This evening I read a piece over at ESPN by Brian Campbell that laid out five reasons to buy Saturday night's Hopkins vs Dawson pay-per-view. This is not a post meant to crap on his reasoning -- you should read his article and judge for yourself whether his reasons are good enough to shell out money for this show, and I would even add that there are a couple of good undercard fights (Holt vs Garcia, Linares vs DeMarco) that do give this show some added kick, and the undercard wasn't even on his list.
So I'm already defending the idea that you should buy it. But in the interest of me trying to unfreeze my brain, I'm going to lay out five reasons to not buy it -- and five reasons why "boxing's vocal army of critics" are right that this show isn't worth your money.
1. Even HBO knows this isn't a pay-per-view card
There's no debating this. Hopkins vs Dawson is not a pay-per-view caliber main event, especially not a major show main event. It is better than the September 2010 debacle that HBO presented with Shane Mosley and Sergio Mora, but then what isn't? Without comparing it to things that have been worse, we're talking about a bad economy, and this show being sandwiched between Mayweather vs Ortiz (9/17), and the upcoming must-buy shows on November 12 (Pacquiao vs Marquez III) and December 3 (Cotto vs Margarito II). This show is only on pay-per-view because HBO mishandled their budget at times this year. Nobody could truthfully tell you this is a $50 fight, so why should you pretend it is simply because HBO was forced to put it here?
2. Chad Dawson has little to gain in the short-term
Chad Dawson is in an immediate no-win situation here. I don't care how great he is, Bernard Hopkins is a 46-year-old man, and all bare bones reasoning states that he should not win this fight. If Chad Dawson wins this fight, even though he'll be beating the man we all agree is the legit champion of the light heavyweight division, a surefire Hall of Famer, and the best 175-pounder in the world at this moment, he will never be seen as a guy who beat "the real" B-Hop. He'll be the guy who beat a 46-year-old Bernard Hopkins. Plus, outside of his first fight with Roy Jones Jr, Bernard's never lost a fight that was less than hotly debated. Joe Calzaghe and Jermain Taylor didn't get much bump from beating Hopkins in the 2000s, because a lot of people thought he won all three of those fights. If Dawson wins, expect a lot of people to disagree. So what can Chad really gain here in the immediate? Not much. Long-term, of course, there's plenty for him to gain, but that would be on Chad Dawson going forward.
3. The fight won't be good*
It just won't be. I don't think I have to elaborate much more here. You can tell me about skill levels and all that all you want, but the style matchup is begging to be pure boredom. The only chance it has is if Hopkins loses some early rounds, tries to get in Dawson's head with some rough tactics, and Chad amps up the pace and goes for the knockout. My gut feeling is Hopkins will be very happy to keep he and Dawson throwing 30 punches per round, though.
* Every time I really think this, a fight turns out to be OK. Except for Mosley vs Mora.
4. Supporting this card supports bad pay-per-view
I don't really think we're in any real danger of seeing a return of way too many pay-per-view events, but if this fight does do really well on pay-per-view (it won't), then why would Hopkins ever not fight on pay-per-view again? What's stopping Dawson, who has already been overpaid in his career, from demanding he fights on PPV against Jean Pascal should he win this fight? Things can spiral in boxing in a hurry. Not too many years ago, there was an absurd amount of pay-per-view boxing that really did hurt the sport's exposure and wider appeal, and the last few years have seen a return to pay-per-view being for really big events (Mayweather, Pacquiao) and the occasional budget issue or whatever, and then some independent PPVs that wouldn't be on TV otherwise. I don't hate pay-per-view, and honestly don't mind paying for big fights. But it's not something that's healthy for this level of fight.
5. Chad Dawson is a bore, and you're never going to be excited to see him fight
I have nothing in the world against Chad Dawson, not on any kind of personal level. This is entirely a professional critique. Does anyone expect Dawson to still be a top fighter in five years' time? He's not exciting, he's not charismatic, and he makes boneheaded professional decisions constantly. He doesn't even seem like he wants to fight, really. He does it because he's good at it. I don't go in for all this "in my day fighters had passion!" stuff, but if any top-ranked fighter in the sport today validates the argument that today's game lacks energy and drama and intrigue, it's Chad Dawson. We've complained about watching his fights on HBO and Showtime. Pay-per-view?
Realistically, I'm not trying to encourage anyone to "boycott" this fight. It's a notable fight and I know that for some people, guys being highly-ranked is 100% good enough, and that for some people, just the fact that it's boxing is plenty enough. I will not be ordering the show, but this is not because I don't want to -- I'm just not going to be in this weekend. If I were, as I had originally planned to be, I would have gladly ordered the show and been excited to see it all unfold, even with low expectations. That's the mindset of today's hardcore boxing fan: Give it all to us, and we'll judge afterward if it was worth the money or effort.
That said, I also had a standing invite to go do something fun on November 12, and I turned that down without hesitation. This is not Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. Hopkins and Dawson may be more evenly matched (maybe), but if you believe they're worth the same level of anticipation, you're in a very small minority.