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Ward vs. Dawson: Opposites Attract

Lou Eisen / August 16, 2012 - 11:14am

In just a few short weeks, boxing fans will be treated to an intriguing match-up involving two of the sport’s premier fighters. The universally recognized light-heavyweight world champion, “Bad” Chad Dawson is coming down in weight to challenge the man considered to be the best super middleweight in the world today, Andre “S.O.G.” Ward.

The bout is for the WBA/WBC super middleweight title and it is scheduled to take place on September 8th in Oakland, California at the Oracle Arena, which is home territory for Ward. Dawson is coming off of a very convincing win over future Hall of Famer Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins in his most recent fight. The first Hopkins-Dawson bout was highly controversial, being stopped midway through the second round after Hopkins was unable to continue due to a severe injury to his left shoulder.

Hopkins injury was a direct result of being thrown to the canvas by an enraged Dawson. During the second and, what turned out to be final round of their original encounter, Hopkins missed a punch and ended up leaning on Dawson’s back. Hopkins had done this several times already in the match and he made absolutely no effort to stand up, preferring to continue leaning on Dawson’s massive back. Hopkins has done this before many times in order to try and tire out his opponents. Dawson wanted to send a clear cease and desist message to B-Hop, which he did by wrapping his right arm around Hopkin’s left leg, standing up and then hurling him to the canvas, thereby injuring B-Hop’s left shoulder. The fight was over. The fans sat there in stunned disbelief.

The referee counted out Hopkins and awarded the light-heavyweight world title to Dawson on the spot. This decision was later changed to a no-contest and Hopkins was given back his various light-heavyweight world titles. Dawson accused Hopkins of faking his injury and said he would never fight him again.

Suffice to say, cooler heads and larger pocketbooks prevailed, as they so often do in professional boxing and a rematch was made. The rematch was a one-sided affair with Dawson winning every round by a wide margin. Hopkins looked his age and his skills seemed to have departed him, along with his various title belts.

Andre Ward may be the most complete fighter in boxing today. He dominated the Super Six Super Middleweight tournament promoted and staged by the Showtime Network.  Ward scored convincing victories over former champions Arthur Abraham and Carl Froch, after capturing the WBA super middleweight belt by defeating the “Viking Warrior,” Mikkel Kessler.

Make no mistake about it, Froch, Abraham and Kessler were all ultra tough and widely respected world champions. Abraham is a savage knockout puncher and Ward handled him with ease. Carl Froch, last seen dismantling Lucien Bute in brutal fashion, was completely outclassed by Ward and seemed to have no answers at all on how to penetrate Ward’s seemingly impregnable defense. By the same token, Froch was also unable to mount a credible defense to protect himself from Ward’s continuous stream of power punches. 

Dawson will have a distinct advantage going into this bout due to his southpaw stance. Even the very best orthodox fighters, and Ward is one of the best orthodox fighters in the world today, have trouble adjusting when facing a southpaw. Fighting a southpaw is like facing yourself in the mirror. It can be very confusing and extremely frustrating, even for someone as gifted as Ward.

Yes, Ward will be advised in training camp to continuously circle to his left, out of range of Dawson’s powerful left hand. The question here, of course is, can he keep this up without making a single mistake for the entire twelve rounds of the fight?  Ward does have an above average chin but he has never been tagged by a light-heavyweight, especially one as big and strong as Dawson. Ward is not a knockout puncher per se, as his record of 13 KO’s in 25 pro fights suggests.

Dawson’s ring record is similar to Ward’s, with 32 wins, one loss, one no contest and 17 KO’s to his credit. Dawson is only two years older than Ward at 30 years of age.

Ward does have some pop in his gloves and when he has his man hurt, he will unload his heavy artillery to end matters there and then. Ward’s biggest advantage in the ring is his brain. He is exceptionally quick when it comes to sizing up an opponent and a situation and is rarely if ever feinted out of position or suckered into a trap in the ring. Ward has a dazzling boxing skill set and he is loaded with patience. He does not waste punches and he would no doubt be very content to defeat Dawson via decision if that is the only route presented to him during the match.

Both men would obviously love to win the fight in spectacular, highlight reel fashion. Of course, there is tremendous risk inherent in going for an eyebrow raising one-punch knockout, especially against an opponent of equal or greater punching power. When purposely gunning for an exciting knockout, there is always the distinct possibility of getting caught with a stiff, fight-ending counterpunch yourself.

Ward is six feet tall with a 71-inch wingspan. Dawson is 6’1” with a much larger wingspan of 76 and one half inches. This translates to a dramatic five and one half-inch reach advantage for Dawson, who is an expert when it comes to utilizing his longer reach in the ring. Dawson will fight from the outside, as is his typical ring style. If Ward is unable to get inside Dawson’s longer wingspan, he will be in for a very long and painful night.

Ward will find it almost impossible to set traps for Dawson as “Bad Chad” has enormous ring patience and simply does go for fakes or traps. Dawson will try and keep the entire fight at the end of his jab, which is the smart thing to do. Dawson always sets up his shots with his jab.  Dawson likes to fight at a distance whereas Ward will need to come inside to win. Who wins the battle of distance will win the fight.

Dawson’s other statistical advantage will become quite evident on fight night when both champions enter the ring. Although each boxer is contracted to weigh in the day before the fight at no more than 168 lbs, there is almost no doubt that Dawson will re-hydrate come fight night to a minimum of 190-195 lbs. This is to be expected as he is a natural light-heavyweight. There stands a very real chance that Ward will be facing a heavyweight rather than super middleweight Dawson once the fisticuffs begin.

This translates to Dawson weighing, a full three weight categories over the contractually agreed upon weight limit. Such a significant weight advantage will add more power to Dawson’s power shots as well as help him fatigue Ward by leaning on him heavily in the clinches and against the ropes when the situation arises. Overcoming an overwhelming reach OR weight disadvantage is a very daunting task. To overcome both is just about insurmountable.

Both men use different styles when going to war in the squared circle. Dawson’s style is always calculated to take advantage of his superior natural assets in reach and height. Ward likes to fight in close and work the body of his opponents, pounding away mercilessly to the midsection until they can no longer defend themselves.

Ward can best utilize his hand speed when he is in tight quarters banging away at Dawson. The trick for Ward is, hw to get inside those long arms of Dawson long enough to do some serious damage. Ward will try to throw his brutal left hook to the liver repeatedly against Dawson, hoping to take away the light-heavyweight world champion’s ring mobility.

Ward’s hope is that by attacking Dawson’s body, the light-heavyweight champ will be forced to pull his arms in and down to protect his body, thus negating his vast reach advantage. Of course, Ward will have to penetrate those extra long arms of Dawson and that is no easy task. If Dawson can force Ward to fight at a distance, which is Dawson’s preferred mode of boxing, then Ward will be playing catch-up all night long. This fight has the potential to be an exciting match-up because both champions employ vastly different ring techniques and styles.

Dawson is a master at fighting from a distance. Dawson’s jab is not fast but it is powerful and it will stun Ward every time it lands. Dawson likes to double and triple up his jab and then come over the top with a powerful straight left hand, or, a left-hook to the body or head. Unlike many southpaws, Dawson is not exclusively a one-armed left hook artist. He can do damage with his right hand.

Dawson may not have one-punch knockout power but he is a quick and capable finisher when he has a man in trouble. He throws thudding, concussive combinations and he has an outstanding chin. Antonio Tarver and Glenn Johnson landed explosive combinations on Dawson’s chin, which ended up having no effect whatsoever on the champ.

Another factor to consider is that because of his reach, Dawson needs punching room to be effective. Dawson has a difficult time getting his punches off in close. When he has Ward pinned against the ropes, Dawson will instinctively back up to give himself more room to get more leverage, and thus, more power, on his shots. One other thing that also bears mentioning at this time is, if Ward allows Dawson to find his rhythm early and get comfortable, this fight will be over in a hurry.

Infighting is Ward’s specialty. Ward broke down Allan Green inside, winning a decisive and complete unanimous decision over the exhausted and outgunned Green. Ward can win this fight by getting inside Dawson’s powerful arms early and staying there for the whole fight. In close Ward can use his lightning quick hand speed to outland and outpoint Dawson. Dawson will have to be prepared for Ward’s tendency to work the body and then quickly come up the middle with uppercuts.

Dawson has talent, no doubt, but when it comes to overall ring skills, Ward is in a class by himself.  In close, Dawson’s best defensive choice will be to tie up Ward with his long arms and then lean on him against the ropes, using his weight advantage to try and fatigue the younger man.

Ward is used to fighting phone booth wars and his tremendous hand speed will give Dawson problems in close early on in the fight. Both men are specialists at winning tough, bruising battles on points. Neither man will appear rushed or over excited in the squared circle. It is simply not in either man’s nature to show emotion in the ring, with the possible exception of Dawson after his first debacle with Hopkins. Ward will be content to win the fight in any way possible. He will be happy with either a decision or a knockout.  If he can force the fight inside and keep it there, he will come out on top.

Dawson has more to lose. He has often been called a boring fighter to watch. This is an unfair criticism of a superb athlete and world champion. Dawson isn’t boring but he also isn’t very exciting either. Yes, he usually wins his fights in convincing fashion but his victories often lack fireworks as well as highlight-reel one-punch knockouts.

Knockouts put fans in the seats and boost a fighter’s paycheque. Dawson’s most fervent desire is to be considered one of the top several fighters in the world today, along with Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Junior. To achieve such special status within the sport, in the eyes of boxing fans, Dawson will need to produce fireworks en route to an ultra spectacular victory over Ward.

In order to score an eye-popping knockout, Dawson will have to get in close to Ward. The inherent conundrum in this equation is that fighting at close quarters is Ward’s game and desired scenario.  In order to win this fight, Dawson will have to impose his will and fighting style upon Ward or, beat him at his own game.  For Ward, it is a real do or die situation. He will know early what his fate will be. If he can’t get inside on Dawson, he will be in for one hell of a beating. Look for Dawson by decision over the distance.

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