Does Chad Dawson Need a Tune-Up Before His Rematch Against Jean Pascal?

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Does Chad Dawson Need a Tune-Up Before His Rematch Against Jean Pascal?
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After absorbing a comprehensive beating at the hands of lineal super middleweight champion Andre Ward in September, Ring and WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, according to RingTV.com’s Lem Satterfield, is set to make his ring return:

THE RING and WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson could get his rematch with former champ Jean Pascal on March 23 on HBO at a site to be determined, according to Dawson's promoter, Gary Shaw.

"Chad Dawson and Jean Pascal will be fighting on March 23 on HBO. It's all done," said Shaw, confirming an earlier report by BoxingScene.com.

"Our deal is done with HBO. Our deal is done between [Pascal's promoter] Yvon Michel and myself. We just haven't signed the papers, but it's all done and finished."

While a rematch between Dawson (31-2, 17 KO) and Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KO) seemed inevitable, some might find it surprising that Dawson is willing to step into the ring against an elite opponent immediately after suffering such a devastating defeat in his last fight.

So, should Dawson have opted for a tune-up fight before agreeing to face Pascal?

When Dawson agreed to move down to 168 pounds to challenge Ward (26-0, 14 KO), the decision was rightfully lauded as a move that represented boxing at its best, and the fight carried both championship and pound-for-pound implications.

While Dawson had the antiquated opportunity of simultaneously holding lineal titles in two weight classes, Ward shockingly dominated him to the tune of three knockdowns and a 10th-round TKO.

Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Dawson was out-boxed, out-muscled and ultimately battered into submission. Of course, Dawson was game and certainly could have chosen to quit earlier in the fight. Losing to Ward should not sully his reputation as the best light heavyweight in the world and legitimate top-25 pound-for-pound fighter.

It is fair, however, to wonder whether losing to Ward so decisively has seriously affected Dawson’s confidence.

Obviously, boxing fans and pundits will only be able to determine this once Dawson fights again. That said, agreeing to face a tough opponent in Pascal—the man who handed Dawson his first career loss—could be beneficial to Dawson, even without a tune-up fight.

For someone as experienced and accomplished as Dawson, pummeling a clearly inferior opponent has limited benefits. While there is something to be said for getting back to “winning ways,” Dawson’s ultimate aim and duty as a lineal champion is to defend his titles against worthy opponents. By agreeing to face Pascal immediately, Dawson has shown that he takes pride in his status.

By displaying this sense of pride, Dawson has taken the first step toward restoring public confidence in his abilities as a champion. Satterfield also quotes Shaw as stating exactly what is at stake for Dawson and why his fighter is confident:

"Chad's got to redeem himself. This is Chad's chance to come back on HBO and redeem himself at 175," said Shaw of Dawson, who dropped to 168 to face Ward.

"Chad's got some unfinished business with Pascal, because he believes that if the doctor wouldn't have stopped the fight, he would have knocked Pascal out."

Shaw’s second statement brings up an important issue with regards to Dawson-Pascal II: though Dawson did lose to Pascal, he has never felt that he was genuinely beaten and has consistently maintained that he would have won the fight had it not been stopped after an accidental clash of heads opened up a cut over Dawson’s eye.

If Pascal out-worked Dawson and badly hurt him on two occasions through the first eight rounds of their fight, the bout's momentum did shift in Rounds 9 and 10. Dawson did take eons to finally snap out of his lethargic state, but once he did, he was able to out-box and hurt Pascal.

Now, Pascal has tended to fade in big fights—his two bouts against Bernard Hopkins being prime examples—so this could bolster Dawson’s confidence heading into a rematch that will likely enter the championship rounds. Also, a case could be made that Dawson underestimated Pascal in their first bout and allowed the Montreal-based fighter to pile up points, which is something that could be corrected in a rematch.

But what about the fact that Pascal will get a tune-up fight before facing Dawson?

On December 14, Pascal will face the light-punching Aleksy Kuziemski at Montreal’s Bell Centre. However, even if Pascal scores a dominant victory, there is no guarantee that he will be in a vastly superior headspace than Dawson come March 23.

Firstly, Pascal enters his fight against Kuziemski (23-4, 7 KO) coming off a two-fight winless stretch where he settled for a majority draw and lost a unanimous decision to Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KO). A case could be made that Pascal actually lost both fights, and the fact that Dawson scored a clear victory over Hopkins before losing to Ward adds intrigue to Dawson-Pascal II.

Should Chad Dawson have taken a tune-up fight before facing Jean Pascal?

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As Pascal seeks his first win since 2010 (he has also not fought since May 2011), Dawson needs to take solace in the fact that he is still the lineal light heavyweight champion and that he effectively turned the tide against Pascal before their first fight was stopped.

If Dawson was heading into a rematch against Ward, a tune-up fight would be necessary; against Pascal, Dawson seems to feel that he is, unequivocally, the better fighter.

At 30, both Dawson and Pascal need to make use of their prime years. As of now, the fight is listed as taking place in the province of Quebec, which means it will be in Montreal or Quebec City (Pascal’s turf). Because of Pascal’s drawing power and Dawson’s championship status, this fight carries massive implications for both men and should lead to at least one mega-fight for the winner.

For Dawson and Pascal, there is no need to wait.

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