On September 8th two of Boxing's top 10 pound for pound come together when Andre Ward and Chad Dawson meet for Ward's WBC and The Ring Super Middleweight title's. This will be the biggest bout in the careers of both fighters, and something of a validation fight as well. For Dawson this will be the first big time fighter he's fought who's still in his prime, Dawson defeated both Tarver and Hopkins years past their best days. As for Ward, this will be the most talented, and in my opinion, the best fighter that he's ever been in the ring with.
In Chad Dawson's only loss against Jean Pascal (TD 11th round) his lack of aggressiveness and activity allowed Pascal to get comfortable, control the fight, and ultimately claim the victory. Dawson needs to let his hands go more starting with a heavy use of his jab. In his victory over Bernard Hopkins Chad threw 149 jabs, which averages out to about 12 per round. That's not going to be enough this time. His jab rate in this fight needs to be more in the range of the 504 he threw against Glen Johnson in 2009. A steady dose of the jab will help Dawson in a number of ways, such as: setting up his power punch combos, making it harder for Ward to get to his chest, and keeping Ward from getting comfortable. Even if he only connects on 21% like he did against Johnson in 09', the jab volume will still have a big effect on the fight. The worst thing Dawson could do strategically September 8th is to allow this fight to get ugly. The best way to keep that from happening is popping the jab and keeping Ward off his body as much as possible.
Andre Ward is a perfect 25-0 and brings a lot to the table as a fighter: he's quick, smart, crafty, tough, and he uses tactics and tricks that would make Bernard Hopkins proud. He has good head movement and footwork on the outside, to go along with a nice jab; however as good of a boxer as I feel Ward is, I don't think this is a fight he can win at arms length. Ward is a guy who thrives in ugly fights, and any fight he can control the pace of(which usually turn into ugly fights). In order to get this fight into advantageous situations, he'll have to bypass Dawson's reach and get inside. Ward's technique on the inside as well as his head movements(which can be accompanied by "accidental" butts), and the occasional hip shots below the belt; will help keep Dawson out of any comfort zone and possibly frustrate him into doing something stupid. Outside of a perfect punch Andre probably doesn't possess the power to knock Dawson out, but he could time him up and knock him down, especially since Ward is so good at throwing punches from difficult angles.
The general consensus seems to be that Ward will win this fight, he's extremely talented, he's never lost, he's got heart, he seems to get better each time out, and Dawson with all of his talent can sometimes give very uneven, uninspired performances. Having said all that I still think Dawson wins a decision. I think this is the first fight since Tarver I that he'll come into with a real chip on his shoulder, have an attack mindset, and really try to take it to his opponent. Ward is no pushover and he'll be up to the challenge, but I don't think he wins a fight where Dawson applies the pressure to him. I usually put more emphasis on clean effective punching than volume, but in this fight if Dawson isn't somewhere in the neighborhood of 650 punches or more; I'll probably be writing a "why I was wrong" blog.