Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hopkins vs. Dawson - A Lost Battle

Photo: AP/Bebeto Matthews

As the mismanagement of boxing by those with say-so continues, its infrastructure a convoluted pile, the average fan's need for clarity remains an important factor in allowing sanity and boxing fanaticism to occupy the same gray matter. 

It doesn't take a fight game veteran to recognize which styles should be matched together. But absent aesthetically pleasing brawls, oft overlooked is the actual importance of a fight. 

Bloodshed is welcome, as are in-ring displays of primal brutality. While a high level of skill and/or class don't seem to be determining factors in what makes for a fun fight, many of the best smash-ups were fights that meant something. 

In the lead-up to the Bernard Hopkins vs. Chad Dawson fight, its importance to the light heavyweight division is a side conversation, riding shotgun to low expectations of the main event, and disappointing box office sales. 

It's not that much hinges on the outcome from an outside perspective, and many aren't interested period. However, it does bring clarity to a division that has threatened to become exciting and more relevant a few times in the last decade. 


Nowhere in any reasonable Hopkins-Dawson preview are the words "bloodshed" or "brutality" mentioned with a straight face, which is likely the biggest issue preventing this fight from being any type of success on paper. 

The Tim Bradley vs. Devon Alexander fight seemed have a few similarities, especially pre-fight. 

Bradley-Alexander was a difficult fight to finalize and featured lengthy pre-contract back and forth, it helped determine a consensus best in the division, the choice of venue was lame, but it was a fight that made sense. 

In hindsight, the outcome was ugly enough to overshadow the fact that it was a unification bout between two of the best fighters in a deep division. 

Light heavyweight isn't one of the deeper weight classes in boxing right now, but like Bradley-Alexander, the likelihood of a stylistic mishap is very real. 

Never mind that Hopkins and Dawson call themselves "Executioner" and "Bad," respectively - Dawson has never scored a stoppage over an elite opponent, and the last time Bernard Hopkins halted an opponent was his "liver shot heard 'round the world" against Oscar de la Hoya in 2004. Needless to say, conventional wisdom suggests the fight will go the distance, and two natural counter-punchers squaring up rarely do more than make the average viewer's eyelids droop. 

Make no mistake. Hopkins-Dawson isn't the type of match-up that would tear a hole in boxing's space/time continuum were it not made. Few fans have been clamoring for this meeting. But this is the fight Chad has been requesting, and the fight Hopkins has been turning his nose up at, both for a few years now. Short of a Pascal-Dawson rematch, this is the best feasible fight to make at 175 lbs. 

Plus some other historical light heavyweight title mumbo-jumbo. 

Predicting the trajectory of Hopkins' career is a maddening task. Despite almost being old enough to get special breakfasts at restaurants, he's one of only five Ring champions in the sport today. He's one of the most intuitive fighters to come along in years - one of those guys they reference specifically in those "Dirty vs. Crafty" debates. Pundits are almost obligated to attach "throwback" to his name somewhere in an article. His career has been remarkable. 

As for "Bad" Chad? Touted as an elite talent for the better part of a decade, quick, often sharp, just dry in both style and personality. He frequently flashes glimpses of motivation and desire though, and that guy is a splendid fighter to watch. 


Of course, the problem is not that the fight is happening. It's a significant fight, worthy of some attention. With a win, Hopkins would become the oldest fighter to defend a championship. 

The issue is the lapse in budgeting by HBO that led to a the card being held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, but featuring six name fighters based on the East Coast, and on pay-per-view. 

Bernard Hopkins isn't exactly a hero in Philadelphia, and Connecticut isn't rolling deep to support Chad at his nearby fight cards, but pushing an East Coast main event about as far West as you can get is poor decision making. And that seems to be reinforced by reports of absurdly low ticket sales. 

Come Sunday morning when the tumbleweeds around Staples stop rolling around and the crickets finally shut up, we'll be able to ask ourselves whether the importance was worth it. 


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