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14 NOVEMBER 2018


Dawson Turns To Scully To Overcome Hopkins

By Derek Bonnett: Connecticut boxing needed a boost. Last summer, Chad Dawson, then the world’s premiere light heavyweight, found himself on the wrong end of a technical decision against Jean Pascal. Dawson had Pascal hurt, but the better man proved to be Pascal that night after he shutdown Dawson’s offensive in spots and rocked him just as good as he got. Then, in the early spring, Matt Remillard stepped up and got pushed back down by Miguel Angel Garcia in a featherweight bout. After Dawson, Remillard appeared to be the Constitution State’s best chance at claiming another world title. This summer, former 122 pound contender, Mike Oliver saw bouts with Juan Manuel Lopez and Rafael Marquez get axed in their incipient stages of development. Oliver may still get Lopez this fall, but that’s what it looked like a few months ago to. So, the Connecticut fighter getting the limelight this time hasn’t fought since 2001. "The Iceman", John Scully, will be stepping in to fill the shoes of Emmanuel Steward on October 15 as his newly reclaimed charge "Bad" Chad Dawson prepares to face Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins. For both fighter and trainer, it will be the most important bout of their respective careers.

Scully knows the magnitude of what lies ahead, but he keeps a cool perspective of things and is focused on getting his fighter into elite form.

"Of course it feels great [to be reunited with Dawson]; it’s a great opportunity for me as well as for him," Scully shared. "I look forward to being a small part of something so big. At the very beginning I did [have some concerns] because I hadn’t worked with Chad in a while and I didn’t know if it would be the same as before. I didn’t know what type of shape he was in when we started or how well we would mix together after all this time. But I’m very happy to report that we seem to have picked up right where we left off and that this kid is a very natural athlete. We have actually had quite a bit more time to get ready than people seem to think we have had. Just because the world is just finding out about this doesn’t mean it is a brand new development."

Scully has worked from the corner with Dawson, Oliver, Remillard, and Jose Antonio Rivera at the world class level. However, by comparison, Hopkins is his tallest assignment as a trainer. The former light heavyweight contender is now posed with the daunting task of providing his charge with a successful game plan to beat a man who seems to defy time and conventional wisdom.

"I’ve been watching the tapes and I’ve been discussing strategy with Winky [Wright] and the other guys and we all agree on some very key points in regard to what we need to do to be successful," Scully explained. "I study him the same way everyone does for upcoming fights. Watch the tapes and pick out a few key areas where the other guy is weak and strong and focus on them."

A young Roy Jones managed to outpoint an equally emerging talent in Hopkins. Jermain Taylor slid passed Hopkins twice in bouts still hotly debated on internet boxing sites. Joe Calzaghe clearly outpointed Hopkins on some unofficial cards and narrowly lost on others. He did enough on the real judges’ cards to win. Can the much younger Dawson reproduce these men’s results or will he fail to unseat the elderly statesman of professional boxing the way Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal have?

Now, Dawson’s switch from Emmanuel Steward to John Scully is just one of many corner changes the New Haven fighter has made in his ten years as a professional. Dawson has accepted the tutelage of Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, Floyd Mayweather Sr., Dan Birmingham, and Scully himself. Steward coached Dawson for just a single victory in his last time out against Adrian Diaconu. Chad’s past experience with trainers is well documented, but why is it he has not found that exact fit just yet?

"I think sometimes it’s been a simple case of not jiving with certain guys 100 percent," Scully reflected. "I also think that’s one edge I have over other people. When Chad and I parted ways back in 2005, it had nothing to do with our working relationship as boxer and trainer. We were both planning to stay together, but the logistics of the situations at that particular time didn’t allow for it. I think sometimes people assume they know who and what are the best fits for other people based on nothing but their assumptions. You’d have to be on the inside of any situation to really know who is doing what and who gels well with someone else. Chad seems to be in a good frame of mind right now and when that happens, good things happen. He’s shown that for his entire career."

He certainly has. Dawson comprehensively out-boxed Tomasz Adamek to win his first world title. Later, he went on to outpoint Glencoffe Johnson and Antonio Tarver twice. In his rematch with Johnson, Dawson looked a larger version of Pernell Whitaker as he moved in to exact punishment and out without accepting anything in return. The Adamek and Johnson II victories are arguably the highest points of the twenty-nine year old’s career. They were also major supporting arguments for those who picked Dawson over Pascal last year. We still must wonder, did Chad just show up flat or was Pascal able to assert himself over the best the fighter had to offer?

"For me, I honestly, truly, 100 percent believe it was merely a case of Chad not being fully prepared for the fight," Scully reasoned. "Preparation is the key and, sometimes, preparation, for different reasons, is not up to par. I could see it as early as the first round that he wasn’t in sync. But I’ll say this much, and this gets lost in the criticisms of many, but people forget that Chad was coming back like gang busters in the 11th round before they butted heads. Even his biggest critic would have to admit that. And here’s the thing: every professional boxer of any real experience knows full well how difficult it is to come back like that from being behind in a fight you are not at your best in. To dig down that deep, that late in a fight, under those circumstances, and have your man in a clear position as to where the fight was about to end in your favor, that takes a special fighter. Jean is a very good fighter, too, but I truly believe that the night they fought it was a version of Chad that will never be seen in a ring again."

In any bout concerning Hopkins, the age game has to be given its fair share of lip service. Once again, just as he had a against Taylor, Pavlik, Pascal, and a horde of other fighters, Hopkins will be facing a much younger man in Dawson. At forty-six, Hopkins has seventeen more years of wear or experience on his chassis. You decide which, but some fighters can defy the hands of time and stay on top of their games for a lot longer, while others wilt to youth.

"I assume genetics have a lot to do with it," Scully considered. "I also assume how you treat your body in your younger days goes a long ways towards how your body will function later in life. They say the first person to live to 125 years old has already been born so I guess you could say it is a sign of the times. As recently as the 1980’s a forty year old boxer was a rarity and generally they were considered ancient in boxing terms. Now you have numerous guys 38 and above who are still excellent fighters. Forty is definitely the new thirty from what I can see."

As a fighter, it would mean something great for Dawson to beat Hopkins; however, as trainer, defeating Hopkins would be an exceptional feat for a lower profile trainer like Connecticut’s Scully.

"For me, I am more into what this will do for Chad and his career and his legacy," Scully stated. "I mean, this is an extremely talented and gifted fighter who unjustly receives criticism that just doesn’t stand true to me. People have said he is not mentally strong and he is lazy and things like that. In my opinion, he hasn’t show that at all in his career. If anything, I can point to several instances in his career where he showed tremendous mental fortitude and drive. Sometimes people go with a common theme and if they hear it often enough from enough people they take it as the truth, regardless if they know for sure if it is or not. Him proving people wrong and beating the most accomplished guy in the division will do wonders for him and his legacy."

Scully also offered to clear the air on some of the other talk about Dawson, particularly his reason for parting with Steward. It has been said that Dawson fled Steward’s guidance to be closer to his family and home. It has been suggested as well that Dawson may be unfocused with his domestic environment so close by.

"I can only say that sometimes people who relay information are not actually in possession of the most accurate version of it. The only thing Chad Dawson could possibly have to remove himself from right now is a great and focused training camp," Scully stated.

Two of Connecticut’s favorite sons have come back together. Both Dawson and Scully have much to prove, but the proof they must burden is for themselves. All of Connecticut will be behind them in what is likely to be the most important bout to our state since Marlon Starling first fought Mark Breland. In the end, we Connecticut boys stick together.

"I really do appreciate being interviewed by you and I look forward to helping a young man achieve his dreams on October 15th," Scully finished.

September 14, 2011

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