Things are so tense leading up to Saturday’s grudge rematch between WBC light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins and Chad Dawson, that they didn’t even try to hold the standard fight week press conference. Hopkins and Dawson, however, did host a media roundtable to discuss their showdown at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. Also on hand were heavyweights Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell and Chazz Witherspoon, who collide in the HBO opener.
Bernard Hopkins: “I’m a throwback. I live in a time where it is so microwavable that there is no time to cook, season, chop or marinate any more. I’m the last of a dying [expletive] breed. They were calling me old when I beat Trinidad 11 years ago. I have proven who I am. The reason I’m here is because Dawson didn’t do what he should have against Pascal. My biggest motivation has been adversity. I don’t drink or smoke and if some is drinking or smoking around me I get up. It’s called discipline. This fight all you hear is ‘Chad is bigger. Chad is stronger.’ Not that he is more talented.”
Chad Dawson: “It all depends on how Bernard comes in the ring. If he comes to fight, that is great. If he comes to lie down like he did last time, then I feel sorry for the people that bought tickets or are going to watch on HBO. The first fight wasn’t a long fight, but in the two rounds that it was, I was the one trying to press the fight. I was trying to make the action. Bernard just backed up the whole time and didn’t try to make the fight. I think people saw the difference between the size and the strength. It wasn’t many punches landed, but I did land a good right hand in the first round and he found out that night that I was serious. I have taken criticism in the past that I wasn’t in the best of shape, but that night I was all there. Mentally, physically, I was all there.
“If Bernard comes to fight and he wants to give the fans what they are looking for, and then let’s fight. I am here to fight and finish off what should have happened the first time we fought. I was supposed to be crowned light heavyweight champion. Last fight, he had no fire in his eyes. I could look at him from across the ring and I saw he didn’t want to be there that night.
“I know he is not going to come after me. I have to take the fight to him. I am not the same young fighter as Pavlik or Pascal. They don’t have the same options that I have in the ring. I can box, switch up. He is not going to get into my head. Mind games don’t work with me. We have a good plan. I am not thinking about a close decision. I don’t see it happening that way at all.”
Seth Mitchell: “The only thing I really miss [about football] is the team camaraderie. Boxing is a lonely sport. I’m just focused, if you can’t tell. I’m excited about the fight I’m ready to go out there and perform.
“If you take the Klitchkos out of the picture, right now, I think I’m right up there with the top heavyweights. I’m not a braggadocios person. There is no false bravado here. I handle my business when I get in the ring. I don’t just want to be the NABO champion; I believe I can be the heavyweight [world] champion. Hopefully this time next year I will have the opportunity to fight for one of those titles. This is what I chose to do in order to support my family.
“Nothing spectacular sticks out in my mind about Chazz. He is a solid fighter but he has heart and he comes to fight. I think Chazz is a fundamentally sound fighter. He does a lot of things well. He throws a good jab and he stays busy. He throws punches in bunches.
“When I was a football player, I wasn’t worried about making it in college. My mindset was the NFL. When I decided to box, I didn’t want to be just the NABO champion. I set my goals high.”
Chazz Witherspoon: “This is a fight that can move me to the Top 10, so this is very important to me too. There is a lot of room to grow, but there is enough Chazz Witherspoon to be victorious Saturday night. I have more experience than the person I am fighting. I believe I hold the experience edge over Seth, but we will see how the fight plays out Saturday night.
“I have four boys and another boy on the way. I don’t encourage my kids to pay attention to my boxing, but rather I am not pushing them towards the sport. I want them to play other sports. My brother is a professional soccer player so I want them to consider soccer. My mother and father always supported everything I have done. I have people to support me, but not a lot of yes men.
“I started boxing to stay in shape when I was at St. Joe’s on academic scholarship. They said don’t do it, but once I get a challenge, I try harder. I made it to the Olympic Trials because of it and that is where I first met trainer Virgil (Hunter).
“I had Virgil on a list of people that I would work with and then it all came together, so I am really happy now as a fighter.
“This is my first real camp and seeing the level that that involves, I see that I had been missing something up until now. This is a whole new level for me and I am happy I did it. I think there will be a lot of opportunities that will open up for me. Virgil taught me a lot just in one camp. He is a great man. He is very wise, breaks it all down and makes it all make sense. I am going to keep getting that knowledge and I see great things to come. I am a fighter and I am going to fight. They call me the “Gentleman” but I am a fighter and am going to fight.\”