Eddie Gonzalez returns to Bad Left Hook today to discuss Chad Dawson's defeat last Saturday against Andre Ward on HBO, and the "quitter" tag he's been branded with by many in and around boxing.
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Over 30 years ago, Roberto Duran waved to referee Octavio Meyran and told him, "No mas." Duran was taking a beating at the hands of Sugar Ray Leonard and he had taken enough. Decades later, it is one of the most enduring and infamous moments in the sport's history. It has been referenced on all levels of pop culture, from "Sabrina the Teenage Witch" episodes to Jay-Z songs, "No Mas" lives on.
Almost 40 years ago, in what may be the most famous fight in the history of the sport, another revered fighter, Joe Frazier, saw his corner throw in the towel between the 14th and 15th rounds. A grueling fight with Muhammad Ali was finally over, and just seconds before Ali himself was going to quit.
Throughout the years, the disdain towards Duran has waned, and now he is one of the most revered men to ever step foot in a boxing ring. Yes, the moment is still attached to Duran, but no, he is not labeled a quitter. Ali and Frazier are legends, and the way the "Thrilla in Manila" ended is just part of their legend.
On Saturday night, after taking a beating at the hands of Andre Ward, Chad Dawson had his own version of no mas, letting referee Steve Smoger know that he was done, literally, telling him "I'm done," after a knockdown in the 10th round, the third he suffered in the fight.
But this does not make Dawson a quitter, as many have labeled him since he uttered those words Saturday. No, if anything, he is brave. He took a fight at a weight below where he's fought for six years, against the best fighter available in that division (and some would say in the world), in his opponent's city, and fought 10 rounds to win. Chad didn't spend the seven rounds following his initial knockdown in the third just surviving. He tried, he fought on, even though according to his trainer John Scully, his legs never recovered from that first knockdown.
I'm not one to beat the "if they set foot in that ring they are a warrior" drum, but in some sense it is true. Chad took a tough fight, called out Andre Ward, and followed through, with a ton of disadvantages. He was unsuccessful. It happens. Somebody had to lose.
The machismo culture of boxing conditions us to throw "quitter" around with contempt. When Victor Ortiz said he couldn't fight any longer with what ended up being two fractures in his jaw, it happened again. Many questioned Ortiz's toughness, when by all accounts he fought multiple rounds with the first fracture (as many as six) and only decided to stop fighting after suffering the second fracture. He fought, and was winning, a fight for multiple rounds with a broken jaw, and somehow we found a way to question his toughness after that.
Ortiz once said famously that he doesn't "deserve this," and it may be true. These guys don't deserve to take unnecessary punishment. Yes, they choose the sport and aren't victims, instead more like volunteers. But they should also be able to decide when enough is enough without criticism.
The sport is littered with fighters of yesteryear showing the effects of the punches they took today. Ali has shown them for years, Frazier showed the effects for years before his death. Freddie Roach, Meldrick Taylor, Shane Mosley, Evander Hollyfield, etc. The sport we love is brutal, men get hit repeatedly in the head for a living. It takes its toll.
Dawson, a father of four, is still relatively young at 30, and shouldn't be scolded for valuing his well being over his reputation within the sport. He had taken a beating, he knew he was done so he decide to stop the inevitable. Time and time again when a referee or a corner allows a fighter to take a beating for too long (something referee Smoger is known for) we cry foul. We can't believe that they would be so irresponsible. But when a fighter, the person who would probably know best, decides it has gone too far, we berate him?
All in all, Dawson took responsibility for the loss. He congratulated Ward, and even though Larry Merchant tried hard to make bait him, made no excuses in his post-fight interview on HBO. It takes a real man to admit defeat, and it takes an even bigger man to admit it in the way Chad did. He was a beaten man and he knew it. We shouldn't punish him for that.
Obviously the story of the weekend was Andre Ward. After what feels like his third coming out party (along with the Kessler and Froch victories), many are putting Ward as high as #1 pound-for-pound in the sport. The obvious question is where does he go next, and there are several options. My favorite is Sergio Martinez, even though he and Lou DiBella have said several times they will not move up to 168. The style clash is too intriguing to not happen.
For me the more important question is, can Ward be the star that his talent says he should be? In any other sport, being an elite, top three in the sport-level talent is enough to become a star. Boxing, because of its lack of mainstream coverage, is not afforded this privilege.
It's now up to his promoter, Goosen Tutor, to promote him in a manner that a talent of this level should be promoted. HBO has given a helping hand and is obviously behind him, giving him the 24/7 treatment, giving the fight the "A-Team" broadcast team.
I think Ward can be a star, even with a style that isn't "crowd-pleasing." Even with a personality that isn't a "personality." He is genuinely likable, a top of the sport talent who has won every big fight he's been in with room to spare. It may be because I live about 90 minutes away from Oakland, or because of the promotion of the fight, or both, but I noticed a lot more casual viewers watching the fight than typical for a standard HBO card. Maybe he's already on his way.
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Lucas Matthysse made his case as the best 140-pound fighter in the world Saturday, battering Ajose Olusegun for 10 rounds. To me, his resume is now better than Danny Garcia's, as he should have been awarded the Zab Judah and Devon Alexander fights. But, maybe they should make every single boxing fan alive happy and settle that in the ring.
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Lastly, I have to take some time to take someone else to task to task: Guest ring announcer Nick Cannon. Of all the people I know that watched the fight, not a single one enjoyed Nick Cannon, or really understood why he was involved in the event at all. On the surface it is a poor, distasteful and even disrespectful gesture ("Two black guys fighting, Buffer booked for the Vitali fight, let's get somebody famous, available and black to announce!"). Like I said on Twitter, in the most PC way possible, this was a terrible misjudgment by the organizers of what black people want to see. I hope this was a one shot thing.