Chad Dawson lost last night in Oakland to Andre Ward, and he lost bad. Make no mistake about it: Dawson was dominated in the ring, made to look like a true inferior, beaten up and battered around the ring like he didn't belong in there with Ward.
But I truly don't believe that this is a knock on Dawson more than it is a celebration of just how great a fighter Andre Ward has become. He can do it all in there, really, and he simply was able to adjust and show superiority, catch Dawson, hurt him, and win the fight with the sort of performance that can turn doubters into believers overnight, even if evidence suggests that night should have come long ago.
Dawson is still the top light heavyweight in the world. His ballsy trip south to super middleweight in search of the best -- and biggest -- fight he could make doesn't change his status at 175 pounds, where in May, he truly beat Bernard Hopkins and took control of the weight class.
The loss to Ward, though, was the type that could demoralize. Dawson was manhandled over the last eight rounds of the fight after doing pretty well in the opening two frames, and his spirit was busted as much as his body was broken down by Ward's measured-but-animalistic attack. It was the sort of loss that wounds the pride of a fighter, and understandably so. Now he has to get past it, and move on with his career. At 30, Chad Dawson has a lot of main events left.
So where does Dawson go next? Obviously, back to the drawing board -- and there are plenty of interesting fights waiting for him when he goes back up.
What better way to bounce back from a loss than to beat the other guy who handed you one of those damned things? Back in August 2010, despite the fact that Jean Pascal is not really as good as Chad Dawson, Pascal won a technical decision in Montreal when the fight was stopped due to a cut. It's a loss that sticks in the craw, because Dawson was coming on strong and many will argue he looked primed to stop Pascal in the remaining minutes of that fight. I can't go in all the way with that, because Pascal could have survived that round, run around for the 12th, and still have won the fight with a little room to spare on every card, but it's something people think about, anyway.
First of all, I do think Dawson needs to rematch Pascal. I just think he does because Pascal has a win over him, Dawson had some arguments about it, and he'd probably be the favored man again in the rematch, despite the outcome of their first fight.
Also, it was a pretty good fight. Also, Pascal isn't exactly busy. Right now, I think Dawson and Pascal need one another. To me, this is THE fight for both of them. You have to forgive me for not just assuming that Cloud vs Pascal is going to be rescheduled for next year.
Cloud (24-0, 19 KO) is American, in his prime, generally accepted as fun to watch, and "undefeated," so there's plenty to work with here. He has a belt that could be unified for seven or eight minutes.
I mean, you have to deal with Don King to get the fight done, and maybe Gary Shaw's not feeling that, and maybe King wouldn't want it, but Cloud, for all his flaws in the ring (there are plenty), would fight an actual fucking tiger if you asked him to, so it's plausible. And I'm sure it's the type of fight HBO would like to have. They've certainly marketed worse.
No. No. I'm only joking.
Wild Cards & Jokers
Let's just run through some of the "other" options (and "options") all at once...
Nathan Cleverly's not going to fight him. Don't pretend that could happen. Mikkel Kessler would be intriguing, but also expensive, and Kessler can make good money at home waiting on some cupcake belt to come his way. Nobody important really wants to fight Gabriel Campillo, plus he's dreadfully unhip in every way to a major network (foreign, not a prospect, not a puncher, unpretty record, etc.), so you can pretty much forget that idea. Beibut Shumenov probably has a rematch with William Joppy in mind first.
Second/third-tier light heavies like Tony Bellew, Andrzej Fonfara, Eduard Gutknecht, Isaac Chilemba, or Cornelius White could be fine for a bounce-back, but where do you televise that fight? A super middleweight could, in theory, come up in weight, but the pickings are kind of slim there, too. Sakio Bika would be a fight I'd like to see, but American TV seems to have no use for him, and most of the notable guys there are either busy and/or have an agenda in mind (Froch, Bute, Stevenson, Oosthuizen) or are content where they're at (Abraham, Rodriguez, Groves, DeGale, and so on). Andre Dirrell is semi-active at best.
So what are you looking at to pull up? Brian Magee? Maxim Vlasov?
For Dawson to regain momentum in his career, I think he has to fight Pascal or Cloud. It's not as if he's going to want to take short money from a second-tier network for a world title fight, or else I'd actually say something like Dawson vs Fonfara or White would be useful. They're WBC-ranked, could serve as bounce-back wins, but it's hard to imagine HBO buying that fight, and Dawson doesn't work for Golden Boy so it would be hard for him to get on Showtime.
Chad Dawson is a good fighter. Maybe he'll never be among the truly elite -- in fact, at 30, it's highly unlikely -- but he's going to be at or near the top of his weight class for at least a few more years. The talent is there, but last night he ran into someone who was simply better than him. There aren't many Andre Wards in the world that Dawson will have to contend with.
Whatever he does, hopefully for his sake, he won't hit seriously hit the wall due to this defeat. If we are to celebrate the fighters taking the toughest fights, then we must also root for them to move on after a loss, I would say. That's how it was done in the old days. Guys took risks. Sometimes they lost. And they got over it. Chad Dawson will have that chance.