The last time we saw Bernard Hopkins he out-pointed Jean Pascal to become, at age 46 years 137 days, the oldest boxer to capture a major title. On Saturday Hopkins seeks to make history again, for should be defeat Chad Dawson he'll break George Foreman's record for the oldest man to successfully defend a widely recognized belt. "Big George" was 46 years 113 days old when he decisioned Axel Schulz to keep his IBF strap and should Hopkins prevail the mark will move to 46 years 284 days. Dawson is a 7-5 favorite.
(Note: For those who cite Archie Moore, his 1916 birth year was confirmed by census records shortly after his 1998 death. Therefore, he was 45 years 190 days old when he defeated Giulio Rinaldi in June 1961, not age 48 as previously believed).
Lost in the shuffle is Dawson, who until recently was considered the best light heavyweight in the world and a rising star. Will Hopkins rewrite the record books again or will Dawson quiet the skeptics? Their CompuBox histories reveal the following trends:
Controlling the Environment: Hopkins is proficient not only at marshalling his own energy but also dictating his opponents' pace. Hopkins' height, reach and boxing IQ demand respect and his opponents have largely granted it -- to their peril.
In the five fights since losing to Joe Calzaghe, Hopkins has averaged 41.1 punches per round (23.8 percent below the 53.9 light-heavyweight norm) but compelled his opponents to throw 32.9 per round (39 percent below the divisional baseline). Hopkins landed 34.3 percent of his overall punches and 45.2 percent of his power shots while Pascal, Enrique Ornelas, Roy Jones Jr. and Kelly Pavlik landed a combined 23.3 percent (overall) and 28 percent (power).
Only Ornelas managed to exceed Hopkins' output (42.3-41.4) but was far outdone in raw connects (205-113 overall, 190-109 power). Pascal threw 29.2 and 31.4 punches per round in his two bouts while Pavlik threw 38.6 (46.7 percent less than the 72.4 he averaged in five fights before Hopkins) and Jones a mere 22.8.
Hopkins vs. Southpaws: His first three opponents at 175 were lefties like Dawson -- Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright and Calzaghe -- and his results were mixed. They threw more (48.9-42.4), landed more (11.4-13.2) and landed at a higher rate (27.0-27.1 overall, 21.9-10.5 jabs, 30.8-30.4 power) but Hopkins managed to win two out of three. His best success came against Tarver, against whom Hopkins prevailed 133-78 (total connects) and 126-48 (power connects). Wright managed to out-land Hopkins 167-152 (overall) and 87-9 (jabs) but trailed 143-80 in power connects.
The Calzaghe fight offers hope for Dawson, who at 6-1 is two inches taller and whose 76 1/2-inch wingspan is three-and-a-half inches longer than Calzaghe's. Although Hopkins managed to slow Calzaghe's hyperactive pace (his 58.9 output was 20.2 percent less than the 73.8 pace in his previous five), he never stopped as he out-landed Hopkins 232-127 (overall), 45-11 (jabs) and 187-116 (power).
Mirror Image: Dawson once was among boxing's best combination punchers, but in his last six fights his output has nearly duplicated his rivals'. Dawson averaged 51.7 to Diaconu's 49.2 and the pattern held against Pascal (39.6-39.1) and Glen Johnson II (63.0-58.7). Tarver out-threw Dawson in both fights (74.8-54.2 and 62.7-56.4 respectively) and Johnson out-landed Dawson in their first bout (292-269 overall, 87-75 jabs and 205-194 power).
Dawson's last statistically dominant fight was against Epifanio Mendoza in September 2007, in which he threw 21.2 more punches per round (73.0-51.8) and amassed connect advantages of 136-32 (overall), 28-10 (jabs) and 108-22 (power).
Dawson's saving grace has been his power accuracy. He enjoyed a 58.8-20.5 gulf against Diaconu, a 56.3-32.6 gap in the Johnson rematch, 47.5-36.9 and 36.5-18.6 bulges in the two Tarver fights and a 57.8-23.4 lead against Mendoza.
Dawson's tendency to fight near his opponents' pace is dangerous against Hopkins, for if that happens "The Executioner" will likely drag "Bad Chad" into a tactical battle he will likely lose. To prevail, Dawson must follow the Calzaghe model of maintaining a fast pace and dictating the terms of war.
Prediction: During his championship reign, Dawson said a Hopkins fight was the one he wanted most. If he channels that desire into positive action he is young enough and capable of generating the volume he needs. He is aware that he needs to rev up his engine and ignore Hopkins' tricks just as Calzaghe did. Hopkins, great as he is, can only fight so hard. Thus, Dawson's athleticism and combination punching will lead to a decision victory.
Posted 12:00 AM | Oct 11, 2011
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