts predicted an ugly clash of styles.
The fight proved to be worse than expected. The first round was a snoozer, and after the fighters got tangled in Round 2, Dawson essentially body slammed Hopkins to the canvas, leaving him with a shoulder injury and no chance of continuing. The fight ended unceremoniously in a TKO win for Dawson and was later overturned to a no-decision, combining with the bluster and bad blood between the fighters to leave the faint stench of a bad pro wrestling match.
On Saturday, Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) and Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) will meet in a rematch that carries far less expectation and anticipation, but that remains exceptionally relevant to the careers of both fighters. Style issues aside, the fight has merit: With the light heavyweight title again on the line, Hopkins, 47, will bring his unrivaled ring savvy and gift for strategy, while Dawson, 29, supplies the range, explosiveness and speed in a classic youth-versus-experience matchup.
With the stage set, here are five keys to victory for Dawson:
Keep it sharp
|This is typical advice given to right-handers when facing southpaws, but the awkward fighter in this case is Hopkins, who is more prone to holding and grabbing. Dawson needs to stay away from Hopkins' pulls and clinches, which can easily be accomplished by following an old but infallible adage: Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. If either man in this fight is capable of that strategy, it's Dawson, and the payoff can be as sweet as honey.|
The longest yard
|Most of the time, a reach advantage alone isn't enough to swing a fight. But there are multiple ways to make it count, and Dawson knows most of them. He needs to make the distance count not only in spaces, but also as an effective offensive and defensive tool. Hopkins will try to shorten those distances by making Dawson come at him or by getting in close to force him to swing wide and open Dawson up to counterpunches (his weakest spot), so keeping B-Hop at the end of his punches is a priority for the challenger.|
Find the target
|Dawson is a fine boxer when he's in command of the action, but as soon as his opponent threatens to take charge, he gets lost trying to regroup. The gap between these two states of mind must be closed. Counterpunching skills can't be acquired instantly, but Dawson needs to at least look alive while under attack, instead of showing such a disparity between when he moves forward and when he loses the initiative.|
|There's only so much punishment a 47-year-old body can take, and Hopkins has kept busy taking it in his 47 years. He has been a professional for 24 years (or since Dawson was 5 years old), during which he has been in many punishing fights. He remains a great athlete and his physical preparation is always impeccable, but hitting Hopkins' midsection to soften him up and perhaps set up a late knockout should be a priority for Dawson. As great as he has been, Hopkins is susceptible to the grinding power of Dawson's strong body punching.|
The jab must go on
|Dawson's jab is a great offensive tool. He doesn't fire it as often as he could, using it only to set up his great combinations and terrific two-fisted attacks. But he would do well to also use it as a defensive tool. If he keeps his jab steadily in Hopkins' face throughout Saturday's bout, Dawson should find it a great deterrent to Hopkins' efforts of landing his punches (especially his uppercut) with some kind of continuity.|
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.