By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
Light heavyweight king Chad Dawson returns to action this Saturday when he defends his WBC and Ring Magazine titles against dangerous puncher Adonis ‘Superman’ Stevenson. Fighting in the challenger’s homeland at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, Dawson aims to bounce back from last September’s damaging defeat to super middleweight champion Andre Ward.
Dawson (31-2-2, 17 KO’s) was comprehensively outboxed and dropped several times then beaten into submission in the tenth round, a result that shocked the boxing fraternity not because betting favourite Ward won but due to the manner of his victory. A relatively light puncher at the weight, no one expected Ward to be able to stop Dawson, despite ‘Bad’ Chad stepping down a division and appearing to be visibly weakened at 168.
Considered the world’s premier light heavyweight, many suggested a different result had the fight taken place at Dawson’s natural limit and as such the loss to Ward did little to harm his reputation. However, having gone 2-2 with one no contest in his last five outings and neither a stoppage win nor a particularly dominant points verdict in that sequence, does Dawson’s form really merit that of a man seen as the consensus number one in his weight class?
The last time Dawson ventured to Montreal for a world title fight he lost an eleven round technical decision to Jean Pascal, the first loss of his career with all three judges scoring the fight to the Canadian by a wide margin. That was followed by a hard-fought points win over Romanian contender Adrian Djaconu before Dawson’s two meetings with Bernard Hopkins and that bizarre two round no contest preceding a scrappy majority decision verdict over the ageing legend. Then, came his utter dismantling by Ward.
There can be no question mark over the form of the challenger Stevenson (20-1, 17 KO’s) who comes into this encounter riding a seven fight knockout streak, but the Haitian-born 35-year-old will be fighting in the light heavyweight division for the first time. Stevenson scored a twelfth round TKO of Donovan George last October to become Carl Froch’s number one contender at super middleweight, but after the Cobra signed for a rematch with Mikkel Kessler, he snatched at the opportunity to move up in weight and challenge Dawson instead.
‘Superman’ stayed busy in the meantime with a sixth round knockout of Darnell Boone, avenging his only career defeat in the process. In April 2010, Stevenson first met Boone and was expected to record an early knockout victory, but having floored the American journeyman twice in the first, rushed onto a solid right and was knocked out himself in the second round.
At super middleweight Stevenson has displayed one-punch finishing power though it remains to be seen whether his punches will have that effect at 175. As evidenced by the loss to Boone, his punch resistance is questionable and he can be defensively vulnerable, despite having tightened up over recent training camps thanks to the tutelage of the late Emmanuel Steward.
Dawson could well be vulnerable following his crushing loss to Ward which prompted a change in personnel in his corner, releasing John Scully and bringing back his old trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. The mental as well as physical hammering he took in that fight raises a question mark over his state of mind right now. He basically quit rather than take any further punishment and if he’s tagged by one of Stevenson’s bombs early, he could unravel. There’s a lot of pressure on Dawson here.
Having said that Dawson’s skill set is far superior to Stevenson’s. He’s quite simply the much better boxer who, if he brings his ‘A’ game, should be able to jab and counterpunch his way to victory. A lot depends here on which Chad Dawson turns up but he’s proven at world level where Stevenson isn’t. Back fighting at his optimum weight and now with much to prove, he may be coming with a heavy dose of Kryptonite for Superman.