- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The age-defying Bernard Hopkins, at 47 years old, has a legacy that makes him one of the greatest fighters of all time. As much as Hopkins likes to talk -- even though he has been somewhat quiet lately -- his résumé speaks for itself: undisputed middleweight championship, division-record 20 title defenses, two light heavyweight championship reigns, and the distinction of being the oldest man in boxing history to win a world title.
Last May, on Jean Pascal's home turf in Montreal, Hopkins, 46 at the time, won a decision in a rematch of their previous draw to break heavyweight great George Foreman's record as the oldest fighter to win a world title. It was a glorious moment for Hopkins in a career filled with them. But then came the ugly, unfortunate encore.
Flashback to October at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Hopkins faced mandatory challenger and former titlist Chad Dawson, a man nearly 20 years his junior. Little in the way of action was expected from the fight, but few could have predicted the ugly ending.
Hopkins draped himself over Dawson's back when they were in a clinch and an annoyed Dawson picked him up and flung him to the canvas. Hopkins suffered a shoulder injury and Dawson was awarded a dissatisfying second-round knockout victory, which was later overturned by the California State Athletic Commission to a no-decision.
So here we are six months later, and Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) and Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) are doing it again in the rematch few have demanded, although they have an obvious score to settle.
It goes down Saturday night (HBO, 10:15 ET) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., where Hopkins will try to beat the odds yet again. His career is already filled with wins in fights he was counted out of (remember his bouts with Felix Trinidad, Kelly Pavlik and Antonio Tarver, for example).
"They were calling me old when I beat Trinidad 11 years ago," Hopkins said. "My biggest motivation has been adversity. This fight, all you hear is 'Chad is bigger. Chad is stronger.' Not that he is more talented."
Dawson is aiming to finish the job he may have been on his way to doing in October: sending Hopkins into retirement.
Dawson, 29, of New Haven, Conn., and Gary Shaw, his promoter, have claimed that Hopkins, the Philadelphia legend, faked his injury to get out of the first fight and really didn't want the rematch, even though avoiding a tough challenge is contrary to what Hopkins has done throughout his 24-year pro career.
"Last fight, he had no fire in his eyes," Dawson said. "I could look at him from across the ring and I saw he didn't want to be there that night.
"I am here to fight and finish off what should have happened the first time we fought. I was supposed to be crowned light heavyweight champion."
The outspoken Shaw was blunt in his assessment of the interest in a rematch from Hopkins' side.
"They didn't want the fight," Shaw said. "They lobbied against the fight, but I won on the floor of the WBC convention. That's why Hopkins is taking it, because without the belt, Hopkins is just an old fighter. So he needs that belt to be someone."
Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer came to his fighter's defense.
"This is ridiculous," he said. "I was recently at Bernard's house. Bernard has more belts than all the people have to hold up their pants. At this point, at 47 years old, [he] doesn't need any belts. He could have gone and fought [Beibut] Shumenov for the WBA belt. He could have gone and fought [WBO titlist Nathan] Cleverly, a youth showdown in the U.K. with huge crowds. I mean, there were so many other options, but this is what Bernard Hopkins is.
"He never turns down a challenge. Everybody felt that he was going to not fight [Dawson] again, and guess what? He always does the unexpected. He even surprises Gary Shaw and Chad Dawson. And if Gary thinks that the result of Bernard taking the fight is because of some silly ruling from the WBC, he is mistaken. And he knows that. ... Bernard wanted the fight and took the fight."
Hopkins is typically as outspoken before his fights as anyone in boxing history. For this fight, however, he has remained relatively quiet.
He has done few appearances or interviews. He did participate in a recent prefight teleconference with boxing writers.
When asked why he decided to take the rematch with Dawson, Hopkins -- who often gives intense and lengthy speeches rather than direct answers to reporter questions -- was shockingly concise.
"Because I'm a legend," he said.
In the October fight, Dawson appeared to have the edge in the brief fight. Hopkins was beginning to hold and Dawson was moving well.
On Saturday, Dawson said he hopes to pick up where he left off.
"The way the last fight ended, I could only take it as a confidence-builder because I really don't believe Bernard Hopkins was hurt," he said. "He showed that he really didn't want to be in the ring with me that night. So it's a confidence-booster for me. I want to pick up right where we left off, be the aggressor. I want to make him fight, and hopefully we can give the fans what they came to see the last time: a real fight.
"Bernard just backed up the whole time and didn't try to make the fight. I think people saw the difference between the size and the strength. It wasn't many punches landed, but I did land a good right hand in the first round and he found out that night that I was serious."
Throughout the promotion, Hopkins has been in no mood to re-litigate the events of the first bout. He knows that a loss likely would end his career, but he is also confident.
He's been here before. Remember Trinidad, Pavlik and Tarver?
"Chad Dawson can say whatever he wants, but I am not going to trash-talk this one," Hopkins said. "Everyone knows what I am capable of in the ring. They have seen it over 50 times before in the last 20-plus years. I absolutely want to prove that I can beat Chad Dawson, another guy that is almost two decades younger than me, and I am confident I will."
Whether or not anyone else wanted it, Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson will meet again -- this time to far less fanfare Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J. -- to finish what they (almost) started in their first bout.