By Sam Geraci
Photos: Stephanie Trapp/ @trappfotos
This Saturday WBC light heavyweight champion “Bad” Chad Dawson (31-1, 17 KOs) looks to establish his dominance at another weight class by moving down in weight to take on WBC and WBA super middleweight champion Andre “S.O.G” Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA. Since returning to his longtime trainer and mentor John Scully in 2010, Dawson has regained the style and desire that once earned him praises as the heir apparent to the mythical pound-for-pound list. Dawson moved one step closer to regaining that honor after convincingly defeating the living legend Bernard Hopkins in late April. It was after the rematch with Hopkins that Dawson began calling out Ward. Ward accepted the challenge. It will be one of the most anticipated and intriguing matchups between American fighters in years and is aptly titled “Made in America.”
In the following interview, Dawson spoke with FightNews about what Ward, his own unique physical attributes (size and athleticism), his relationship with his trainer John Scully, the move from 175lbs to 168lbs, criticism of his “boring” style, his loss to Jean Pascal, and where he’d be without boxing.
You and Ward are two of best and most talented boxers out there. What does Ward do best?
He’s a good fighter and he does a lot of things right. He adapts to his opponents’ style, and he does a great job of keeping up the tempo of the fight to take the early rounds.
What is your strategy?
I’m going to use my height, my reach, and my overall athleticism and talents. I’m going to be the stronger fighter in the ring, and I am the taller fighter. I’m going to make Andre Ward come to me and fight my fight.
Are using your height and size the main things you’ve been working on in the gym?
We’ve been working on a lot of things in the gym. I don’t want to give the game plan away, but I will say that we’ve been working hard to use my height, size, and overall boxing skills.
How would you describe your relationship with Scully?
We’re a great team. He’s known me since I was eight or nine years old. We know each other in and out of the ring, so it’s a good combination. He’s watched me grow, and he’s watched me become a man. He knows how to motivate me, and he knows how to get me into that mode that I need in order to succeed. In my last three fights since he’s been back, everything has been great.
With a win, Scully has a good shot at being voted “Trainer of the Year.” What do you think of that?
We’re not really looking at that. We’re not looking at him becoming the “Trainer of the Year” or me becoming the “Fighter of the Year.” We’re concerned first and foremost about going out there and winning this fight. If it happens, that’s a plus but we’re not concerned about it.
What is the one thing that you’ve got that other fighters at your level just don’t?
Physically, it’s got to be my athleticism. I’m an all-around athlete who can play other sports too. Boxing is what I do and it is the first thing on my mind, so I take it very seriously and I am always prepared. You know, basically, I just try to be myself. I’m also a very tall fighter, so I use my height.
Speaking of the size, a lot has been made of you coming down from 175lbs to 168lbs. A couple of years ago you defeated Tomasz Adamek who is now competing at heavyweight. How has the weight change affected you?
A lot of people think I’m more of cruiserweight because I have a big frame, but the truth is that I walk around at 178lbs. This is really the first time that I’ve done all of the right things to make weight as far as dieting and conditioning are concerned. I’ve never really had to do this because I’ve always been able to eat whatever I wanted to make 175lbs. My focus before was always to put on muscle to get bigger and now I’m focusing on what I should be and everything is great. I’m feeling better and stronger than before, and it’s going to show on September 8th.
While this is a huge matchup, some have been critical that the styles won’t entertain. In your case, do you think you are unfairly judged to be a boring fighter?
I understand what people are saying, but I always work really hard and I’m always in shape. As far as my style is concerned, you have to be intelligent in the ring. If I need to brawl, I can do it and I’ve shown that but you have to be smart in the ring in addition to being a warrior. I’m looking to give punches—not take punches. That’s my style.
You have defeated Bernard Hopkins, Antonio Tarver (twice), Glen Johnson (twice) and Tomasz Adamek to name a few while your only loss is to Jean Pascal. Are the expectations too high for Chad Dawson?
No, I don’t think the expectations are too high. Like you said, I only have one loss and that loss was because of a head butt. He did have a lead, but I was on my way to a knockout. In my mind, I’m still an undefeated fighter and I definitely want a rematch with Pascal. I don’t know when it can be made because his stock has dropped and mine has definitely gone up, but I do want the rematch.
In this era, great fighters with a lot to lose rarely call out other great fighters with a lot to lose. Why do it?
I’m a throwback fighter, and I believe in myself. If it’s the greatest fight in the world, I want to be in it.
In your recent fights, do you feel that you are being depicted as the “bad guy” in fighting some of the most liked American boxers in Bernard Hopkins and now Andre Ward?
Ward and Hopkins deserve all of the respect they get for their great accomplishments, but at the end of the day, somebody has to fight and beat these guys. I don’t think it makes me a bad guy, but sometimes that’s just how boxing is; that’s how the media is and that’s how the critics are.
Finally, as such an outstanding athlete, what would you be doing if you weren’t a boxer?
You know, I’d probably just be a regular guy. Here’s the thing: I love basketball and I love football but I was never a great student, so it would have been difficult to stay eligible. I don’t know where I would have been without boxing. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to go to a gym and start boxing, and I’m fortunate to be where I am now.
Chad, thanks for your time. I am looking forward to one of the best matchup in a long time this Saturday.