Saturday, November 7, 2009

Chad Dawson vs Glen Johnson II Preview

Michael Nelson previews tonight's HBO main event between Chad Dawson and Glen Johnson.

Photo © Marty Rosengarten /

Despite giving Chad Dawson the sternest test of his career a year and a half ago, losing a decision he deserved to win in the eyes of many, Glen Johnson will enter the ring as more than a 3 to 1 underdog. It's a role the hard Jamaican born pugilist has become accustomed to.

The reasons Bad Chad is a heavy favorite are largely the same reasons he was heavily favored in their first fight. Glen is 13 years Dawson's senior at 40 years old, an age where most boxers are either retired or long past the point of diminishing returns, while Chad is in his physical prime at 27. Being able to compete with the world's best at 40+ is an extraordinary feat that most pundits and fans have a difficult time comprehending. It's the same reason Bernard Hopkins has entered his last four bouts as an underdog.

Beyond father time, Dawson owns most of the physical advantages. He uses dazzling hand speed to land eye-catching combinations, ripping both the body and head in explosive fashion. And while he doesn't have highlight reel knockout power, he has more than enough pop to get anyone's respect. His flashy style tends to score more points with the judges than the Road Warrior's workman-like efforts.

Finally, there's the prevalent assumption that Dawson learned from the rough outing Johnson gave him and became a better fighter while Glen has long hit a ceiling and fought as well as he possibly could last year.

The script has been set for HBO to annoint a new player in the pantheon of potential stars. But Glen Johnson has never been a man to simply play his role and disappear into the night.

The grizzled veteran's ability to exceed expectations and overcome the perceived advantages his opponents have makes him a special in his own right. He has the kind of toughness that comes around a few times a generation - in 16 years, he has scarcely if ever been cut, dropped, or hurt - to go along with an insatiable will to give the man in front of him more hurt than he can handle. He's impossible to discourage.

Dawson's a phenomenal talent, but he's far from perfect, and Johnson's strengths illuminate the chinks in the young man's armor. Glen is a steady grinder, consistent in his punch output and tedious pressure, while Chad throws punches in spurts. When Dawson's hands aren't moving and keeping Johnson's guard busy, Glen is chopping away at his body and sneaking damaging right hands.

The 27 year old's less-than-granite chin is another chink that Johnson took advantage of in their first encounter. Chad's heart and conditioning, combined with Johnson's tendency to let his wounded prey limp away in many of his biggest fights, allowed the South Carolina native to survive a few very shaky moments. But the visible effect of the elder's thudding punches bagged rounds that may have otherwise went to the flashier fighter. I suspect similar moments will arise in the rematch as Dawson begins to find it difficult to escape the old man's unrelenting pressure.

Moreover, while it may be true that Johnson fought at his peak that night, it's also true that Dawson may had done the same. It should be noted that the southpaw's performance in his rematch against Tarver six months ago sailed well below the expectations many had for him, particularly those who thought he would improve on his first Tarver beating and overwhelm the 40 year old to score an eventual stoppage.

Instead, they saw the same uneven, if not efficient, performance from the first meeting - spectacular in some spots, uninspiring in others. The two fights were near mirror images of each other.

If no improvements are made against Glen, Chad can very well see the first L etched onto his record. It would be unwise to expect the judges to hand in the same dubious scorecards that were filled out last April.

The odds make perfect sense on the surface. Look closer and you'll see a man who has carved out a modest, but inspiring legacy from defying such odds. Mr. Dawson shouldn't expect anything less than hell tonight.

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