When 2009 came to a close, Chad Dawson must have felt like he was on top of the world. He ended the year with an undefeated record of 29-0 and held The Ring light heavyweight titles. With acclaim coming from boxing pundits and even Floyd Mayweather himself, it appeared that 2010 would be the year that Chad Dawson would take his craft to the next level.
The first item on the agenda to boxing supremacy was to defeat little known Jean Pascal to claim the WBC title. After that, Dawson pondered a move to super middleweight to challenge the winner of Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing classic. You know what they say about those that look past the challenge in front of them. With many picking Dawson to easily outbox Pascal, the Canadian shocked the world when he defeated Dawson by technical decision. Everything he worked so hard for went up in smoke. The undefeated record, the world titles and the veil of indestructibility were all gone. In its place was the reality that Dawson would have to work twice as hard to get back to where he was.
Two victories later, with one where he handily defeated the legendary Bernard Hopkins, and Dawson now has the superfight he has yearned for – a super middleweight title clash with undefeated Andre Ward on September 8.
“The Pascal loss definitely opened my eyes,” Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) says as a moment of clarity briefly washes over him. “A lot of things changed. Trainers changed, my lifestyle changed…everything. Everything changed for the better. I don’t have the same people around me, I brushed those guys off and have to focus on what’s best for my boxing career.”
The huge entourages, pseudo celebrity and accolades that came with the fame were no more. It was just Chad Dawson left holding the bag of defeat. Everyone else disassociated themselves with him. But Dawson found strength in his family, refocused and fought his way into arguably a better position. Perhaps the loss was the best thing that could have happened to his career. “It was,” Dawson says as only silence fills the air before he says more accentuates the reality of the situation. “It definitely was.”
After Dawson defeated Hopkins and claimed the WBC and Ring light heavyweight titles, he did something unique. Rather than look forward to defending his titles Dawson called out super middleweight champion Andre Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) and issued a challenge to go down to his weight class and challenge him for his titles. Not only that, but Dawson also offered to fight in Ward’s backyard of Oakland, California.
“I got what I wanted in the Hopkins fight but now I have a super fight,” he says regarding his train of thought when offering to dive into the lion’s den to face Ward. Dawson says he doesn’t care where the fight is at, as long as he’s facing the best fighter possible. “It was the best fight for me and I wanted to prove to everybody that I could still fight at 168.”
But there’s an added incentive for “Bad” Chad as well. “I have the chance at making history as the first fighter to win a title at one weight class and then go down and win another world title. That’s motivating to me, the chance at making history.”
The Southpaw has been exactly where Andre Ward is right now. He was once undefeated and heralded as the best pure boxer in the business outside of Floyd Mayweather. He couldn’t see anybody beating him, just as Ward sees no way that Dawson can beat him. After all, the advantages are all on his side. However, Dawson welcomes the challenge that Ward brings. Every presumed advantage that Ward has, Dawson sees them as nothing more than cosmetic changes that have no bearing on the actual fight. The reason that Dawson believes Andre Ward is undefeated isn’t necessarily because he’s the better fighter rather than it being that his opponents simply are fighting the wrong fight.
“People haven’t fought him the right way yet. Guys get in the ring and get a little star struck in front of him,” Dawson explains. “It’s like their feet are stuck in quicksand. They don’t move, they don’t jab and don’t move their head. They let him do what he wants. But it’s up to me to dictate the pace of the fight. Rather than me having to deal with him, he has to deal with me. He has to deal with my height, reach and size advantage.”
One thing that Dawson constantly hints towards during the call is that fact that he’s a pretty damn good boxer as well. Although Ward has the 2004 Olympic gold medal, world titles and the fact that he hasn’t lost a fight since he was a 12-year-old on his side, Dawson believes that his physical advantages will be enough to see his hand raised in victory in hostile territory.
“He has ring intelligence but my job is to take those things away from him and make it hard for him on September 8,” Dawson says. The 30-year-old says that he is ready for whatever Ward brings to the table. But the one thing that Ward has yet to deal with is a fighter that can both box and brawl. It’s something that Dawson plans to do if needed and he’s not too sure Ward can keep up. “There’s going to come time when he will have to bite down and fight. I’ve proven that I can do that. If people want to see a war, then we’ll see what Andre Ward if he brings the fight to me.”
And if Ward does decide to turn a chess match into checkers, Dawson is ready to bark “king me.”
“He makes a lot of mistakes that people don’t pick up on. I’ve studied him more than any other fighter and I’m going to make him pay for his mistakes.”