By Kieran Mulvaney
It’s rare indeed that a fighter stays in the same weight class throughout his career. While few come close to matching the nine weight divisions in which, at one time or another, Manny Pacquiao has plied his trade, the inevitable pressures of aging and growth mean that most boxers finish their ring life a few pounds north of where they began.
Much less common is when a champion moves down in weight to take on another champion. But that’s what Chad Dawson, fresh off his light-heavyweight title-winning defeat of Bernard Hopkins, will do when he takes on super-middleweight kingpin Andre Ward in Oakland on HBO World Championship Boxing on September 8.
Yet, Dawson says, it is a plan he has been contemplating for a while.
“For the last couple of years, I’ve always been talking about going to 168 pounds,” he told reporters in Las Vegas recently. “After the Bernard fight, I decided to make the move. The super-middleweight division is getting real exciting right now. There are big fights in that division, and I want to be in the mix of it.”
Relatively new to him, after having to fight veterans Glen Johnson, Antonio Tarver and Hopkins twice each, is the liberating experience of being able to take on someone who, at 28, is actually slightly younger than him.
“It’s a big relief,” to be finished with the experienced fighters who have provided the opposition in six of his eight contests since 2007, he says. “These are veteran, crafty guys. You don’t knock these guys out. I graduated and now I’m moving on.”
In order to move on, however, he must first overcome the not insignificant obstacle posed by Ward, who is undefeated and is widely regarded as one of the very best boxers in the world, pound-for-pound. Dawson acknowledges Ward’s ability, but he’s confident he has what it takes to be the first to hand him a loss.
“He doesn’t have many weaknesses,” Dawson admits.” He’s a great fighter. He adjusts well, he adapts well. Put just about any style of fighter in front of him and he adjusts. So we want to present him with something he hasn’t seen before. Keep him thinking, keep him on his toes. I think I have the hand speed advantage, as well as the height advantage, and I think I’m going to be stronger.”
Dawson has no stoppages in his last eight bouts; Ward has just one. Both are known more for their technical prowess than their power. Even so, insists Dawson, it would be a mistake to assume their meeting will be a tactical twelve-rounder. Being in against a young, hungry foe will, he asserts, free him from the shackles in which he has been confined for the last several years.
“I believe once the first punch is thrown and someone gets hurt, we’re going to fight,” he predicts. “We’re both young guys. I’m not going in there to box, I’ll tell you that now. I think this fight is going to bring the best out of both of us. I think we both have what it takes to bring the best out of each other.”