If Chad Dawson ever expects to be regarded as king of the light heavyweights, then he is going to have to start fighting as if he really intends to earn his living in a boxing ring. Because as it stands, what he has been doing just won’t do.
When his detractors claim that he is a media creation who has never fought anyone of merit, they cite less than stellar performances against a rusted Antonio Tarver and even worse showings against an always game but war-torn Glen Johnson as evidence.
Dawson counters the argument by looking virtually prehistoric the minute he engages a fighter with the youth and moxie to capitalize on what has now become a trademark lethargy.
Worse is that he lost the bout. Some might even say he gave it away.
So despite all of his post-fight comments about headbutts and allegations that Jean Pascal was “running like a chicken,” the reality is that on that night, the Canadian landed more meaningful punches than the American. He landed flurries, he withstood barrages, and he eluded his opponent when he needed to.
Finally, Pascal was fortunate enough to be the beneficiary of an accidental headbutt which curtailed a crisis that threatened to send him home empty-handed. That’s boxing. For his part, Dawson obliged until near the end of the fight and Jean Pascal should be commended for doing exactly what he was supposed to do.
If only Chad had done the same. If only he’d stepped on the gas or remembered his jab. If only he’d fought with the confidence due a fighter of his purported caliber and listened to Eddie Mustafa Muhammad when he urged him to be busier.
If only he’d taken risks and fought with the desperation of someone trailing on all three scorecards headed into the 11th round. If only he’d brought his rabbit foot.
Maybe then we wouldn’t have to hear such putrid excuses for losing to a fighter who seemed ready for the taking at just about any moment past the start of the sixth round. Maybe then we wouldn’t have to wait for the inevitable rematch debating whether the American will actually remember that he is, indeed, a fighter and not a spectator.
Perhaps it speaks to an age where boxers seem far too content to let judges decide their fate; where risk versus reward has mutated into something unrecognizable and detestable inside the ring; where economy and tactic have been traded for hesitance and plain old milking-the-clock.
Maybe Dawson’s critics have a point and marketing has gotten the best of boxing. When the establishment pushes certain fighters toward the limelight without any evidence of their actual potential, it becomes increasingly difficult for the fans to decipher a mirage from the genuine article.
The viewing public becomes the victim of faith, dependant on a promoter's hope for the athlete. Just ask Oscar de la Hoya about Victor Ortiz or Al Haymon about Danny Jacobs.
Still, Chad can take comfort in the belief that his first professional loss was merely an aberration; one easily prevented if he can put away his excuses and correct a very clear misunderstanding about what it means to be “bad.”
Then it won’t be long before he’s back to rubbing elbows with Larry Merchant, having dismissed that horrible August night for the fluke that it was.
He’ll be dropping names all over the place, ranting about conquering the whole world between here and super middle. If he’s like most athletes, he’ll be counting checks, laughing all the way to the bank and spending money from fights that haven’t even been scheduled yet. He’ll likely be doing all that and more, unless, of course, Jean Pascal really is the better fighter.
Time will tell. Boxing will wait.
As an aside, if Jean Pascal’s assertion about being the new king of his division is to be taken seriously, he will have to do more than just “invade America.”
While his victory over Dawson proved that he belongs in the ring with the other world class competitors, he might have just gotten ahead of himself in the limelight after his victory.
As a suggestion, he should likely cash in on Saturday’s win by fighting Lucien Bute in a lucrative all Canadian showdown, grant Dawson the inevitable rematch, and if he should emerge intact, take a deep breath before tackling the formidable, and distinctly international, super middleweight division.