The history of the Sweet Science is filled with champions who stayed in the sport for too long. It’s inevitably a sorry sight. A very minor diminishment in physical ability can mean the difference between being truly competitive at the world-class level and getting used as a trial horse for legitimate contenders.
There’s a very good reason that boxing folks are fond of saying “You don’t play boxing.” Athletes who play sports like baseball or basketball can embarrass themselves with diminished skill. Boxers with diminished skill can get themselves badly hurt.
That minor diminishment can come as the result of a single bad beating, as well. And former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson sustained just such a beating in September 2012, when he dropped down to super middleweight to challenge undefeated champion Andre Ward. I interviewed Dawson just prior to that bout and he told me the additional cut from 175 to 168 pounds was causing no problems for him. But his fight against Ward told a different story, as he was hammered by Ward, knocked down in Rounds 2 and 3 and stopped in the 10th.
Dawson followed that fight with Ward by losing his lineal light heavyweight title to Adonis Stevenson nine months later, by Round 1 KO.
Before his loss to Ward, Dawson arguably belonged in the pound-for-pound top 10. He first became a world champion in 2007 by defeating Tomasz Adamek, one of the best light heavyweights and cruiserweights of this century. He recorded wins over top stars like Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson and Bernard Hopkins.
But he has unquestionably become a shadow of himself since losing to Ward. Perhaps the loss to Stevenson can be explained away as a case of getting caught by a great punch from a big puncher. But in October 2014, he was simply out-hustled and out-fought by fringe contender Tommy Karpency, in a split decision that I personally didn’t think was that close.
Yet Dawson was back in action last weekend, fighting in the Foxwoods Casino, in his native Connecticutt. He stopped Cornelius White in four rounds. White is himself a fighter who has seen better days, having lost four of his last six, with three of those defeats coming inside of four rounds.
There’s a lot of good, young talent in the light heavyweight division and Dawson has the name recognition to still get a high-profile fight. Whether he can develop back into a true contender is another story entirely.