By Kieran Mulvaney
If it all seemed strangely familiar … well, it was.
Scene 1: October 16, 2011, Los Angeles
Bernard Hopkins leaned on the back of opponent Chad Dawson, who was ducking down to avoid a Hopkins punch; Dawson, depending on your perspective, either shrugged Hopkins off him or positively body-slammed him to the canvas. Hopkins injured his shoulder and grimaced in pain, and the referee called a halt to the bout. The California State Athletic Commission ultimately declared the result to be a no-contest.
Despite initially being dubbed the victor, Dawson reacted with contempt and fury at the turn of events, and accused Hopkins of seeking the easy way out.
“I was looking forward to a good fight,” he said. “I trained eight weeks for this ... Yes, he was faking [the injury]. This is a fight I wanted for three years, and Bernard obviously didn't want the fight."
“That was a blatant foul,” countered Hopkins. “That was not a boxing-like move,” added his promoter, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions.
Scene 2: August 28, 1998, Las Vegas
Hopkins was making the eighth defense of his middleweight title, against Robert Allen. The early going was closely-contested, and referee Mills Lane had his work cut out breaking up a series of clinches. In the fourth round, the two men tied each other up and Allen effectively seized Hopkins in a headlock from which he was reluctant to release him, despite Lane’s best efforts. Finally, Lane wrenched the two men apart, and Hopkins staggered backward, fell against the ropes and then through them onto the floor below. He injured his ankle, Lane called a halt to the bout and the Nevada State Athletic Commission declared the result to be a no-contest.
Allen insisted that Hopkins was faking. "He bailed out,” said the challenger. “He could have continued to fight. I think he just fell through the ropes and took a dive."
Hopkins laid the blame squarely on his opponent’s tactics. “It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that he's a dirty fighter … He should have been disqualified.”
Seven months later, Hopkins and Allen fought a rematch in Washington, D.C. Hopkins, infuriated by Allen’s jibes and accusations of diving, left nothing to chance. He dropped Allen in the second and sixth rounds and stopped him in the seventh. Five years later, he faced him again, knocked him down again, and beat him again.
“I had to come back and redeem myself,” Hopkins said later of his rematch victory.
Hopkins and Dawson meet for a second time on April 28, in Atlantic City. Hopkins will be aiming to enact his revenge and answer the doubters as emphatically as he did against Robert Allen. Dawson will be aiming to stop him.