On Saturday, June 8, in Montreal, Canada, light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson returns to action for the first time since losing by TKO to Andre Ward last September when he faces hometown sensation Adonis Stevenson. This fight is for the WBC belt and will be broadcast live on HBO, with a co-main event feature of Yuriorkis Gamboa and Darley Perez.
Dawson has been at the top of the 175-pound heap for most of the past six years since he beat Tomasz Adamek by wide margins in February of 2007, handing the future heavyweight contender the first loss of his career. Stevenson is one of the most exciting punchers in the sport.
At 30, Dawson is five years younger than Stevenson but a far more experienced fighter. He will also enjoy significant advantages in height and reach.
Stevenson is yet another highly ranked light heavyweight based out of Quebec. He will be the third one Dawson has faced in as many years. In 2010 in Quebec, Dawson received his first career loss against Jean Pascal. He beat Adrian Diaconu there in 2011.
The single statistical edge for Stevenson is in the knockout department, where he has recorded as many as Dawson, in only two-thirds as many fights.
|Chad Dawson||Adonis Stevenson|
|Record:||31-2, 17 KOs||20-1, 17 KOs|
|Weight:||175 pounds||175 pounds|
|Hometown:||New Haven, Connecticut||Longueuil, Quebec|
After beating Bernard Hopkins in April of 2012 to solidify his place at the top of the light heavyweight division, Dawson dropped down to 168 to face Andre Ward in a true, champion vs. champion battle. Unfortunately for Dawson, he ended up losing by Round 10 TKO.
I interviewed Dawson before that fight, and he claimed at the time that the drop to 168 was going well. But he looked less than 100 percent on fight night, and when I interviewed him again last week, he confided that the cut had actually been difficult.
“I'm glad to be back at my true weight,” he said. He expressed some annoyance that some rankings are now listing Bernard Hopkins ahead of him at 175.
Montreal is one of the best fight towns in North American, and Stevenson is an action-fighter with a high KO percentage. An exciting victory for him over Dawson would send his popularity skyrocketing and set up future potential showdowns with fellow Quebec-based stars like Lucian Bute and Jean Pascal.
Chad Dawson has a classic boxer's build: long and angular. He has very good defense and moves well behind his jab.
Since he is naturally right-handed but fighting in a southpaw stance, his lead hand is his dominant hand. While his straight left is an effective punch, his right hook and his uppercut from mid-range are his heaviest artillery.
Dawson has been fighting at the world-class level for over half a decade, since he beat Tomasz Adamek in 2007. He has beaten some of this era's most experienced and intelligent fighters, guys like Antonio Tarver, Bernard Hopkins and Glen Johnson.
Dawson told me that he expects to be back to full strength fighting at 175 again. While he isn't a major knockout puncher, he has always been a fighter who is able to impose himself physically.
Adonis Stevenson has explosive punching power, with a knockout ratio of 80 percent. He is a compact and rugged athlete, and there is no question that if he catches up to Dawson with a solid punch, he can put the champion in a dangerous place.
Fighting as the hometown guy in fight-mad Montreal is going to be an advantage for Stevenson. The energy from the crowd will give him an edge psychologically, and the fact that everything he does will be cheered wildly means he might get the nod with the judges on close rounds.
Chad Dawson has no glaring weaknesses as a fighter. His last loss against Andre Ward was a bad one, but it's not like Ward was doing the sort of things in that fight that just any fighter can do. That fight wasn't about Dawson's weaknesses, it was about Ward's dominance.
Dawson has had some tendency to fight down to the level of his competition, as I think happened in his 2010 loss to Jean Pascal.
Ward did beat up Dawson pretty badly last September, knocking him down three times before stopping him in 10. Dawson is a tough, old-school fighter with a high level of skill, but such losses are never easy to rebound from.
Adonis Stevenson is an aggressive, come-forward fighter, so he is going to be there to get hit. When he is on the attack he lets his hands go from his waist, so he will be vulnerable to Dawson counters all night.
Stevenson is making a major step up in competition against Dawson. His fights rarely go the distance, and he has only fought 10 or more rounds twice—and never against anybody close to Dawson's level of experience and skill.
Chad Dawson will win this fight if he uses his reach and technical superiority to control distance and beat Stevenson to the punch. He should be able to score well with counters, too, but he's rolling the dice if he consistently waits for Stevenson to unload.
He needs to prevent Stevenson from even getting into a good position to throw his punches.
Dawson's lead right is a very effective punch, and I think he will be able to use movement to lead Stevenson into it all night. Stevenson will be an aggressive and determined opponent, so he will need to let his hands go in spots, to score heavily and discourage the challenger.
Above all, Dawson needs to remain on-point and focused throughout the fight. He is the much better, more experienced boxer and should win so long as he doesn't make any mistakes.
Adonis Stevenson has one way to win this fight: He has to get into range to unload against Dawson. He needs to put him to sleep, or at least beat him up so badly that the referee calls it off.
Dawson is one of the most talented and successful boxers of his generation, but he's coming off of a pretty bad beating. Stevenson's best chance is to get aggressive early against Dawson, look to hurt him and prevent him from getting comfortable again in the ring.
Stevenson needs to avoid Dawson's lead hook while he is moving into range to attack him. He needs to pound him to his body, setting him up for the big punch upstairs.
Three years ago, Stevenson got TKO'd in two rounds by Darnell Boone, a journeyman who entered the fight with a 16-15 record. Stevenson has since avenged the loss, stopping Boone in a rematch his last time out this past March.
Boone has also since seen his record drop below .500. I frankly just don't believe that a guy who got stopped by a journeyman with a losing record is going to beat Dawson. Three years ago was a long time ago, but not that long ago.
Stevenson certainly has the punching ability to put Dawson out. But I doubt that he has the boxing ability to get into good positions to deliver the punch.
I think Dawson will fight smart early, establishing his rhythm. By the middle rounds, I expect he will have control of the fight and will be piling up the scoring. Dawson is going to be looking to make a point in this fight, and I think he will do it.
Dawson by TKO, Round 9.