On October 15, 2011, Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson were supposed to provide definitive answers. Could a man in his late-40s still compete effectively against a tall southpaw in the prime of his life? Would Dawson get past his phlegmatic nature to create a pace fast enough to short-circuit "The Executioner's" master plan? Would it even be a worthy fight?
Instead, those who bought the pay-per-view were given an injury-marred exercise that created more questions than answers. The two-round TKO for Dawson rendered on fight night was subsequently changed to a no-contest that allowed Hopkins (46 yrs., 272 days) to retain his WBC light heavyweight title and surpass George Foreman (46 yrs., 113 days) as the oldest man ever to retain a major championship.
That a second fight is happening at all is an upset of sorts, but will the rematch finally solve the mystery or will chaos again be the order of the day? Those queries can only be answered on fight night, but the CompuBox numbers do offer clues as to what might unfold. Dawson is a surprisingly-wide 3 ½-1 favorite.
Crocodile Hopkins: Remember the scene in the first "Crocodile Dundee" film where the lead character induces a road-blocking bull to fall asleep just by making a "hook-em-horns" hand gesture, stroking its forehead with his finger and staring at it? That's the effect Hopkins has on most fighters these days, and that included Dawson.
Hopkins couldn't have asked for a better scenario last October. Averaging just 14.5 punches per round -- nearly 75 percent below the 54.1 light heavyweight average -- Hopkins not only out-landed Dawson 11-7 (overall) and 10-4 (power) but he limited Dawson to 27.5 punches per round. This result unfolded despite the extreme awareness by Dawson and trainer John Scully that "Bad Chad" had to set a fast pace to enhance their chances.
Worse yet for Dawson, he couldn't hit Hopkins but Hopkins could hit him. Hopkins landed 37.9 percent of his overall punches to Dawson's 12.7 percent and 43.5 percent of his power shots to Dawson's 16 percent.
Dawson wasn't the only one to fall under Hopkins' spell. In the five fights before meeting Dawson, Hopkins averaged 41.1 punches per round but compelled his opponents to throw 32.9 -- both far below the 54.1 light heavyweight norm. Meanwhile, 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 surpassed 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.
Can Dawson break his trance in the rematch? His recent history suggests no, and here's why:
Go Along to Get Along: Dawson once was among boxing's best combination punchers, but in the six fights before meeting Hopkins his output has mirrored that of his rivals'. Dawson averaged 51.7 to Adrian Diaconu's 49.2 and the pattern held against Jean Pascal (39.6-39.1) and Glen Johnson II (63.0-58.7). Antonio Tarver out-threw Dawson in both fights (74.8-54.2 and 62.7-56.4 respectively) and Glen 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 -- four-and-a-half years ago. In that fight, Dawson attempted 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. In fact, in ten of his fights at light heavyweight, Dawson landed 46% of his power shots- 8% higher than the weight classaverage. But against Hopkins (in less than six minutes) the reverse was true-, Dawson landed just 16 percent of his power shots against Hopkins' 43.5 percent.
Prediction: Before the first fight one had to think Dawson had the youth and athleticism to offset Hopkins' experience. But based on the nearly six minutes they shared last October it appears that Dawson's passion-less temperament will overrule his anatomic and chronological gifts. Therefore, Hopkins will again induce Dawson into a deep strategic slumber and win a unanimous decision.