SI.com’s boxing experts predict Saturday’s light heavyweight title fight between Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson (10:15 p.m. ET, HBO). Share your prediction in the comments below.
Betting against Hopkins has proven hazardous, as the 47-year old tactician has repeatedly defied the odds. But there is a certain type of fighter Hopkins can still take — big, bruising, brawlers — and Dawson isn’t one of them. This won’t be the most exciting fight, with Dawson snapping that long jab from a distance and Hopkins rushing in head-first to get on the inside. But it won’t be controversial, either. Dawson is on a different level than Hopkins and should cruise to a comfortable points win. Dawson by unanimous decision.
To make a prediction about a rematch you usually start with the first fight, but the initial encounter between Hopkins and Dawson was so truncated and the ending so ambiguous that it’s really almost as if this is the first bout. The same questions remain: Can Hopkins use his bottomless bag of tricks, his ring smarts and his patience to nullify Dawson’s youth and athleticism? Can he take the younger fighter deep into the bout without taking too much damage along the way and then start to score with his own, always, careful offense?
A lot depends on how focused Dawson is; he has a tendency to look brilliant for stretches in fights and then let down for stretches. His trainer, John Scully, is intent on having Dawson put it all together this time, and for his part, Dawson sounds determined to make a definitive statement about his place in the pound-for-pound standings. “I don’t want to just beat Bernard,” he has said. “I want to make him look stupid and make him look old.”
Well, I can see the “make him look old” part, but I don’t think anyone can make Bernard Hopkins look stupid. The fight goes longer this time — all 12 rounds. Hopkins will have his moments, but Dawson’s work rate — led by that long jab — will wear down the old champion and allow Dawson to shine in the later rounds. Dawson by unanimous decision.
BRYAN ARMEN GRAHAM
It was back in 2007 when Dawson (then a light heavyweight beltholder) first emerged as a logical opponent for Hopkins, who at 41 had just upset Antonio Tarver for the recognized 175-pound championship — a ceiling his idol, Sugar Ray Robinson, could never crack. It was billed as Hopkins going out on top, yet more than five years later he’s still here, a legitimate world champion taking on opponents in or around the pound-for-pound top 15 and making history with every outing. But styles make fights, and a rangy, technically sound boxer-puncher is simply a problematic matchup for the 47-year-old marvel. It’s no wonder a fighter as schooled as B-Hop wasn’t in a hurry to fight him; Dawson was, and is, tailor-made to end Hopkins’ career.
All logic indicates the younger, primer challenger presses his advantages in size, reach and athleticism to cruise to a points victory over Hopkins, a 3-to-1 underdog, not least because the 29-year-old Dawson has thus far proven impervious to the Philadelphian’s psychological tactics. This is his moment. Yet something about this scenario must feel comfortable to the champion: he was the spoiler in aborted coronations against Tarver (he was 3-to-1 underdog), Winky Wright (2-to-1) and Kelly Pavlik (4-to-1) — and was a 2-to-1 longshot in his first fight with Jean Pascal, a draw many thought Hopkins won. Dawson’s public mockery of the injury that led to a no-contest in October’s first meeting cast doubt on the professionalism and warrior’s spirit that are Hopkins’ essence. You’d never know it due to the effective vow of silence he took throughout the promotion — HBO must have been thrilled — but the blow to Hopkins’ reputation stings worse than any head shot and he’ll be motivated by redemption. It says here the cagey veteran — blending the economical offense, slippery defense and unmatched ring intelligence — conjures one last time-cheating performance on the boardwalk where he began his career (with a loss!) nearly a quarter-century ago. Hopkins by split decision.