Tomorrow night's HBO main event between Andre Ward and Chad Dawson is a polarizing fight, one that has some excited, many annoyed at the very idea of having to watch two fighters not known for action (or large crowds to see them) fight one another in a "big fight," and, well, to others it's just another fight.
We're bringing back the staff picks feature for these big weekend fights, as the schedule is getting serious and it's always good to get everyone weighing in. In other words:
While I expect Andre Ward to win, I don't think I'll agree with the decision. He's never fought someone as good overall or as technically-sound as Chad Dawson. Ward often finds himself "making it ugly" against people he's supposed to have a technical advantage over in the first place. Not only is Dawson expecting this from Ward, he's already had great experience defending against it in his bouts with Bernard Hopkins. And while Ward might be a younger Hopkins, he's certainly not a prime B-Hop (who wasn't all that young in his prime). While neither was a great puncher Bernard at least had the power to get his opponents out of there. Hopkins was exceptional at breaking fighters down. He's the only man to stop Felix Trinidad or Glen Johnson. While Andre Ward may be good at everything, he's exceptional at nothing in particular. In the power department Ward is actually below average for fighters around his level. Yet if you were to create the perfect fighter to beat Chad Dawson, power would probably be pretty high on your priority list.
To me, Dawson is clearly the better outside fighter. Dawson has the advantage in height, reach, weight (if he's not drained weighing in at 168), hand speed, combinations, and maybe even punching power but I doubt power will be relevant in this fight. Ward has basically been reduced to a pressure fighter with no lights out potential. On paper Dawson is more than capable of defeating that. Ward for the first time will have to deal with an opponent that simply out classes him in certain departments. It will be a very uncomfortable experience for him. Also, Dawson being a southpaw, Ward never fighting a southpaw anywhere near Dawson's league, and Ward's habit of leaning/ducking to his right to avoid punches may backfire on him September 8th. Dawson's overall resume just gives him far more experience for Ward than Ward's resume does for Dawson. But Ward is undefeated, mentally tougher, and is fighting in his backyard. He should find a way to "trick" the judges and several fans into thinking he won more rounds. He'll at least fight with the heart and desire a winner should have. Chad Dawson's body language will probably betray him. I hope he proves me wrong as I hope for competent judges. I'm just betting against it. Andre Ward by majority decision.
People say I'm crazy, doin' what I'm doin'. They give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin...
Chad Dawson is going to win this fight. He's good enough, he's motivated enough, and gosh darn it, Andre Ward isn't unbeatable. Now, Ward has a fairly good claim to being unbeatable, since he's hardly been challenged as a pro (Sakio Bika gave him the best run for his money) and hasn't lost a fight since he was 12 years old, and hell, he claims he was robbed in that one.
Dawson's win in May against Bernard Hopkins showed me something, though. The more I've looked at that performance, the more impressed I've been. Hopkins is a master of rough tactics and mind games. Dawson fought angry and refused to let Hopkins bully him, mentally or physically. If the weight loss didn't hurt Chad Dawson, I don't think Andre Ward -- a really good bully fighter, and a terrific fighter overall -- can do what he'd like to do with Dawson, and in terms of pure skills and athletic ability, I think Dawson is the better man. This is not my way of saying Andre Ward is overrated. He's fantastic. But I think Chad Dawson's about to make it stick. These guys are top-level fighters. Someone has to lose. Chad Dawson by split decision.
There are a few question marks over Dawson here that I just don't see in Ward. While I'm not sure I subscribe to the view that the latter is unbeatable at anything from 168 to 175, in theory if I'm picking anyone over him it should probably be the lineal light-heavyweight champion, and I'm not.
I don't think the weight is a big factor, but the venue could well be, particularly for a fight that feels like it's headed for the cards. There's a resolution and stubbornness to Ward that I question whether Dawson has the equal of, and I see the challenger getting frustrated throughout a bitty, scrappy contest. In other words, classic Ward territory. It may not be the bore many anticipate, but it's unlikely to be very pretty. Ward by decision, somewhere in the region of 116-112.
Dawson arguably has more talent, certainly has the physical advantage as long as he's not compromised by making a lower weight, and should be brimming with confidence as the first man to soundly defeat Bernard Hopkins in almost twenty years. Maybe Andre Ward is in for a tough, long night. I don't think so. Ward rose to the occasion in his biggest tests, dismantling Mikkel Kessler and Carl Froch in lopsided fashion, while Dawson shriveled on the big stage in his first foray at the light heavyweight championship against Jean Pascal. I saw nothing in Dawson's tactical out-pointing of the 46-year old Hopkins that suggests he will rise to this challenge against a world class fighter at the absolute peak of his powers. Andre Ward by clear, clean, unimpeachable unanimous decision.
It's hard to see this bout being anything more than an ugly mess, with Ward instigating much of the aesthetic disturbance. He's going to nullify whatever advantages Dawson might have at long range, with the sort of effective, but graceless rule bending bully tactics, he's become so adept at.
Fighting at super-middle won't help Dawson either - he hasn't made the weight in over 6 years, and the extra 7lbs is a significant cut for a fighter that comes in well over the light-heavy limit on fight night. Ward should win a clear cut decision, though perhaps of the "technical" variety due to a fight that ends early because of cuts caused by "accidental" head clashes.
Who in the murkiest depths of the darkest imagination ever wanted to see Andre Ward fight Chad Dawson, and -- perhaps more importantly -- why? Though Ward swept his way through the Super Six to emerge as the best Super Middleweight in the world, while Chad Dawson became Light Heavyweight champion by defeating the venerable Bernard Hopkins in the second of two excruciating fights, both have earned reputations along the way as two of the least inspiring fighters in the sport. Indeed, for those expecting a good fight, the facts bear grim reading. Ward is one of the dirtier fighters around -- at odds with his carefully coiffeured appearance -- and has simply never been in a enjoyable encounter. Chad Dawson has, but he found his first fight with Glen Johnson so taxing that he then decided never to inflict such excitement again. At stake lies the semi-significant claim to be the best American fighter after Floyd Jr, and the semi-significant claim to be Ring Magazine Super Middleweight champion.
Though HBO has ploughed resources into this fight -- from an insipid edition of 24/7 to a choreographed clip of Ward chatting with Nick Cannon -- the overriding impression persists that the conclusion -- and all that precedes it -- are familiarly predictable. Expect a 12 round decision. Expect a listless Chad Dawson. Expect a feather-fisted Andre Ward. And, perhaps most importantly, don't expect too much. Because you're sure to be disappointed. Andre Ward UD-12.
When I look at this fight, and these fighters, I feel like Andre Ward is supposed to win. I feel he's the better overall fighter, as there is a fine line between an A fighter and a B+ fighter. The weight should be an advantage. Fighting in his hometown should help him. Ward just plain should win.
Despite knowing all of that, I'm leaning towards Chad Dawson. I think he'll handle the weight well. I think the height and reach disparity will pay dividends. I think him being a lefty helps. I think Chad has a chip on his shoulder that he's dying to get off. I think he spends the night keeping Dre off him with a stiff jab, piles rounds up and takes the decision. All just from a gut feeling that I can't shake off. Dawson by UD.
Andre Ward and Chad Dawson are two men in need of each other. Each in their physical prime, they require a challenge that will force themselves to perform at the highest level possible. Some have ragged on this matchup more than a little bit, but I feel we could be on the verge of witnessing something special. Dawson has a deep of reservoir of talent, a fact that nobody can deny.
However, I'm always left with the feeling that there could be more. Maybe I'm being too demanding and unrealistic, but I don't get the sense he has to win; he merely wants to. Ward, on the other hand, has something residing a bit deeper within him. Gifted physically and versatile stylistically, he can dictate the pace of a fight like few others. Thus far, he has handled every challenge with exceptional results, and his focus appears to be like that of a laser. When he fights (and speaks) there is a certain aura of confidence that tends to be absent with Dawson; a sense of destiny, perhaps. I expect there to be a good, solid bout that gradually transforms into another clear Ward victory. Dawson does not have the strength or temperament to keep his opponent off of him the whole night. By the middle to later rounds Ward will mug him along the ropes and trap Dawson frequently. He'll outwork "Bad" Chad, and pull away late to take a wide decision, and stake his claim as the best fighter on the planet. Ward by decision.
Chad Dawson impressed me more than he ever has before in his last fight against Bernard Hopkins. In fact, in both fights with Hopkins and in the last few rounds of his only loss, to Jean Pascal, Dawson has shown a more aggressive style of fighting and has let his hands go more. Previously I always found him to be a boring, predictable fighter who seemed to lack the mental toughness to make it to the very top of the P4P lists. His talent has never been in question. It's been much more about his temperament and attitude towards fighting.
I think him coming down in weight could be a factor here, but not a big one. Even if Chad has found the required grit to continue to establish himself as one of the best of this era, I don't think it will be enough to beat Andre Ward. Ward is extremely tough mentally, has great skills, and will fight hard and a bit dirty if he has to. Two of the current best at any weight will clash on Saturday night, but only one of them is destined for true greatness, in my opinion, and that's Ward. I think he is the guy who will take over from Floyd Mayweather, when talking about a fighter who just dominates the vast majority of his opposition. Ward by UD, 116-113.
Final Tally: Andre Ward 7, Chad Dawson 2.