by Eric Raskin
How do you get yourself ready for a fight against a versatile, smart, confident, physically strong, offense-negating chore of an opponent like Andre Ward? If you’re Chad Dawson, you spend 14 rounds dealing with a similar fistful of problems named Bernard Hopkins.
Obviously, that wasn’t Dawson’s intent at the time; he was fighting B-Hop to make money, add a legend’s name to his resume and claim the old man’s lineal light-heavyweight championship. But it turned out that the experience doubled as perfect prep for his upcoming fight against Ward.
“I figured after I beat Bernard, if I could make it through that, I could make it through anything,” Dawson told HBO.com. “With his dirty tactics and holding and hitting and headbutts, I feel like I’ve been through it all being in the ring with that guy. There are some shades of that with Andre Ward.”
Just like Hopkins, Ward may be right-handed, but that doesn’t make him orthodox. “S.O.G” and the old S.O.B. are both frustratingly awkward fighters to face. Despite the similarities in Dawson’s opponents, though, he faces several threats in Ward that he didn’t have to worry about with Hopkins:
1. Ward can keep a faster pace: Throughout his 40s, for all of his in-ring brilliance, Hopkins has needed to force a slow pace in order to thrive. He simply couldn’t throw 100 punches per round like some younger fighters can. Ward also likes to control the pace and keep it somewhat deliberate, but he has the youthful energy to set a busier tempo against Dawson if need be.
2. Dawson won’t have a hand-speed edge: Dawson is taller and longer, but that doesn’t mean his jab will always get there first. Ward isn’t a prime Roy Jones in the hand speed department, but his fists are indeed quick--at least as quick as Dawson’s.
3. It won’t be easy to convince the Oakland judges: Though the so-called “house fighter” doesn’t always end up favored by the official scorers (see Tim Bradley vs. Manny Pacquiao), most of the time, there’s an uphill battle involved in winning a decision in the other guy’s hometown. Dawson says he’s not looking for the knockout because that’s how you end up getting knocked out yourself. But in boxing, whether you’re in the other guy’s hometown or not, a knockout is the only way to be sure.