Chad Dawson: Undisputed Light Heavyweight Champion
#10 P4P Fighter in the World
30 Years Old
Recent: UD (W, Bernard Hopkins)
Strengths: Height, reach, tremendous coordination and balance, great hand speed and reflexes.
Weaknesses: Tends to coast at the wrong time, won't necessarily apply smart pressure on opponents, relies too heavily on his counter punching, can get lost in space, can be hit when he lapses in and out of focus. Doesn't always recognize opportunities (see: Dawson v Pascal)
Key to victory: Needs to be more aggressive and more consistent when it comes to his activity. One of the biggest criticisms of Chad Dawson is his lack of a killer instinct based on his own calculation that if he's winning a fight wide, he doesn't feel it's necessary to take his opponent out.
All Chad has to do is apply smart aggression on Ward and he should win. We already know Chad can box your ears off but we don't know if he can consistently cut down an opponent. The old Chad Dawson was an explosive blend of slick reflexive boxing and dynamic aggression. We need to see the Chad Dawson that utterly dismantled Tomasz Adamek and Antonio Tarver.
Andre Ward: Undisputed Super Middleweight Champion
#5 P4P Fighter in the World
6'0 (He honestly looks about 5'11 but I'll give him 6'0)
Switch Hitter (Orthodox who can fight Southpaw)
28 Years Old
Recent: UD (W, Carl Froch)
Strengths: Great focus and ring generalship, high ring intelligence, calm, great counter puncher, good reflexes, nice hand speed, tremendous on the inside, knows how to confuse opponents very well.
Weaknesses: Can be a bit reckless, especially when closing distance (see:Ward v Kessler). While I'm not of the view that Ward's punches are like feather dusters, I do believe however that he won't have the power in his hands to put the fear of God in Chad Dawson if he connects. Andre is a bull on the inside and is surprisingly stubborn when it comes to his strength, I just don't see him hurting Dawson at will in the punch department.
Key to Victory: Ward's got to take a page out of the Bernard Hopkins handbook. He needs to bully Chad while being aware of Chad's ability to cut down fighters who want to get aggressive. As we saw in the rematch against Glen Johnson, Chad perfectly timed the old warhorse coming in on him. He threw tremendous combinations and effectively turned Glen Johnson, using angles to score on the inside. Ward knows how to walk you down and counter at the same time so this could be a highly contested chess match between the two men.
I think if Ward plants seeds of frustration and doubt early on, he can take a majority win on Saturday at the Oracle Arena.
What to expect: I expect a high level master showing and one of the most intelligent and precise examples of near perfect boxing from Andre Ward and Chad Dawson. I don't think it'll be a snooze fest or like watching wet paint dry, but I'm not counting on fireworks with four or five knockdowns and both men looking like they put their faces in a blender. No matter who wins I expect both Ward and Dawson to elevate their profiles and levels of respect after it's all said and done. Like Hearns v Leonard, this fight will determine one official winner, but both men I truly believe will benefit from this fight.
Prediction: As much as it pains me and it truly does, because I've been a fan of Chad Dawson since about 2006. I just, I think I was mesmerized by the sheer talent he had and still has. He's by far the most naturally talented light heavyweight since Roy Jones Jr. With that being said this is a fight between my #1 and #2 favorite fighters in the world. I have a hard time with this one because I'm such a fan of both fighters. But at the end of the day it's clear to me and everyone else that Andre Ward is on a level much higher than Chad Dawson. Now that's not to marginalize Bad Chad's skill because even if he loses he's still the far and away best 175 pounder in the world no doubt about it. I don't see anyone beating him even if Ward beats him on Saturday. I don't think Froch would beat him, I'm not at all convinced Tavoris Cloud would beat him, and there's a reason why that hideaway champion in Wales insisted on fighting Bernard Hopkins even if he lost to Chad Dawson.
But you know Ward is on a mission I believe from the almighty above. The lord has blessed Andre with an opportunity to represent our sport as a positive figure, something we need. Chad is a great family man and his career and skill ought not be questioned if he loses. But Andre Ward is simply too good right now and will be too good for anyone looking to take his crown. But, if there's anyone out there that has the best shot at dethroning Andre Ward besides Sakio Bika, it's Chad Dawson. (I say Bika because not only did Bika put in the best performance against Andre Ward he gave us the blueprint on how to fight him.)
Andre Ward, by Majority or Split Decision