Impeccable Ward Gives Dawson a Boxing Lesson

Lou Eisen / September 10, 2012 - 4:26pm

It was all over at 2:45 of the 10th round. That is when referee Steve Smoger mercifully saved Chad Dawson the ignominy of an inevitable knockout at the hands of Andre Ward, by stopping their catch-weight fight. This fight was stopped at the right time. Smoger usually let’s the fighters fight, always giving them the benefit of the doubt.  However, after Dawson rose from being knocked down in the 11th round, Smoger looked Dawson directly in the eyes and asked him if he wanted to continue. Dawson mumbled that he was done. Smoger asked him one more time if he wished to continue. When Dawson said no the second time, Smoger wisely stopped the fight.

Dawson deserves credit too for knowing full well when he was beat. He had nothing left physically and it looked apparent to all that he had given up all hope of winning many rounds earlier. Most fighters automatically say they want to continue despite how badly they are losing a match. Dawson showed why he is one of the sport’s top fighters for knowing when to call it a night. In many ways, admitting defeat takes more courage than continuing to fight and receive more unnecessary punishment. Dawson knew it wasn’t his night and made the right move.

What may have come as a surprise to some in the boxing world, was how easily Ward was able to impose his will upon Dawson, who never looked entirely comfortable during the fight. The much anticipated catch-weight fight was completely one-sided in favor of Ward. The judges awarded the first round to Dawson. It was also the last round he won in the fight. From rounds 2 to 11 it was all Ward. The final punch stats really tell the story of the bout. Ward outscored Dawson by a whopping 155-29 in punches landed. It was, in effect, a massacre.

There was a strong rumor out of Las Vegas earlier in the week that Dawson had been knocked unconscious in training camp during a sparring match he had with Edison Miranda. The sluggish manner in which Dawson fought Ward seems to lend credence to the rumor. Dawson never seemed to be really in the fight from the very beginning. He looked sluggish from the get-go and had trouble all night maintaining his balance. He was also unable for some reason to let his hands go, much to the chagrin of his frustrated corner men. At best he seemed confused and for the majority of the fight he was simply trying to survive. In his own heart, Dawson quit trying to win during the 4th round and continually clinched Ward for dear life for the remainder of the fight.

Simply put, Ward is as good as everyone says he is. He has never lost a single boxing match in his entire life, including well over 100 amateurs fights.  An Olympic gold medalist, he has far exceeded even his own management’s career expectations. He owned Dawson from beginning to end. Ward dazzled everyone in attendance with his well-educated footwork. Ward adeptly kept turning the southpaw Dawson in every round, keeping the larger, light-heavyweight world champion constantly off-balance and continually out of range to throw any meaningful punches, especially his much vaunted left hand.  Ward’s punches were clean and crisp and always right on target.

Ward is a very well schooled boxing technician with good power in both hands. Ward displayed his power to great effect when dropping Dawson in rounds 3, 4 and 10, with powerful, short, jolting hooks to the jaw. There is no doubt now that Ward has the power to go up a division and still reign supreme. Ward took Dawson to the cleaners all night long, jabbing his way inside and then landing paralyzing power shots to the body upstairs to the head.  Ward made great use of his uppercut by snapping Dawson’s head back with sickening regularity every time the light-heavyweight world champion tried to clinch on the ropes.

Ward had a ready answer for every move Dawson tried. At times, Dawson’s performance was pitiful. There were some rounds later on in the fight where Dawson ended up landing 2 or 3 punches for the entire round.  A world champion such as Dawson should be putting on a better showing than 2 punches per round. Throughout the fight, Dawson’s corner men urgently and vociferously urged him to let his hands go and get back in the fight. Something was definitely not right mentally with Dawson. He may have still been suffering the after effects of the concussion he may have received from Edison Miranda’s fists during training camp sparring sessions. We may never know what was wrong with him this night. One thing is certain. This was not the same Dawson who masterfully took apart Bernard Hopkins in his previous fight.

Throughout the fight, Dawson’s own corner seemed perplexed as to why their man was not making a concerted effort to win the fight. Perhaps Dawson was suffering from an underlying injury that we are not yet aware of.  By contrast, Ward’s corner was a sea of calm, quietly reminding their fighter to stick to basics and to continue executing his successful game plan. One has to feel for Dawson’s corner because there is only so much a corner can do for their fighter if he does not want to fight. There comes a defining moment in each fight where one boxer has to resolutely decide that the fight belongs to him. He must reach deep down within himself to find that ineffable quality known as will. On this night, it seems Ward reached deeper than Dawson and it showed in his stirring performance.

Ward was clearly having fun in the ring and his ability to instantaneously switch from defense to offense served him very well indeed. He was able to easily duck under many of Dawson’s telegraphed wide, looping hooks and counters with short, thudding left and right hooks to the chin. In fact, the second knockdown he scored on Dawson in the 4th round was with a sharp, counter left hook that may have traveled 6 inches. It is hard to recall more than two instances during the match where Dawson successfully countered Ward effectively. Dawson continued to telegraph his hooks by throwing them wide whereas Ward always hit his target by throwing his shots straight down the pike.

Dawson made it easier for Ward to counter him by lunging with his punches. Dawson is a veteran fighter and knows full well that lunging puts you off balance and in real danger of being dropped or stopped with a single counter shot. Dawson made so many rookie mistakes, which was genuinely shocking to see, coming from such an experienced world champion.

Dawson entered the squared circle flat and became less effective with each round. His effort was lackluster and it seemed clear to many that his mind was elsewhere throughout the fight. Dawson’s best chance coming into the fight was to use his height and reach advantage to keep Ward on the outside by controlling him with his jab, leaving him equally susceptible to stinging overhand rights. Instead, Ward negated Dawson’s reach and height advantage from the very beginning by quickly darting in to hammer the bigger man and then just as fast, step back, out of range of Dawson’s half-hearted jabs and counter right hands.

Dawson made no attempt to make Ward pay for working his way inside. Once it dawned on Ward, early in the bout that he would have no trouble reaching Dawson, he quickly went to work trying to capture perfection on canvas. In effect, Dawson was the canvas on which Ward painted his masterpiece. Ward’s comprehensive defeat of Dawson was wonderful to watch for hardcore boxing purists. Dawson had no answers for Ward all night long.

In a sense, Ward’s victory over Dawson should really come as no surprise to those fans that have followed Ward throughout his pro career. He was certainly not the betting favorite to win the Showtime Super Six Super Middleweight Tournament but the did so in very convincing fashion. Along the way, he scored one-sided victories over the very best super middleweights in the world.  The question now becomes, is there any fighter out there now in his weight class that can give him a decent fight?

Well one name that is currently being bandied about as a possible opponent for Ward is Floyd Mayweather Jr. The thought of these two men hooking up in the ring is unlikely. Mayweather Jr. has fought at 154 lbs but even then he is pushing his weight to the limit. Ward is comfortable at 168 lbs. Money’s body just can’t handle an additional 14 lbs in weight to take on a considerably bigger man. How about Canelo Alvarez? That makes more sense down the road. Canelo will soon move up to the middleweight division and is young enough and still growing, that he could handle the extra weight at super middle.

Believe it or not, probably the most likely candidate to fight Ward is Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. He walks around at 190 lbs and making the super middle limit would be much less of a strain on him than making the middleweight limit of 160 lbs. Chavez Jr. first has to get by Sergio Martinez, which is not a lock, before he can even consider the prospect of facing Ward.

As for now, given his pro record and the extremely high level of the opponents he has defeated, including Dawson, Ward can stake a claim to being the number one pound for pound fighter in the world right now. Sure, there are some fighters who might disagree but they would have to get in the ring with Ward to prove otherwise. The last I looked, that line-up was empty.