Chad Dawson has had an up-and-down career since breaking through seven years ago, as he's lost fights it was felt he could have won, beaten elderly stars of varying remaining quality, abandoned trainers every few weeks, and bounced in and out of the sport's focus.
Dawson never became the star it was hoped he might be following his '07 win over Tomaz Adamek, but considering the rate at which quality fighters actually become stars anymore, that's not terribly unexpected. It's the maddening inconsistency of Dawson, who returns tomorrow on Showtime for a tune-up fight, that has been less expected.
- Bernard Hopkins (2012-04-28)
- Tomasz Adamek (2007-02-03)
- Glen Johnson (2009-11-07)
- Antonio Tarver (2008-10-11)
- Glen Johnson (2008-04-12)
Figuring Dawson's two best wins is very easy, but after that, there are plenty of arguments. His win over Adamek arguably should be considered the best of his career, because it was his breakout and first world title. But a win over Bernard Hopkins, no matter when it is or how it came about, or how impressed anyone was or was not, just means so much, and it feels like it means more all the time.
When Dawson first fought Hopkins, of course, it was a debacle of the first order, as the pay-per-view card predictably bombed, though even more dramatically than was anticipated, and the fight ended in the second round when Hopkins had to be stopped due to a shoulder injury. Dawson was initially named the winner, but that was rightly reversed to a no-contest later on.
The rematch wasn't what you'd call highly-anticipated, but it was on regular HBO where it belonged (the first show was a PPV entirely for budget reasons), and it took place at Boardwalk Hall rather than the Staples Center, which was a terrible location for a fight between a Philly guy and a Connecticut guy, the latter of whom wasn't even a draw in his home region.
But while Dawson's style and southpaw stance gave Hopkins fits, the win over Adamek was probably more impressive, and for me, at least, is more memorable. Adamek was never a great fighter, but he has always been a top of the line battler, a guy who's almost impossible to deter. And that night, Dawson couldn't get him to back off, at least not entirely. "Bad" Chad dominated the majority of the fight, but Adamek hurt him late, and Dawson pulled it together. To this day, it might be Dawson's all-time best performance.
The first win over Antonio Tarver was a good one for Dawson, as were both wins over Glen Johnson. The Tarver rematch was contractually obligated, had no real reason to happen, and drew about 19 fans to the Hard Rock in Vegas. I rate Dawson's rematch win over Johnson higher because he left no doubts, even if he was booed in his home arena in Hartford, CT. Their first encounter was a lot closer, with Johnson having an argument for the win.
Dawson's career has been a weird one. The guy is a very talented boxer, nobody questions that, but there have always been huge questions about whether or not he's really invested in the sport; whether he loves boxing, or it's just what he does for a living because he's good at it.
One of the reasons that has been questioned so often is Dawson's insane habit of cycling through trainers. Over the years, Dawson has worked with Dan Birmingham, Floyd Mayweather Sr, Emanuel Steward, John Scully, and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. He had two stints with Scully, and is on his second with Muhammad. The only name fighter in recent history I can think of who switched trainers so often was Oscar De La Hoya, who worked with Mayweather Sr, Freddie Roach, Nacho Beristain, Gil Clancy, Emanuel Steward, Robert Alcazar, and others.
De La Hoya was better than Dawson, and I think few would argue he also wanted it more, and had a bigger, stronger personality. Oscar was a superstar, and though he seemed to constantly throw others under the bus when he came up short, and seemingly gave little respect to those who helped him become "The Golden Boy," he got away with that because he was Oscar De La Hoya: Superstar. Dawson has bounced around with trainers and promoters and all kinds of stuff, but it has come off less like De La Hoya's shifting allegiances and more a level of apathy from Dawson. When the going has gotten tough, he's looked for clean starts.
In itself, a clean start is not a bad thing. But the way it's happened repeatedly with Dawson has always been a little troubling, and has opened up the question of whether or not he really wants to earn it when the going gets tough.
His first loss came in August 2010, when he dropped a technical decision to Jean Pascal in Montreal. In that fight, Dawson was sluggish and all but giving the fight away. He did make a late charge, but an accidental headbutt caused a large cut over Dawson's eye, and the fight was halted. Pascal had tired late, as has been a theme in his career, but Dawson had given too much of the fight away, which has become a theme for his.
In 2012, Dawson took a risk by moving down to super middleweight to face reigning kingpin Andre Ward. This wound up being bad all around. Dawson was trounced by Ward, who dropped him in rounds three, four, and 10, when Dawson decided he'd had enough. Ward looked fit and strong as always, and his superior craft would have probably given him the edge no matter the weight. Ward is, simply put, a better fighter than Dawson. But Dawson did himself no favors struggling to make a weight he hadn't made in six years, either. The decision to ever take that fight at 168 pounds was questioned before the fight, and certainly after.
Dawson went back up to 175 for his next fight, a WBC title defense against Adonis Stevenson. That one didn't even last a minute, as "Superman" clocked him and stopped Dawson in just 54 seconds in June 2013. It was a year before Dawson got back into the ring, looking out of shape against George Blades this past June.
Up Next and Beyond
Following the easy win over the unqualified Blades, Dawson (32-3, 18 KO) takes a small step back up tomorrow on Showtime against Tommy Karpency (23-4-1, 14 KO). Though Karpency is certainly no A-list fighter, he is also certainly better than Blades, who is both small and old.
Karpency, 28, is a scrapper at his best. We saw him go 12 lousy rounds with Nathan Cleverly in a bogus title fight a couple of years ago, winning none of them, and he was also soundly beaten by Karo Murat in 2010. But in his last notable fight, he gave a decent accounting against Andrzej Fonfara. Though Karpency was stopped oddly in the seventh round, he was ahead 57-55 on two of the three judges' scorecards in Fonfara's hometown.
What Dawson does from here is, as predictable as it seems to say, entirely up to Chad Dawson. He's got a world class trainer (again). He's got Al Haymon behind his career. He's going to get TV dates, even if relatively few have any true interest in seeing him. And in a 175-pound division that is top heavy and wide open after that, Dawson could still be a player. He's 32, and we know he matches up well with Bernard Hopkins, one of the top three fighters in the class. He's also already fought Pascal, a guy I think it's fair to see he can beat, and Stevenson, who may have caught Dawson at the exact right time more than anything.
Dawson's future is murky, but there is some light poking through the haze. He's going to get the chances, and he's got the talent. Is he damaged goods, though? And will he keep his eye on the ball long enough to be a significant factor again? Those are the real questions.