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Chad Dawson-So Good He Was Bad


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One of the best light heavyweights of this century so far is Chad Dawson. This 6’3 southpaw had everything a boxer could ask for-except a big punch. He has had a great career but unfortunately it didn’t end in a good way. A fight against Andre Ward he never should have taken sent him on a downward spiral he could not return from. In his career, he beat Bernard Hopkins, Antonio Tarver (twice), Tomasz Adamek, Glen Johnson (twice), Carl Daniels, Eric Harding and Adrian Diaconu-some of the very best at that time. Only top guy he couldn’t beat in his prime was Jean Pascal.

Dawson was born on 13 July 1982 in Hartsville, South Carolina, to Rick Dawson, a former professional boxer with a record of 2-6-1, and his wife Wanda. He has four brothers and two sisters. In 1988, Rick moved his family to New Haven, Connecticut. As amateur, Chad was the 2000 US Under 19 champion, at 165 pounds. He ended his amateur career with a record of 67-13. As a pro, he was first trained by Dan Birmingham and later by various people, including Floyd Mayweather senior and briefly Emmanuel Steward. He made his pro debut on 18 August 2001, managed by Gary Shaw. He won his first fight by a TKO2, first fighting as a middleweight and later moving up to super middleweight. In December 2004, he beat the former WBA super welterweight champion Carl Daniels by TKO7, in a defense of the WBC Youth middleweight title, which he won the previous year. 

It was in 2005 he became a super middleweight and on 18 November that year he won the WBO NABO title by stopping Ian Gardner by TKO11. He didn’t stay at 168 long however and soon vacated the title to move up to 175. On 2 June 2006, he faced the former Roy Jones Jr challenger and the first guy that beat Antonio Tarver-the lanky and slick Eric Harding. Even though Dawson was down in the first seconds of the fight, he went on to win by a clear UD and thus won the NABF light heavyweight title. This immediately gave him a shot at the WBC title, then held by the Polish puncher and brawler Tomasz Adamek. Adamek had made two defenses and this was his third, on 3 February 2007, in Kissimmee, Florida. Both guys were down once but Dawson won more rounds and was especially dominant in the first half, in the end emerging as the winner on all scorecards and the new WBC champion! 

First two defenses would prove easy, as he stopped Jesus Ruiz by TKO6 in the first and Epifanio Mendoza by TKO4 in the second, but then he ran into the hardened veteran, Glen “The Road Warrior” Johnson, in the third. That fight was in Tampa, Florida, 12 April 2008 and Bad Chad opened best and outboxed Johnson with his quick combinations working off the ropes, but Johnson came back and gave him a hard fight. Still, despite Johnson’s protests, Dawson looked like the winner and indeed won on all cards. He then vacated the title for unclear reasons sometime midway thru 2008, before fighting the guy who had won the main event on the night he beat Johnson- Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver, who had won the IBF belt from Clinton Woods that night. He already had the IBO belt from before, so Dawson was fighting for two belts when they faced off on 11 October, at Palms Casino in  Vegas. Tarver, always known for his cocky and trash talking persona, was very dismissive of Dawson’s chances, but Dawson proved him wrong on fight night and even sent him down once in the last round, after dominating the fight. He won by scores of 117-110 from two judges and 118-109 from the third. 

On 9 November, the day after Joe Calzaghe beat Roy Jones Jr, Dawson issued a challenge to Calzaghe, but Calzaghe ended up retiring 3 months later. Dawson expressed his admiration for the great Welshman and compared his retirement to that of Rocky Marciano. After Tarver activated the rematch clause, they fought again on 9 May 2009 in Vegas and this time the fight was closer, but still Dawson was clearly better and deservedly won on all scorecards. Only a couple weeks later or so, he vacated the IBF title to give Glen Johnson a rematch, which happened on 7 November that year and this time Dawson was more dominant than in the first fight, even though the scores were closer this time, two of them anyway. He then tried to regain his WBC belt, which was then in the hands of Haitian-Canadian Jean Pascal, a rough and strong brawler. Though shorter by 4 inches, Pascal’s style proved wrong for Dawson when they fought at the Bell Centre in Montreal on 14 August 2010. Dawson was thrown off by Pascal’s aggressive style and even though he had started to come into the fight in the later rounds, in round 11 the fight was stopped after an accidental butt opened a bad cut over Chad’s left eye. All three judges had Pascal ahead, so he was the winner by technical decision and after 29 straight wins, Dawson had tasted defeat. 

He came back against Romanian contender Adrian Diaconu on 21 May 2011 and won by UD, once again fighting in Montreal, Bell Centre. After Pascal lost the WBC title to ageless Bernard Hopkins, Dawson got to fight Hopkins for it on 15 October, but the fight ended after only 2 rounds when Hopkins seemed to slip after missing with a punch and then landed atop Dawson, who then threw him to the canvas, which then made Hopkins injure his back and that was it. The rematch took place on 28 April 2012 in Atlantic City and this time, Dawson finally recaptured the WBC title after dominating Hopkins and winning by majority decision, one judge controversially scoring it even and the other two 117-111 for Dawson, who was 29 to Hopkins’ 47. Just as everything looked so bright again, Dawson did something he would regret-wanting to prove himself as the p4p king, he accepted the fight against WBC and WBA super middleweight king Andre Ward, who was 25-0 at the time. However, he had problems making the weight, now past the ideal age for moving down, and ended up getting badly dominated. The fight was even in Oakland, Ward’s hometown, 8 September, and Dawson got knocked down three times before getting stopped by TKO in 10. 

This would prove to be a major turning point in his career. He still had his WBC belt and chose to defend it against the most dangerous new guy in the division, Adonis Stevenson-another Haitian-Canadian. On 8 June 2013 at Bell Centre, Dawson was knocked out in 1 minute and 16 seconds and thus ended his championship and glory days. He moved to cruiser division briefly after that and scored a KO1 against George Blades, but then returned to 175 and disappointingly lost a split decision to Tommy Karpency on 4 October 2014. He claimed he had injured his right arm and that prevented him from throwing it after third round. After beating Dion Savage on points and Cornelius White by TKO4, he fought Andrzej Fonfara on 4 March 2017 and was again stopped by TKO10. His final fight was against Denis Grachev on 11 October 2019 and he won it by UD8. His final record is 36 wins, 19 ko’s, and 5 losses, 3 by ko. 


Chad Dawson is a case of a great potential ruined by hubris, or excessive pride and confidence in his own abilities. Technically, few could’ve bested him in his prime, but physically, he just wasn’t able to fight at 168 when he lost to Ward. Always big even for a light heavyweight, Dawson had not fought at that weight for 6 years. Bad Chad was not a trashtalker, another reason to like him, and never or seldom made excuses for losing. I remember he gave Pascal credit for beating him, despite the manner of his defeat, which is a true champion’s trademark. Because of his lack of big knockout power, he was also forced to go 12 too much, which is probably a big reason for his early decline. He had the ability and the talent and for a while was the king and was really a pleasure to watch with his superb technique and high workrate. 


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