Published November 20, 2014
Chad Dawson wants what he believes is rightfully his.
He had the TKO victory against Bernard Hopkins.
He had the WBC light heavyweight title in his hands.
Both were stripped from the 29-year-old Dawson before he had enough time to savor his TKO victory against the ageless Hopkins in their October bout in Los Angeles.
Dawson turned the fight into an amateur wrestling match when he lifted Hopkins and tossed him to the canvas late in the second round. Hopkins dislocated a joint in his left shoulder and was unable to continue.
The ref waved off the fight and ruled it a TKO, crowning Dawson the new champion.
Not so fast. After a review because of Dawson's controversial tactics, the decision was ruled a no-contest and the belt returned to the 47-year-old Philadelphia fighter.
Dawson and Hopkins have their rematch set for Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic, N.J.
This fight, "Bad Chad" vows to leave nothing up for dispute.
"I am here to fight and finish off what should have happened the first time we fought," Dawson said. "I was supposed to be crowned light heavyweight champion."
Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) gets a second shot at taking the title and perhaps retiring Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) for good.
Hopkins has heard all the criticism for years. He's a boring fighter. He's too old. He'll never hold a major championship pushing 50. Dawson added a new twist when he flat-out called Hopkins a faker.
Hopkins landed awkwardly on the edge of the ring and told referee Pat Russell he could fight with one arm. When Russell called it off, Dawson went over to Hopkins and motioned at him to get off his stool, repeatedly cursing at him. He taunted him, and called him weak and a quitter.
Dawson feels the same toward Hopkins six months later.
"I really don't believe Bernard Hopkins was hurt," Dawson said. "He showed that he really didn't want to be in the ring with me that night. "
As Hopkins draws closer toward retirement, the days of winning major middleweight fights and frugally saving his millions should have allowed him to retire at peace with his legacy. Even with big bouts and title defenses behind him, the ugly and controversial finish has only fueled him to keep going against Dawson.
"I know what a win would do and what a win won't do for me, only me," Hopkins said.
Hopkins knows each fight could be his last. The idea that his lasting image could have been him clutching his shoulder while Dawson stood tall over him was something he could not swallow.
"I guess it's all about his legacy," Dawson said. "I mean if I was him, I wouldn't want to go out on a bad note like that."
Hopkins threw only 29 punches and landed 11 before his injury.
"I tried to get Bernard to fight, but he didn't show any signs that he wanted to fight until the fight was over," Dawson said.
Hopkins hasn't knocked out an opponent since Oscar De La Hoya in September 2004 — 13 fights ago. His bouts have been decided by decision ever since, with the exception of a draw in the first Jean Pascal fight in 2010 and the no-contest against Dawson.
In the Pascal rematch, Hopkins won and dethroned George Foreman as the oldest boxer to win a world title.
So, no matter the outcome of the rematch, Hopkins is already a legend. And Dawson wants to become one.
"I want to become the world champion," Dawson said. "I want the same recognition that Bernard gets."
Hopkins goes into Atlantic City — where he fought many of his earliest bouts — hoping Dawson doesn't get that recognition at The Executioner's expense.
"I believe that I'm the most underrated fighter that ever laced a pair of gloves on, that reached a level that I've reached in my 24 years," Hopkins said. "And that's a motivation for me to keep pushing, to prove that I've been and who I am."