Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins
Birthplace: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Resides: Hockessin, Delaware
Height: 6' 1"
Current World Titles Held: WBC, The Ring Light Heavyweight (175 lbs.)
Former World Titles Held: WBA, WBC, IBF, WBO, The Ring Middleweight (160 lbs.)
Professional Record: 52-5-2 (2 NC), 32 KOs
Record in World Title Fights: 23-3-2 (2 NC), 13 KOs
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 16-4-2
"Bad" Chad Dawson
Birthplace: Hartsville, South Carolina
Resides: New Haven, Connecticut
Height: 6' 1"
Reach: 76 1/2"
Current World Titles Held: None
Former World Titles Held: WBC, IBF Light Heavyweight
Professional Record: 30-1 (2 NC), 17 KOs
Record in World Title Fights: 6-1 (1 NC), 2 KOs
Record in Fights Going 12 Rounds: 7-0
It's not uncommon in boxing for there to be plenty of bad blood between two top fighters leading up to a rematch. What makes the second meeting between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson a little different is that the feeling of enmity hanging over it was built on less than two rounds of action and very few punches thrown.
The first bout last October ended in sudden and ultimately confusing fashion. Already looking frustrated with Hopkins' ability to muddy the flow of the fight, Dawson essentially lifted Hopkins off his feet and slammed him to the canvas. Referee Pat Russell did not rule it a foul, but Hopkins injured his shoulder and could not continue.
Both men ended up disgusted with what happened next. Hopkins was furious when the fight was initially awarded to Dawson - who in turn was angered when the decision was overturned and a rematch ordered, feeling his older foe was somehow exaggerating his injury.
Now 47, Hopkins is nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career but still plenty motivated when it comes to the rematch. He has unquestionably slowed a step or two, yet he remains a master craftsman in the ring, still one of the world's finest practitioners of the subtler aspects of boxing.
In Dawson, he may have the perfect foil. That's because the one thing that has always haunted the man Floyd Mayweather once called the best boxer on the planet (presumably excluding himself) is a lack of fire. Still not yet 30, he has plenty of time to build a legacy in the sport, but he needs to clear the physical and mental hurdle that Hopkins presents.
Most importantly, Dawson will need to find some way to turn the 18-year age difference between the two fighters to his advantage. He's not known for his high work rate, but allowing the action to proceed at Hopkins' pace is almost always a recipe for disaster.
Assuming the fight gets past the early stages, it's tough to know what to expect down the stretch. It's been five years since either man has scored a knockout, and while Hopkins has no peers when it comes to experience in the championship rounds, Dawson has never lost a bout that has gone a full 12 rounds.
If he feels himself fading late, Hopkins may be able to draw strength from his crowd support. The fans should be mostly pro-Executioner at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall, which is close enough to Philadelphia to count as a hometown fight.
Hopkins' Winning Strategy: Think Victory Before Revenge
No one turns slights both real and imagined into motivational fuel like Hopkins. He's almost always the more emotionally charged boxer going into a fight, but he seems to be able to keep the analytical side of his brain in full control once the bell sounds.
With that in mind, there's little reason to expect that he won't be able to do that again. But in the build-up to this rematch, Hopkins appeared more agitated than usual, upset with both the way the first bout ended and Dawson's attitude over the ensuing months.
Perhaps as a concession to age, Hopkins has fought a slightly less cautious style over his last several fights. His technical advantages allowed him to get away with that against Jean Pascal, but he won't have the same luxury against Dawson - a cleaner, more accurate puncher.
The last thing Hopkins wants is for Dawson to gain any confidence. No matter how much he wants to prove a point, the Executioner is probably better off seeing if he can turn Dawson into the aggressor. That will allow his uncanny knowledge of defensive tricks and in-fighting tactics to work in his favor.
A knockout would be incredibly satisfying, but just a few years shy of 50, any win would be a big achievement for Hopkins. Getting his hand raised will be the sweetest revenge, and he needs to keep that in mind.
Dawson's Winning Strategy: Push the Pace, But Smartly
It would seem like a no-brainer for a younger, faster, supposedly stronger boxer to simply try to overwhelm the old veteran by going on the attack. That would be a mistake for Dawson, though, for two reasons.
The first is that Hopkins most likely wants to counter-punch, and wading in recklessly gives him too many openings to do just that. The second, more significant reason, lies within Dawson's head: he's simply not wired to go for broke.
His first fight following his loss to Pascal proved that. Facing Adrian Diaconu, a game but outclassed opponent, Dawson didn't step on the gas the way many observers expected he would. Even when his future as a top name in the sport was somewhat in the balance, he fought at a measured pace, doing things his way.
Fighting in spurts won't cut it against Hopkins, who would love it if he can do the same thing for 12 rounds. It's critical that Dawson make the older man feel all of his 47 years, and that's possible without expecting him to make an unlikely change to his own DNA.
It means Dawson will have to pressure Hopkins, continuing to move forward or cutting the ring off to the side even if he's not throwing continuous shots. It also means when he has his own chances to counter, he has to respond with combinations, not single punches.
Maybe most importantly, Dawson needs to try to work on the inside instead of getting flustered with the rough stuff he knows will be coming. If he can find another gear - even if it's only relative to his own cruising speed - while keeping his head about him, he'll give himself the best chance to get the biggest win of his career.
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