PHILLY BOXING HISTORY                                                                            April 28, 2012


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Chad Dawson kept his head Saturday night at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall against legend Bernard Hopkins, and in doing so managed to come out on top in their 12-round light heavyweight title fight. Dawson managed to avoid the trademark traps Hopkins normally uses to slay young challengers. Not surprisingly Dawson had more to offer physically in the fight, but in a shocking twist Chad Dawson also maintained the edge in the head game of the fight.

Hopkins was up to his usual tricks throughout the bout. The wily 47-year old used his head to open two cuts around Dawson's eyes, grabbed, wrestled, talked, and so on. Dawson simmered throughout the bout, but his emotions never boiled over, which allowed him to keep his mind on his work - to out-hustle one of boxing's greatest hustlers.

To many, Bernard's career has been on borrowed time for, at least, a few years. But who could blame him for extending his stay on or near the top of the sport when he has had such success beating back younger boxers who, on paper, should have sent him into retirement. They never could convince him that he was through, and frankly, I'm not sure Dawson managed that feat either. Bernard lost the fight, but he was not given a beating. When you consider the 18-year age advantage Dawson had, Hopkins' performance was pretty decent. That said, Hopkins never came close to winning the fight.

Hopkins won just two rounds on my scorecard - the fourth and the eleventh. Dawson at least edged out every other round in the fight. Many of the rounds were slow and extremely unattractive to watch. My final score was 118-110.

It was a carefully protracted fight by both boxers. While Dawson tried not to be suckered into making a mistake that would allow Hopkins to turn the tables (like in their first bout), Bernard either didn't have the energy or was simply unwilling to mix it up very much. The result was a fight with virtually no drama.

With Dawson winning all but two rounds and maintaining a constant lead, the fight was also robbed of any drama that may have come from the need to go to the cards early due to the butt-induced cuts. If the fight had been stopped due to the cuts at any point during the fight, Dawson would have won the decision regardless. Given the pace of the fight, some fans may have been praying for that  scenario. But the bout played out over 12 full rounds.

In the end, two of the three judges, Steve Weisfeld and Dick Flaherty, turned in respectable scores of 117-111. The third judge, Luis Rivera, called the fight even at 114-114. Clearly Hopkins' old magic was still working on somebody.

The loss by Hopkins left him with a career record of 52-6-2 with 32 KOs. Who knows if that will be the record he'll take to the Hall of Fame one day.

After the fight, Bernard refused to give an interview to the HBO broadcasters. A little while later, he came to the press conference and acted in a gentlemanly fashion. When asked if he would fight on, Hopkins said that he didn't know and that he would have to wait and see if an opportunity arose that motivated him to fight again.

So we'll have to leave it at that. Predicting what Bernard Hopkins will do next is an impossibility. He has done many amazing things in the ring and has built a body of work that compares to any of  the all-time greats. Certainly Hopkins is one of the greatest fighters to ever come along.

If his career is over, I'm happy he finished his last fight standing. If he fights on, I won't be surprised at all. The intense challenges of the fight game drive him - even more than the paydays. Because of this, part of me wonders if Hopkins will ever be able to retire.

Because he is so driven to prove himself, boxing - especially at his advanced age - is really the perfect world for Hopkins to live in. The older he gets, the fewer believers he encounters, which suits Hopkins just fine. Despite his constant cries for respect, Bernard knows that everyone thinks he's great. So much so that he has to manufacture that enormous chip he carries on his shoulder. He has made getting up for a fight a true art form, and has displayed an ability to get angry - even when he has absolutely nothing to be angry about. It is that beautiful anger that pushes him to achieve great things. He absolutely thrives on it.

So where will Hopkins find that spark in his post-boxing life? How will he continue to prove himself when he no longer has to battle the young lions of boxing?

Perhaps he'll berate the mailman for delivering the mail too late. Or maybe he'll taunt the blades of grass as he races his lawnmower over them. Knowing Hopkins, he'll find someone or something to argue with. However, one potential target for his anger will not be the International Boxing Hall of Fame, who will induct him the second he is eligible (five years after his final bout).

On the undercard of Dawson-Hopkins II, two other Philly fighters saw action.

In the semi-windup, Chazz Witherspoon fell to up and coming Seth Mitchell in a thrilling heavyweight rumble. Before the fight, many feared for Chazz, given Mitchell's usual heavy-fisted quick starts. But it was Witherspoon who drew first blood in the bout. Chazz wobbled the unbeaten prospect early and appeared to be on the brink of a major upset. But Mitchell survived and rebounded to halt Chazz in round three. It was an exciting battle, but the key for Chazz was getting to the later rounds. His quick start made for great TV (HBO), but it may have sealed his fate. Still it was a memorable fight for boxing fans.

In round three, Mitchell slammed Witherspoon with a left hook that dropped him on the seat of his pants. A little later an hard right knocked Chazz into the ropes, and referee Randy Neumann called it a knockdown. After giving the swaying Chazz one good look, Neumann stopped the fight and saved Witherspoon from any further punishment. The time was 2:31 of the third.

Mitchell improved to 25-0-1 (19 KO) with the KO and won the Vacant NABO heavyweight title. It was Witherspoon's third loss (all by stoppage) and his second on HBO. Witherspoon's record stands at 30-3 (22 KO).

Also on the big Boardwalk Hall show, rising Philly junior middleweight Julian Williams won a unanimous 8-round decision over Hector Rosario (7-1-2 / 5 KO). Williams, 9-0-1 (4 KO), won by scores of 79-73, 79-73 and 78-74. It was his first 8-rounder. 

Golden Boy Promotions put on the show in association with Gary Shaw Productions. The attendance was announced as 7,705.




John DiSanto - Atlantic City - April 28, 2012