By Ivan G. Goldman
Chad Dawson kept his right low all night against Andre Ward, Making that side of his head a target for hooks that might as well have been laser-guided. Trainer Ice man John Scully told him to keep his gloves up, and gave lots of other appropriate advice between rounds, but Dawson just couldn’t get used to Ward’s speed and was apparently incapable of adjusting his style.
So even as Ward, 26-0 (14KOs), reinforced his reputation as a superhero by thoroughly thrashing Dawson and making him quit, Dawson, 31-2 (17KOs), made it worse for himself by reminding the world what a boring fighter he can be. And it’s not easy to look boring when you’re involved at the wrong end of an inspired assault. Just staying on your feet ought to be exciting. Look at the way Dawson lost on HBO and compare it to the losing performance of Nigeria’s Ajose Olusegun against Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse on Showtime. Fans who wouldn’t want to see either Matthysse or Olusegun again would have to be nuts.
That’s one of the more commendable qualities of the sweet science. Even a defeat can help your career if you lose with courage and skill. Fans remember the Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward series not so much for who came out on top in each of the bouts, but for how they fought. The Nigerian was on the losing end of exchanges all night, but he maintained ferocity throughout, throwing hard, quick shots and throwing them in bunches. If he’d hit the canvas a few times the contest would have been an easier candidate for Fight of the Year, but his granite chin wouldn’t allow it. In my book, it’s still a candidate.
Though Olusegun, 30-1 (14KOs), didn’t hit as hard as his opponent, most junior welters would have withered under the force of his never-say-die attack. In fact, it was conceivable Matthysse, 32-0 (30KOs), even though he was throwing harder punches, would succumb. But he had a chin that must have been mined from the same field of granite as Olusegun’s. And Olusegun, who finally got a world stage to display his exciting wares, didn’t let it go to waste.
Where Ward goes from here it’s hard to say. Before he destroyed Dawson he’d already cut through the super middleweight division like a scythe through a crop of wheat. Gennady Golovkin, a middleweight who looks virtually unstoppable, mentioned Ward’s name after taking out game Grzegorz Proksa the week before. What a great contest that could be.
So we had two 10th round stoppages Saturday night in Oakland and Las Vegas that buttressed three careers and installed Ward as a superstar once and for all. I’d call that a great night of boxing.
Futch Awards: To referee Steve Smoger for another superb performance. Ward scored a clean knockdown in round four, but it was hard to see because their feet got tangled as Dawson fell, and both fighters went down. Smoger sorted it out in an instant.
To Dawson, who was gracious enough to endure a post-fight interview on what may have been the worst night of his life. Lots of fighters would have stalked out of the ring.
To Hall of Famer Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson for his smooth transition to commentator on Showtime. Bring this guy back. And veteran sportscaster Mauro Ranallo hit the target. On HBO, we were treated to seeing both Larry Merchant and Max Kellerman work the same card with underappreciated Jim Lampley. A great team. And like Showtime, it’s a team with a fine bench.
Another Futch to Vitali Klitschko, 45-2 (41KOs), who has now stopped more opponents than most fighters ever face in a lifetime. If that was really his last outing, it was an appropriate ending, because it looked like most of his fights. The other guy was never in the contest. Manuel Charr picked the wrong guy for a slow-start, especially since his defense was built around blocking instead of slipping punches. When you let a monster like Klitschko pound on your arms it can end only one way.
When the Klitschkos retire, more fans will realize just how great they were.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE