Boxing PPV Report on Chad Dawson-Bernard Hopkins
By Mike Sempervive
On November 12, the top pound-for-pound boxer Manny Pacquiao will fight Juan Manuel Marquez for a third time on pay-per-view. Also that night, the UFC will debut on the FOX Network, complete with beer and truck ads – just like boxing used to have, in what some could consider the symbolic ending of pugilism as the official fight-sport of America.
Its boxing events like last night that hastened this process.
The show was titled “Believe It Or Not,” and no one really could when it was done. The spectacular career of Bernard Hopkins suffered its biggest black eye last night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, nearly a quarter-century after it started, when in the second round he was pushed down by Dawson after leaning on him, claimed he injured his left shoulder, and the fight was stopped by referee Pat Russell, giving Dawson the world light heavyweight title in two rounds of “action,” that did nothing but drive people away from the sport, especially when they have to pay upwards of $60 for it.
UPDATE: After X-rays were taken, Hopkins has been diagnosed with suffering from a separated A-C joint, which connects the collarbone and the shoulder blade. He was treated and released from the California Hospital Medical Center in Los Angeles. Despite this news, as of early Sunday morning, there is still very little sympathy being directed towards anyone involved, except some for Chad Dawson, who was appearing in the highest-profile bout of his career, and likely won't be in one of this magnitude again for a long time.
I – The Main Event: Chad Dawson TKO-2 (2:48) over Bernard Hopkins to win The Ring Magazine world and WBC light heavyweight championship. After a nondescript first round, during the second Hopkins lead with a right hand, and then leaned his body on the ducking Dawson. Not an unusual Hopkins technique, Dawson simply rose up a little bit and shoulder-shoved him backwards. Hopkins fell on his left elbow, and then shoulder, right underneath the bottom rope, and rolled around on the mat claiming he was hurt. The referee ruled that it wasn’t a foul, but that Hopkins said he couldn’t continue and Russell stopped the fight and awarded it to Dawson. Hopkins fumed after the bout, saying that the fight should have been ruled a no-contest or DQ, and that he absolutely could have continued fighting with one arm. But, clearly on tape he responds to whether he can continue by pointing out the knot that he says was on his shoulder. Confusion reigned for some time before the official decision was announced, with the HBO announcers claiming because it was unintentional that the fight should have been ruled a no-contest. Dawson angrily taunted Hopkins, calling him a phony and declaring that he’d never offer Hopkins a rematch, and wanted to turn his attention to Jean Pascal. Pascal has been the only mark on Dawson’s record defeating him in Montreal via technical decision-11 when an accidental head-butt caused a cut that did not allow Dawson to continue. This marks the first ever time in his career that Hopkins has ever been stopped, which Dawson claimed he would do prior to the bout, though surely not thinking it would come like this. For this bout, Dawson relied on the services of John Scully as his trainer, as opposed to Emmanuel Steward who balked at wanting to train near Dawson’s home of New Haven, Connecticut. During the broadcast, in his work for HBO, Steward explained his side of the story with no ill-will. Records: Dawson 31 (18)-1 (0); Hopkins 52 (32)-6 (1)-2-1 NC.
II – Notable Undercard Fights:
Lightweights (135-pounds): Antonio DeMarco (134) TKO-11 (in what will be in consideration for round of the year) over Jorge Linares (135) to win the vacant WBC championship. Right from the jump Linares began to dictate the pace of the fight, being very active – and effective – by beating DeMarco to the punch, and keeping the southpaw off-balance. In the sixth round, Linares was sliced on the bridge of the nose, and that’s around the time that the tide of the bout started to turn to the Tijuana native. Making adjustments to his game, DeMarco increased his punch output and damaging blows, cutting Linares again, this time over the right eye, in the 8th round. But, despite looking like hell, Linares was able to tip the scales back into his direction, temporarily, by effectively landing the punches he was throwing, and ceasing the wasted movement. But DeMarco was just too strong, rocking Linares with a right hook-straight left that began a chain of punches that caused referee Raul Caiz to jump in and stop what was by leaps and bounds the fight of the night.
DeMarco wins the title in his second attempt, as he was the last fighter Edwin Valero defended this version of the belt against before he killed himself, while in custody on suspicion of killing his wife. In the February 2010 title fight, the San Marco, Texas resident was stopped by technical decision in the 9th round by the Venezulean supernova (who had one of his more impressive performances, which for him was saying something). During tonight's broadcast, HBO’s Jim Lampley noted that Linares had done 30 rounds of sparring with Manny Pacquiao in preparation for this bout, much like Wild Card Gym stable-mate Amir Khan did before his fight with Zab Judah. Born in Venezuela, but a resident of Tokyo, the Freddie Roach-trained Linares was still shaking off the demons of being knocked out in 73 seconds in his adopted hometown by Juan Carlos Salgado, losing his WBA 130-pound title. Until tonight he was 4-0 against workhorses, and continues to be the crown jewel of Teiken (a promotional/management agency/gym based in Japan) in the wake of Valero’s April 2010 death. Records: DeMarco 26 (19)-2 (1)-1; Linares 31 (20)-2 (2)-0.
Junior Welterweights (140-pounds): Danny Garcia (139) split decision-10 over Kendall Holt (139). A rather nondescript affair, though Garcia followed a solid game-plan of working hard to the body early, which led to much success for the Philadelphia native in the later rounds. Surprisingly, when the scores were read one judge actually had Holt winning by two points, which was purely incompetent as Holt never threatened once. The top Golden Boy prospect continuously out-worked the Paterson, New Jersey native in exchanges – made easier due to the one-off, looping punches, offered up in return. Towards the end of the 8th round, after the referee looked at swelling on Holt’s left eye (due to it becoming a target, after a earlier accidental head-butt), Garcia tried to take a page out of Floyd Mayweather’s book by touching gloves, and then immediately throwing a punch. It missed, but did pop the crowd.
For all intents and purposes, this was a #1 contender’s bout that would hopefully get the winner one step closer to the division’s top two horses, Amir Khan and Timothy Bradley, before they jump to welterweight. Holt, a former WBO 140-pound champion, is trained by former world champion and New York City boxing icon Buddy McGirt, and managed by New York Giants running back Brandon Jacobs. Records: Garcia 22 (14)-0 (0)-0; Holt 27 (15)-5 (3)-0.
Welterweights (147-pounds): Paulie Malignaggi (147) unanimous decision-10 over Orlando Lora (148). “Olimpico,” a tough 30 year old fighter from Culiacan, won the 1st round, but subsequently was cut-down by the native New Yorker’s awkwardly busy style and body blows, which left Lora dropping his arms and allowing the “Magic Man” to go up top all night with his pitter-pat punches – over 100 of them to the right side of Lora’s face alone. Records: Malignaggi 30 (6)-4 (2)-0; Lora 28 (19)-2 (1)-1.
Junior Middleweights (154-pounds): Freddy Hernandez (151) unanimous decision-10 over Luis Collazo (150). Collazo, a former holder of the WBA 147-pound title, is better known for dropping high-profile fights to Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley and Andre Berto. Meanwhile, Hernandez was coming off a 127 second KO loss to Berto, in his last fight. Records: Hernandez 30 (20)-2 (1)-0; Collazo 31 (16)-5 (1)-0.
Cruiserweights (190-pounds): Dewey Bozilla (190) unanimous decision-4 over Larry Hopkins (196). Fresh off receiving a phone call offering support from President Obama on Thursday, 57-year old Dewey Bozella made his much-ballyhooed debut by defeating Larry Hopkins via 4-round unanimous decision. The fighter was recently released from jail after being falsely convicted of the 1977 murder of a 92-year old woman in Poughkeepsie, New York. He would then spend 26 years at New York City’s notorious Sing Sing Correctional Facility. While there, Bozella would continue to work on his boxing skills for fights within the prison system by working out in an area that had previously been used for executions. Records: Bozilla 1 (0)-0 (0)-0; Hopkins 0 (0)-4 (4)-0.
III – Other Notes:
Held at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California, though as the time this is being written there was no official claimed attendance. Co-promoter Gary Shaw was giving away hundreds of tickets in the days leading up to the fight, and estimations on how many buys the fight could do on pay-per-view aren’t much over 350-400,000. With it ending the way it did, if there does happen to be a rematch it will undoubtedly be appearing on HBO.
IV – A slightly larger than Cliff’s Notes version of who Bernard Hopkins is:
Regardless of the outcome on Saturday night, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins is an American athletic treasure. Earlier this year, on May 21, at 46-years, four months, and six days, became the oldest man to win a legitimately recognized version of a world boxing title when he shocked Jean Pascal in his hometown of Montreal, winning a 12-round unanimous decision. The bout, a rematch of a controversial majority draw that took place in December 2010, saw Hopkins regain The Ring Magazine (as well as the WBC’s) world light heavyweight championship, which he had lost to Joe Calzaghe in 2008.
Prior to his reign as 175-pound champion, the future Hall of Fame pugilist made his name as one of the greatest middleweights in history, made even more impressive due to Hopkins rarely varying too far away from his 160-pound class limit, when not in competition training. A staple throughout the 1990’s on shows such as the USA Network’s Tuesday Night Fights, Hopkins won the vacant IBF title with a 7th round stoppage of Segundo Mercado in April 29, 1995. He’d go on to defend the title a record 20 times (19-0-0-1 NC), shattering the previous mark, before losing it in controversial fashion to Jermain Taylor over a decade later.
At times, Hopkins was criticized for not vacating the IBF belt, in order to chase other bouts. The fighter disagreed, and knew that to drop his sure thing would be giving up the only power and leverage he had, at that time. And, really, he could chase guys all day, but, at the end of it, they wouldn’t be coming, thus leaving him with often-less-than-stellar title defenses against sanctioning body selected number one contenders. He was popular with hardcore fans and boxing aficionados, who appreciated Hopkins rugged back-story (which included doing 56 months in jail on an armed robbery charge), his witty and engaging personality, but, most of all, his old-school style of fighting – which would grind opponents down and hurt them all over their bodies. That made him quite unpopular with other fighters, and their promoters, who deemed him, more often than not, way too much of a risk for other champions, top contenders, or prospects to face. Even if they were to come out victorious, they likely wouldn’t look good due to Hopkins style.
Executives at HBO and Showtime weren’t supporters, either, never pushing too hard for his services, and discounting him as a marketable personality at a time where the spotlight was either on established stars, or up-and-comers being positioned in that way. At the end of the 90’s, Mike Tyson, Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, David Reid, Vernon Forrest, Fernando Vargas, Ike Quartey, Julio Cesar Chavez (who was still being used as a PPV attraction in 1998), and then-world light heavyweight champion Roy Jones Junior were taking precedence.
As an aside, Jones had been the last to give Hopkins a loss in May 1993 and many in the boxing world pushed hard to try and see a rematch at 168 or 175 pounds – which Hopkins was up for. But, during that period, Jones – who was driving HBO bonkers, as he was an awful PPV draw, was being paid a lot of money, and draw out fights using his form of “sports entertainment,” had no intentions on wanting to tangle. The ’93 12-round unanimous decision gave Jones the vacant IBF middleweight title, and was also the last time he’d be significantly challenged until facing Antonio Tarver in November 2003.
And, if it wasn’t those fighters – who seemed to be exclusively at heavyweight or between welterweight (147-pounds) and junior middleweight (154) – most of the subscription channel focus would contain some sort of combination of mostly younger guys in the exciting lighterweight classes and/or skyrocketing “ethnic” stars, such as Arturo Gatti, Kostya Tszyu, Floyd Mayweather Junior, Diego Corrales, Zab Judah, Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, “Poison” Junior Jones, Johnny Tapia, Paulie Ayala, “Prince” Naseem Hamed, Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera.
Even 105-pound straw-weight champion Ricardo Lopez would get more pay-per-view face-time, as well as general accolades. While Lopez – an undefeated Hall of Famer – absolutely deserved them, it did cast a glow to many die-hards on how little attention was being paid to Hopkins – who had become a very long-reigning champion in arguably the sport’s second-most celebrated and legendary divisions.
That would all change in 2001.
While occasionally being on both networks in the 90’s, Hopkins began to be established more on HBO in 2000. Rather good timing, as well, due to the network riding a remarkable (and record-breaking) boom period due to a combination of top-notch matchmaking, as well as rampant cable expansion, and pay-per-view capabilities. In December of that year, Hopkins engaged in a really fun, foul-filled, brawl with Antwun Echols in December, which was followed by mugging for the camera next to Larry Merchant in the post-fight interview, would be somewhat of a statement fight as the average boxing fan began to realize the potential of Hopkins. In the same month, undefeated world welterweight champion Felix “Tito” Trinidad – who had become a bona-fide superstar and rating draw with his wins over Pernell Whitaker, David Reid, and Oscar De La Hoya – annihilated then-undefeated Fernando Vargas to collect the WBA 154-pound championship.
This would set the table for HBO and Don King Promotions creating a middleweight title unification tournament, which Hopkins agreed to be a part of, alongside WBC champion Keith Holmes, WBA champion William Joppy, and Trinidad. Despite his lengthy reign, naturally bigger frame, and incredible skill, Hopkins was overlooked by many who were already coronating Trinidad, especially after his 5 round beating of Joppy during the first leg of the tourney, which took place at Madison Square Garden on May 12, 2001. In the semi-main event, Hopkins advanced by defeating Holmes via unanimous decision in a solid, but unspectacular bout. This was Hopkins first pay-per-view showcase, though Trinidad was really the one responsible for the approximately 350,000 purchases the show received.
The finals of the show were intended to take place on September 15 at MSG, but, due to the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, the show was rescheduled for September 29, and ended up becoming a night of affirmation for a career that had begun in 1988. Trailing only Wrestle Mania X-7 as the most lucrative PPV of the year (reported to be 480,000 buys), the 36-year old walked through Trinidad’s vaunted power punches, and used his experience, skill, and strength to bully and keep Trinidad off-balance over 12 rounds, until debilitating him so badly that his corner stepped in to stop the fight. During the lead-up to the bout, Hopkins caused a mini-riot in Puerto Rico when, as he was arguing face-to-face with Trinidad, the Philadelphia-native picked up and threw down the island’s flag, thus angering many fans, who began to charge the podium. Due to the performance, Hopkins was named the Fighter of the Year by Ring magazine, the Boxing Writers Association of America and the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Another result stemming from this fight was that Hopkins longtime trainer Bouie Fisher became a household name on the boxing scene.
From there, Hopkins light began to shine bright, and he was finally recognized in the top tier of The Ring magazine’s top 10 pound-for-pound list (a list he joined in 1999 and didn’t leave until 2010). During his next fight on February 2, 2002, Hopkins would break Carlos Monzon’s record of 14 consecutive 160-pound title defenses (1970-77) when he defeated Carl Daniels via TKO-10 in Reading, Pennsylvania. Around this time, Hopkins split with his longtime trainer in a sad dispute over money, and he hired on wily old-schooler Nazim Richardson. After making two more pedestrian defenses of the title (one of which, against William Joppy was featured on a Don King promoted card whose buyrate was never disclosed), Hopkins would then land upon the golden goose: Oscar De La Hoya.
De La Hoya was looking to move up in weight, again, to try and capture a world title in his 6th different division, and the two fought on opposite ends of a June 5, 2004 double-header pay-per-view that was meant to showcase both fighters before a head-to-head battle later in the year. Hopkins easily motored through Robert Allen (in their third fight against each other, though it was a far cry from any notable boxing trilogy), but De La Hoya had much more trouble eking out a win over relative-unknown Felix Sturm to claim the WBO’s version of the title. As De La Hoya labored to a decision, Hopkins was repeatedly shown backstage with a look of a man who saw millions and millions of dollars possibly being flushed down the drain. The buys for the fight were light, reportedly 380,000, though that was expected, as all of the promotion was really focused on the megafight scheduled for September 18.
And a megafight it was, as the two fighters joined together under the brand-new Golden Boy Promotions banner and sold 1,000,000 buys for the one-sided affair, which saw Hopkins hand the sport’s biggest star his first career knockout loss when a liver shot crumpled the “Golden Boy” for the count in the 9th round. Despite it helping to secure Hopkins as someone who many people will pay to see fight, unfortunately for HBO, the win couldn’t help to catapult his star more (though across the board things began slumping for the network’s coverage). Hopkins next bout, his milestone 20th title defense, against Howard Eastman did a lower-than-expected 7.2 rating on the network, and his four following pay-per-views against Jermain Taylor (where he lost his title and the rematch, via controversial close decisions, drew 370,000 and 410,000, respectively), Antonio Tarver (where he moved up in weight and captured Tarver’s recognized world light heavyweight championship, 330,000), Winky Wright (a fight mostly notable for a fracas that broke out between the two at the weigh-in, which may have actually help drive up buys, 305,000) were not epics.
His next bout would be against his super-middleweight counterpart Joe Calzaghe, who much like Hopkins, was heavily criticized for never leaving Europe or relinquishing his WBO 168-pound title – of which he had made a record 21 consecutive defenses. Despite its appearance of magnitude, realistically, the fight ended up being held on HBO. Decided after Hopkins fight with Wright didn’t do wonders on pay-per-view, while Calzaghe’s much-touted 168-pound title-unifying dream fight against Mikkel Kessler ended up drawing the worst prime-time World Championship Boxing rating in the 35-season history of the network. (Whose numbers would go even further off a cliff by 2009.) The result of the bout served as a further wake-up call to Americans who continued to try and doubt the Welsh fighter’s legacy, as Calzaghe gave and take everything with Hopkins, and won a hard-fought split decision.
Undeterred by being on the losing end of another (somewhat) controversial decision, Hopkins would move on to world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik at a 170-pound catchweight fight on PPV (where it ended up doing less than 200,000 buys). Many believed the Ohio native, somewhat of a blue-collar hero (some snickered, “Great White Hope”) for promoter Bob Arum, could finally be the guy to do heavy damage to Hopkins, due to pretty heavy hands for a middleweight. Instead, the 43-year old did the damage, and put on a masterful performance, easily cruising to a unanimous decision win. With Pavlik battering Jermain Taylor, twice, with a degree of separation Hopkins could claim a sliver of revenge. Since then, Hopkins finally got his rematch against Roy Jones Junior (about 15 years too late), where he won an unsurprisingly one-sided unanimous decision in April 2010.
As it looked as though, finally, Hopkins career was winding up the Philadelphia-native threw everyone for a loop again by traveling to Quebec City to square-off with 28-year old light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal, in his hometown. Airing on Showtime, Hopkins weathered being knocked down twice to come back and completely dominate the latter half of the bout, resulting in the judge’s ruling the bout a majority draw (two cards even, and one for Hopkins). Due to that, there was excuse to give Hopkins an immediate rematch for the titles, thus pushing out the next-in-line Chad Dawson. The rematch, this past May, was again held in Quebec (this time Montreal’s Bell Centre) and, again, Hopkins turned back the clock by winning a convincing unanimous decision to become the oldest claimant to any championship in boxing history.