One left hand from Adonis Stevenson changed the landscape of the light heavyweight division.
No one could deny Chad Dawson said all the right things.
And based on his chiseled upper body and rippled midsection, it was clear he’d done all the right things, too, when it came to prepping for Saturday night’s encounter with Adonis Stevenson.
Coming off a loss to fellow world champ Andre Ward nine months ago that was repeatedly labeled “embarrassing” on HBO’s broadcast, “Bad” Chad was in desperate need of a “Good” night to have any hope of returning to his former lot in boxing.
For about a minute, all looked well. But when Stevenson, the Haitian-turned-Canadian known as “Superman,” unleashed a locomotive of a left hand to the right side of the incumbent’s skull soon after, it might as well have been filled with kryptonite.
In the time it took the now-former WBC light heavyweight belt-holder to absorb the blow, tumble backward to the blood-red canvas and wobble to his feet for an unsatisfactory diagnosis from referee Michael Griffin, his multi-year run as a major player at 175 pounds screeched to a halt.
After just 76 seconds, it’s a reality that a still-loopy Dawson barely articulated during the requisite post-fight ring visit from Max Kellerman. “It was a punch that I didn’t see,” he said.
“He caught me. And that was it.”
Thanks to his own lead-in context—a series of victorious but unsatisfying performances since winning the title for the first time in 2007—the cloudy-eyed victim probably didn’t know how right he was.
Though it was just his second L at 175 and the first in which he was unable to continue at the fight’s close, it’s more than likely a paralyzing blow to any hope that Dawson could ever regain the fringe pound-for-pound status he’d held after a majority decision over Bernard Hopkins 406 days earlier.
As a cautious “athlete” rather than a blood-and-guts “fighter,” he was never popular when he won.
And now that he’s lost, it’s gotten far worse.
In fact, two fights each with Hopkins and holdovers Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson over four years—during which he was 5-0 with a no-contest—yielded so little love that Dawson felt obligated to chase glory at 168 with Ward, a choice that yielded the aforementioned disappointment via 10th-round TKO.
As a result, moments before Saturday’s bell, Kellerman’s preview sounded like a career ultimatum.
“The question he has to answer is, ‘Chad Dawson why are we watching?’” Kellerman said. “He’s fighting to show not only that he hasn’t been ruined (by Ward), but to give us a reason why we are watching him.”
Now, in the aftermath of the tumultuous 76 seconds, it reads more like a death sentence.
Meanwhile, when it comes to Stevenson, life could scarcely be more different.
Though he’s fought just a handful of times above super middleweight, the former prisoner is the most legitimate of the light heavyweight champions—having beaten the man who beat the man, etc.
Within just a few seconds of draping Dawson’s belt across his shoulder, he staked his claim to all the riches—figuratively and literally—that a person of his sudden status can rightfully expect, including either a match with Hopkins, now the IBF’s titleholder at 175; or a match with Ward, whose critical acclaim is unquestioned, but whose ability to inspire fans is something else.
Who should new champ Adonis Stevenson pursue for his next fight?
And while HBO’s Jim Lampley was quick to label either foe as a bad career move for Stevenson, the prospect of a raw KO artist with a significant fan following might be exactly what the doctor ordered for his quarry, given the existing inability of either man to come to terms for a showdown in England with the other tasty flavor of the month, 168-pounder Carl Froch.
He may not enjoy as long a stay on top, but it’s already shaping up to be far more memorable for the new boss than it was for the old one.