Sunday, October 16, 2011
Hopkins-Dawson: 5 things we learned
By Jason Langendorf
Here are five things we learned from Saturday's card at Los Angeles' Staples Center featuring the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson light heavyweight title fight:
1. Instant karma's gonna get you. If someone had told you that Saturday's main event would end in controversy after one of the fighters had gone all Triple H in the ring, reaching into his bag of semidirty tricks to score the win, who would you have guessed it would be? Dawson? Not on your life.
Of course it would have been Hopkins, who for the better part of his career has been chided by some and utterly excoriated by others for his, ahem, questionable between-the-ropes tactics. His fights tend to be ugly, and that's how he likes it. He knows how to win this way, and he likely has added years to his boxing lifetime by fighting ugly and protecting himself with maddening clinches, body leans and the like.
It came back to him in spades on Saturday, when Dawson treated him like a blocking sled and left Hopkins in a heap on the edge of the ring with reportedly a shoulder dislocation. That's not to say B-Hop deserved injury or even the loss. It's obvious to anyone with a basic working knowledge of the game that Dawson, although he certainly didn't mean to end the fight in such fashion, was given a gift. But Hopkins was climbing on his back at the time, and he has gotten away with the rough stuff countless times before. Hey, if you're always playing with fire ...
2. We could all use a little more Dewey in our lives. If you're a boxing fan and you haven't heard Dewey Bozella's story yet, well ... you're not much of a boxing fan. A 52-year-old ex-con who was exonerated after spending 26 years in jail for a false conviction and whose dream was to fight as a pro, Bozella made it happen Saturday in a four-rounder on the undercard in L.A. Stirringly, he even won the thing. But the journey to Bozella's fight night, as in his life, proved more illuminating than the outcome.
Bozella, who became a media phenomenon during the lead-up to Saturday's card, didn't just say all the right things. He believed them. He'd lived them. For a man who refused to trade his word for his freedom when given the chance, a guy who latched on to an improbable goal and hung on for dear life, "Never give up" wasn't just a neatly packaged catchphrase. Moreover, Bozella was gracious, thoughtful and noticeably moved by the outpouring of interest these past few weeks, yet the moment was never too big for him. He showed poise and, unbelievably, not a trace of bitterness about his ordeal. How about we all remember that before, say, melting down the next time they screw up an order at the drive-thru?
3. It sucks to be Hopkins. Larry Hopkins, that is. Poor Larry -- a Houston resident and former MMA fighter with an 0-3 pro boxing record heading into his fight with Bozella, and whose most notable bio entry was "no relation to Bernard" -- had the worst night by far of any Hopkins on the card.
It must have been disheartening enough that no one, save for his actual corner man, was in Larry's corner. Backing Hopkins on Saturday would've been like rooting for Lehman Brothers. (Given Bozella's story, you would've half-expected Hopkins' family to say, "Hey, we like this Dewey kid. Our money's on him.") The First Fan, Barack Obama, even called Bozella on Friday to offer the presidential seal of approval, which practically made Hopkins an enemy of the state. Then on Saturday, Hopkins went out and literally spit the bit, losing his mouthpiece a half-dozen times -- and ultimately the decision. To a 50-something rookie. For a four-figure payout. Not once did Mom ever tell Larry there'd be days like these.
4. If you want blood, you got it. Not sure whom I was more impressed by on Saturday -- Jorge Linares or Antonio DeMarco -- or why. I just know I want more from wherever that came from. Linares looked fantastic in the early rounds, every bit the uber-prospect he had been labeled before Juan Carlos Salgado stunningly flattened him a couple of years back. He gave DeMarco the "Matrix" treatment in the first round and was clearly ahead on the scorecards midway through the fight.
DeMarco, showing grit and patience, was getting outworked but seemed to gradually gain confidence and never wore down. In the middle rounds, he busted Linares' nose and opened a cut over his eye, a bloodletting that would end up dooming the Venezuelan. Linares kept coming, though, and showed as much determination late in the fight as he had skill early on. The main event was a disappointment, yes, but thank the fistic gods for undercard fights like this.
5. Boxing is the evil ex of sports. You remember your old flame, don't you? Sexy and dangerous and stone-cold nuts, she was all wrong for you, and you knew it -- which only made you want her more. Consider boxing your other cruel mistress.
So why do we keep going back to it? Because of the good and the bad. It's high drama, all of it, even if now and then it leaves us feeling used. Take Hopkins-Dawson: Fight fans knew it likely would be a stylistically challenged match. For the better part of two rounds, it was. Then it collapsed into mayhem. Many blamed Hopkins. Some claimed he quit or even faked his injury. Corrupt, scripted and dead were the familiar zingers aimed at boxing on the message boards after the fight, and the animosity is understandable. Boxing makes skeptics of us all.
But crazy stuff happens from time to time in every sport. It's just that in boxing, the experience is heightened, total immersion. Think about it: An entire audience is intensely focused on the every move of two men, half-naked, corralled on a tiny field of play and hitting each other in the face. This ain't baseball.
So go ahead and call Hopkins' style boring. Say he's a borderline-dirty fighter who got what he had coming to him. Accuse referee Pat Russell of blowing the call. Dump on Dawson for his role in all this. These are all debatable but rational explanations for a bad moment in boxing. But call Hopkins a coward or a quitter, or wail that someone, somewhere was on the take? Well, you'd better stop whining about your unhinged ex and get your own head checked. Because it's not them, it's you.
Jason Langendorf is the boxing editor for ESPN.com.