By Ivan G. Goldman
It’s a desperate, praiseworthy gamble champions Andre Ward and Chad Dawson make this Saturday on HBO. But when the dust clears, even the winner could remain on the outside looking in, still not ready for pay-per-view.
Why? Let’s look at their characteristics.
Ward, 25-0 (13KOs), is extremely slick and hard to hit. Even though he tends to compete in his hometown of Oakland, you don’t see him winning any of those “controversial” decisions. They’re almost always lopsided and correctly so. At age 28 he’s beaten Karl Froch, Arthur Abraham, Mikkel Kessler, and Edison Miranda. But he’s also failed to stop anyone in his last four contests.
As for Dawson, 31-1 (17KOs), he’s defeated Bernard Hopkins, Glen Johnson, Tomas Adamek, and Eric Harding, but he’s stopped only one opponent in his last nine outings. He’s one of those fighters who sometimes seem to fall asleep in the ring, and even worse, his sleeping sickness spreads out into the seats.
Yes, this is the biggest fight of Dawson’s life, and he’s shown his eagerness by dropping down to super middleweight and challenging Ward on Ward’s home turf. But how many times have we seen fighters in hugely important bouts put in lackluster performances? They return to their corners after each round and get yelled at and even slapped by their seconds while they maintain a curious distance to all of it. History shows that assuming a fight will be exciting just because it’s important is wrong-headed. When the moves that usually work for fighters won’t do the job against a particular opponent, some of them just put in the time and paint by the numbers, waiting for the final bell so they can step away from a task that no longer seems to interest them. We can only hope it doesn’t happen Saturday.
Dawson is no knockout artist, and beating 2004 Olympic Gold Medalist Ward on points is probably even a tougher task than stopping him. In a 12-round contest, anyone can be caught with the wrong punch, but some fighters you just don’t outbox, and Ward has shown himself to be one of them. He’s generally more willing to go inside and mix it up than Dawson (who much prefers to keep his distance), and his moves are pretty, but he lacks the firepower that induces fans to put up the incredibly steep, stupid pay-per-view price of $70 that has become the norm. Yes, he’s scored slightly more stoppages than decision victories, but bear in mind that like all talented fighters who enter the pros with a glittery contract, he had his share of tomato cans early in his career.
There’s an old saying that when you match two good fighters, bet on the bigger good fighter, and some respectable analysts think Dawson will triumph with his superior size and reach. But I think he’s just got too much in front of him this time. Don’t be surprised if we see Ward at the top of the pound-for-pound list one day, much appreciated, but still not generating the kind of paydays routinely raked in by Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao today.
Even if Ward-Dawson gives us fireworks, don’t be shocked if it’s eclipsed anyway by the co-feature. Lightweights Antonio DeMarco, 27-2-1 (20KOs) and John Molina, 24-1 (19 KOs) could prove to be nitro and glicerine, giving us TNT. And on Showtime, knockout artist Lucas Matthysse of Argentina, 31-2 (29KOs) against undefeated Nigereian Ajose Olusegun, 30-0 (14KOs), also looks fan-friendly.
Addendum: Ward is a client of Victor Conte, who’s done time for dispensing steroids and has been at the bottom of scandals in a variety of sports. Under his guidance, for example, we watched Barry Bonds grow into a mastodon with a bat and end up in a courtroom, where he was found guilty of felonious obstruction of justice. Conte also sold banned substances to Shane Mosley and taught him how to inject them in his abdomen. Now Conte, a former rock musician, claims to be on the side of the angels. Trouble is, over the years he proved himself adept at dispensing illicit chemicals and masking them with untraceable substances. He’s like a guy who deals with a marked deck but promises not to peek.
Ivan G. Goldman’s critically acclaimed novel The Barfighter is set in the world of boxing. Information HERE