by Kirk Jackson
It’s that time, fight night at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California. A battle between two king pins of their respective divisions. Andre Ward the hometown favorite, is a 2004 Olympics gold medalist, winner of the super middleweight “Super Six” tournament, and defending WBC, WBA and Ring Magazine super middleweight champion. Chad Dawson is the beast from the east, a the multi-talented, three-time light heavyweight champion. Both fighters have impressive resumes and are in the prime of their careers. Let’s get down to business.
Andre Ward is the slight favorite in this fight, but it is a tough bout to call. Although Ward is uniquely skilled and battle tested, having faced various styles from the swarming Sakio Bika, to the dynamite fisted, defensive fortress, Arthur Abraham and most recently the deceptively elusive, iron chinned, Carl Froch, Ward has never faced anyone with the skill set of Dawson.
Dawson is a converted southpaw, possessing amazing speed, agility, decent pop in his punches, great lateral movement and has the ability to effortlessly throw fluid combinations. Another issue Ward has in facing Dawson is dealing with his size. Dawson is a natural light heavyweight listed as 6’1 but looks more like he stands 6’2 or 6’3.
Possessing a long reach of 76 ½ inches compared to Ward‘s 71 inch reach, Dawson definitely knows how to use his length to his advantage, which will be a good strategy if he wants to emerge victorious.
Speaking of size, or of weight, Dawson had to drop seven pounds to make the super middle weight limit, so it will be interesting to see if that has any effect on Dawson in the fight. Whatever strength advantage Dawson may have had going into the fight may have left him while shedding additional weight.
But even without the weight issue, this isn’t a walk in the park for Dawson either. Ward is a savvy fighter, a guy the that outworks and breaks down his opponent. Ward is a hybrid fighter; he can fight on the outside and effectively counter-punch, he can bully fighters invading their space, while digging hard shots to the body as well.
Many fans and critics may say Ward’s style resembles that of Bernard Hopkins, a guy Dawson defeated in his last bout by the way. Even though Dawson won his fight against the ageing legend, he did have some problems with Hopkins (as does everybody). The counter-punching, mind games and rough tactics Hopkins implored in his fight with Dawson had some effect on the younger fighter. But despite that, Dawson managed to keep his composure and pull through. Although Ward is not quite as crafty as Hopkins, he is younger, has a higher work rate and a lot more left in the tank.
I’m not expecting to see a repeat of Hagler-Hearns when these two warriors step in the ring. The first few rounds will be slow pace, calculating rounds from both fighters and the action will pick up in the middle rounds. Each fighter has the ability to take over the fight, but Ward will prevail based on his mentality and strong will.
Dawson is super-talented, but there are times in the ring where he looks complacent, even lackadaisical. I think also he is so accustomed to fighting older guys, who may not have the same work rate or hunger of a younger fighter, he somewhat fights to the level of his opponent and does not fight with urgency or passion. Six of his last eight fights heading into this bout have been against guys 40-years-old and up. That includes Hopkins twice, Glen Johnson twice and Antonio Tarver twice.
To compare the two fighters, Dawson may be the kind of fighter who will look for an opportunity to take the advantage, while with Ward there is no questions asked he will simply go out and seize the advantage. This could just be a contrast in styles or in personality inside the ring.
As for the fight, Ward will outwork Dawson, especially in the trenches and this fight will probably get ugly. Being it’s a righty vs. a lefty there will probably be multiple head on collisions, head butts resulting in cuts, wrestling on the inside, the whole nine.
Dawson will probably get the worse of the head butts and will get cut, as he has in his last couple of fights and that will have some effect on the outcome. If that does occur, maybe it will inspire Dawson to be more aggressive.
Either way, I have Ward winning a close unanimous decision, in a competitive fight that more people should be talking about, although I will not be surprised if Dawson edges it out. Chad Dawson deserves respect and recognition for moving down in weight and challenging the best guy in the division on his home turf. Andre Ward deserves respect for taking this challenge and facing a naturally bigger and immensely gifted fighter.
This doesn’t have the glamour of Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao, but this is a fight featuring two guys in their prime, super talented, fighters that are the best of their respective divisions, putting it all on the line.