By Marc Livitz: The year that has been 2012 in the sport of boxing is set to wind down with a bang. September in particular will have its fair share of memorable evenings in the ring and a certain showdown in Oakland, California which is set for Saturday the eighth of the month has the potential to add to the mix. Enter the universally recognized super middleweight champion, undefeated Andre “SOG” Ward and the top rated light heavyweight in the world, “Bad” Chad Dawson. Earlier this year, Dawson used the platform that was HBO’s “World Championship Boxing” to effectively call out Ward in an effort to solidify the aura of greatness in the slight space that exists between the 168 and 175 pound ranks.
Shortly after his victory over the sure Hall of Fame bound legend, Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City, N.J., Chad proclaimed his stake of the division and further sought to increase his stock with a victory over Ward, who himself had just triumphed in Showtime’s highly successful pugilistic composition that was the “Super Six World Boxing Classic”. Andre Ward has still somehow and inexplicably been omitted from the upper rungs of most pound-for-pound rankings, even though he conquered other famous fighters such as Mikkel Kessler, Allan Green, Sakio Bika and Arthur Abraham. “SOG” Ward went to lift the boxing tournament’s trophy last December after a victory over Carl Froch of England. He also holds a gold medal from the 2004 Olympic games in Athens, Greece.
The two fighters took a brief respite in their busy training schedules today to participate in an international media conference call.
Dawson (37(17)-1(0)) of New Haven, Connecticut was the initial boxer to come onto the line. The cordial and friendly champion acknowledged the attention that HBO’s sports documentary series, “24/7” has brought to him as well as his comfort level in making the required weight for the bout. While Dawson has been fighting as a light heavyweight at 175 lbs., he earnestly agreed to drop down to 168 lbs. to challenge Ward for his super middleweight crown.
“I have to say thanks to everyone involved. “24/7” was great and it certainly gave us some exposure. Everything’s been going great. I know just what beating Andre Ward would mean to me. He’s a gold medalist. There’s only a seven pound difference and I’ll comfortably make the weight. I can continue to make 168. If all goes to plan, then I can look for fights in either division. The super middleweight class is a bit more loaded than the light heavyweights. It’s a great position to be in. As far as the weight goes, it’s important to know that I usually enter training camp at around 180 lbs. It’s not hard for me to make the weight. Maybe I’ll need to add a few more miles to my run, but one thing I’ve had to change is my diet. I can’t eat whatever I want in the same way I did to make 175.”
Dawson was indifferent to a catchweight or any sort of in-between agreement in terms of a weight limit to face Ward. He was comfortable in getting down to 168 pounds and perhaps most notably agreeing to challenge his foe in Andre’s hometown.
“It doesn’t matter what the agreement was. I was OK with a catchweight or 168. I told (Promoter) Gary Shaw to make the fight and that I’d go to Oakland. It just shows the importance of the fight to me. “
Chad’s trainer, John Scully was relieved to hear that his fighter was taking his diet regimen seriously when he commented, “ I didn’t mind the food issues before. I had always just assumed he had been dieting. I didn’t realize that he beat Hopkins on a diet that I wouldn’t have chosen for him.”
Although a common adage in boxing is “styles make fights”, Chad Dawson is prepared for whatever he faces on September 8th in Oakland. He strongly feels that his time in the ring with Bernard Hopkins as well as other top rated boxers would help him in his quest for the super middleweight title. He briefly spoke of this when he said, “Bernard was so tricky and crafty. I did what I had to do to win, but I thought that I could have done more. I’ve fought (Antonio) Tarver, (Tomasz) Adamek, Glen Johnson, Bernard and others. People will see that I am a better fighter than Andre Ward. People know what I can do. I think that I’ve finally been given the credit which I deserve. Whenever I get hurt, all I can think is to come back up. I’ve been hit and I’ve been hurt, but I get back up.”
Andre Ward (25(13)-0) took to the phones shortly after Dawson had departed. The soft spoken champion from the Bay Area assured all those listening in that his work is nearly done.
“We’ve had our heads down and we’ve all been working very hard. I had lost track of time and of just how long we had been here. I’ve just been putting in the work and we’ll talk the loudest on fight night.’
Ward has perhaps unfairly gained the reputation has a hitter first and holder second. His trainer, Virgil Hunter was quick to dispel any such thoughts. His expectation for fight night was truly one spoken from the mind of one who has lived in the boxing world for many years.
“The fight in itself will be exciting. There’s so much at stake. It’s amazing to me how people think they can predetermine the outcome of the fight or speak in a negative tone for what they expect. Some of the sport’s purists have been lost here. There will always be the fan who understands what it’s all about and of course there are those who can only look at how many shots are landed in a round. I expect a great fight. Andre is not a boring fighter at all. He’s an action fighter.”
The northern Californian admits that he knows of only one way to train in the gym. He believes in the methods of preparation which have clearly served him well in the past. The ring wars of the years gone by have only made him a more intelligent fighter, which is a sentiment shared by fighter and trainer alike. Andre added, “ I’m only on a mission to have my hand raised. All of the guys that made it in the sport and those who still have it all together were masters at the sport. I want to train that way. We put in our work and study time. It’s all part of the the desire to win and to come out on top. None of these fights have been easy, but that is just the mark of a great fighter.”