Some people thought Glen Johnson beat Chad Dawson in their fight last year. This time, Dawson is determined to erase any doubts.
While he may be undefeated in 28 career fights, Chad Dawson's record is not without blemish. In 2004, he beat Aundalen Sloan decisively in a six-rounder only to see the fight declared a no-contest after a drug test revealed marijuana in Dawson's system. After steamrolling through his next 11 opponents — including then-unbeaten champion Tomasz Adamek — last year Dawson ran into a roadblock named Glen Johnson, a rugged 39-year-old who gave him everything he could handle and more. The three scorecards all said Dawson won, 116-112, but others judged that the 27-year-old light heavyweight had lost.
To his credit, Dawson didn't sidestep Johnson for a rematch. Facing a mandatory fight against another unbeaten young fighter, Tavoris Cloud, Dawson chose to go right back at Johnson, knowing he would be stripped of his title if he did. The belt was important to Dawson, but not nearly as much as setting the record straight with Johnson.
Dawson has no one to blame but himself for making the Johnson fight closer than it had to be. Instead of sticking to his game plan, he hopped back and forth between his style and Johnson's. A pure boxer in the Floyd Mayweather vein with tremendous skills, Dawson (28-0) easily dominated Johnson (49-12-2) in the rounds where he kept the fight at a distance. But when he stood in front of the rugged veteran and fought Johnson toe-to-toe, he appeared to take the worst of it.
This time around, Dawson vows to fight his fight, but it might not be that easy if he lets emotion dominate reason as he's sometimes prone to do. The sixth round of his previous fight against Johnson makes a perfect example. Dawson began by using great lateral movement while throwing rapid-fire combinations, but when the action-craving crowd began booing in the middle of the round, he got off his bike and stepped into Johnson's personal space, which couldn't have pleased the veteran more.
Johnson is a relentless pressure fighter and few can match his inside game. Certainly Dawson couldn't. After the sixth round Dawson's trainer, former light heavyweight champ Eddie Mustafa Muhammad emphatically told him to stick to their plan. Dawson seemed to listen at first. He boxed the entire seventh round and dominated the plodding Johnson with ease. But in the ensuing rounds, Dawson flip-flopped between styles, and Johnson appeared to benefit greatly, the result being a decision that was less than unanimous to some observers.
"This time I think it will be an easier fight for Chad because he knows more about what to expect in the ring with Johnson," says Gary Shaw, who promotes both Dawson and young junior middleweight Alfredo Angulo, who will fight in the opening bout against unbeaten Harry Joe Yorgey.
What Dawson should expect is for Johnson to stalk him every minute of every round. He should also be aware by now that Johnson will absorb everything Dawson throws without backing up. For most fighters, landing punches at will and having no effect on an opponent would be discouraging. Not to Dawson, Shaw says. "If Chad was a knockout artist, sure he might have gotten discouraged. But he's a boxer."
Possessing good, but not great power in both hands, Dawson has knocked out 17 of his 28 opponents, a decent but not stellar 58 percent. But even if he had more power, Dawson would still be hard-pressed to put Johnson down. In 63 career fights, the only one to knock out Johnson was Bernard Hopkins in 1997, and it took the middleweight champ 11 rounds to do it.
A dominating victory over Johnson would erase the bad taste of the first fight, but probably do little to advance Dawson's recognition in the boxing community. "Chad is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, but fans don't realize it yet," Shaw says. "That's because Chad does what he needs to do in a workman-like fashion."
"Chad is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. But fans don't realize it yet, because he does what he needs to do in a workman-like fashion." — Dawson promoter Gary Shaw
Another reason Dawson hasn't gotten fans buzzing yet is that he's a young stud fighting on a virtual "seniors" circuit. In Dawson's last seven fights, not one opponent was younger than 31, with the average age of those boxers being 37. Although fighters like Antonio Tarver had name recognition, those bouts generated the perception he was beating up on old men past their prime. Shaw feels sure Dawson's time will come.
"I think the big fights will eventually materialize. Some guys just have to wait longer for a dance partner. If we could get the winner of Jones and Hopkins, that would be a big fight. Chad has no problem fighting at either 175 or 168, so he could take on some of the best at super middleweight, including Jean Pascal. If he fought Pascal in Canada, where he lives, that would be a huge fight there."
The fight Dawson most wants is Hopkins, who said on a recent studio show that he intends to face the winner of Dawson-Johnson next. But Shaw doesn't see it happening anytime soon. "Bernard lied. If he was going to do that, why would he sign to fight Roy Jones [in 2010], and then take a tune up [against Enrique Ornelas] in December?"
Another fighter looking to make a statement on Nov. 7 is Angulo, who looked every bit the part of the next big Mexican fighter until former welterweight champion Kermit Cintron made him seem more like the flavor of the month last May, handing him his first loss via unanimous decision. Angulo (16-1) will be looking to regain the luster he lost when he fights Yorgey (22-0), who recently hooked on with Kelly Pavlik's trainer, Jack Loew.
Although Cintron appeared to write the template on how to beat the forward-charging Angulo — lateral movement and keeping the fight at a distance — Shaw says Angulo is very capable of cutting off the ring.
"He couldn't against Cintron because he had a stomach virus at the beginning of the week," Shaw says. "It seemed to get better, but when I took him for Saturday brunch he couldn't eat. I believe he was coming on in the final two rounds and if the fight had been longer, he would have beaten him."