Five keys for Bernard Hopkins
Plotting a path to victory for Bernard Hopkins against Chad Dawson
Bad fights are a dime a dozen, but the massive failure of the light heavyweight title match between champion Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson in October has to rank with the worst of them. Staged in Los Angeles, where neither fighter had ties, the bout received considerable buildup 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, which combined 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 is 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 Hopkins:
Busy is better
|One thing about Dawson: He needs spaces to work and move. He can't fight his way out of a jam, and he doesn't deal well with awkward or complicated styles. Hopkins already tangled with him, and we all remember what happened: Dawson lost it, and then we lost the chance to see the remainder of the fight. Ugly or pretty, landing or missing, Hopkins needs to keep throwing and moving on Dawson, and then use his ring IQ to find the mistakes he can use in his favor.|
|Dawson likes to fake a jab and then drop his guard before letting his hands go back out. If Hopkins stays alert and calls Dawson's bluff, the champ will get a split-second when he has the upper hand in the counterpunching department. And Hopkins is a pretty good counterpuncher, especially in the short range with his decent uppercut. If he hangs around and uses those opportunities to close the range on the taller and rangier challenger, Hopkins could end up connecting with a few good combinations.|
Just the opposite
|If a fighter uses an orthodox stance, the first things a trainer will tell him about the dangers of facing a southpaw are: Don't throw a lazy jab, don't stay in front of him, and avoid the right hook. Well, on this occasion, Hopkins might be better served to execute the opposite game plan. A constant jab -- even a lazy one -- might put Dawson on the defensive and keep him trying to figure out a way to connect. And staying in one place could bait Dawson into moving around, giving Hopkins more chances to mount a steady offensive effort.|
Catch him on the way out
|Hopkins is a great aggressor in retreat. Dawson has been nailed several times while getting careless in the pursuit of his opponent, so this is a no-brainer. The reach disadvantage for Hopkins should be reason enough to try this tactic. It's imperative for Hopkins to bridge the enormous gap between him and Dawson, and making the challenger come to him and then catch him with a counterpunch before moving aside could prove to be a cool addition to Hopkins' arsenal. Plus, B-Hop hasn't scored a KO in ages, so his power isn't all there anymore. If Hopkins can meet Dawson's oncoming force with the power of his own punches, the collision should cause more damage.|
Triumph of the will
|There's no other way to put it: Hopkins is inches closer to retirement every time he steps into the ring. His experience is huge, his heart is unquestionable, and his desire to win has kept him competitive at the highest level of boxing for a quarter of a century. He needs to translate this passion and focus into mental dominance of Dawson. Hopkins has the moves and the savvy for it. All he needs to do is put it together for one final (or not, who knows?) climb up the mountaintop -- another milestone in a legendary career.|
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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