By Robert Hough
Photos: Stephanie Trapp
“Bad” Chad Dawson and Andre “SOG” Ward took different paths to the same destination in the ring and in their lives. The two men, who both have four children, are set to fight on Saturday. They relate interchangeable thoughts about focusing on their children and their families, and they’ve backed up their statements about wanting to face the best fighters.
Dawson (31-1-0-2, 17 KOs) acknowledged recently that he got dialled into family life again a couple years ago after letting the crowd around him get too big. Ward (25-0, 13 KOs) has taken a family-oriented approach since he’s had a family. Dawson the WBC light heavyweight champion has taken an uncommon step for someone in his position: moving down in weight. He’s dropping 7 pounds from light heavyweight, 175 pounds, to challenge Ward at 168 for his WBC, WBA and The Ring super middleweight belts.
“I’ve always said I want to fight the best,” Dawson said recently on a teleconference to discuss the HBO-televised fight at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. “I know Andre’s said the same things. I think he’s the best at 68 and 75 so I made the challenge, I’m glad he accepted it, I respect him for it and I’m ready to fight him in his hometown.”
Ward, who was born in San Francisco and lives in nearby Dublin, Calif., had a sense for some time that the fight would happen, maybe not quite so soon.
“He wasn’t on my radar in terms of me gunning for him, but it didn’t come as a surprise,” Ward, who’s fought at 168 throughout his pro career, recalled during a teleconference. “I say that because anybody that’s close or near to my weight class, there’s a possibility we may get it on, that we may fight someday. So, Chad has always been at 75 or started at 68 and went to 75. He’s always made comments and I recognized those comments, about how easy it was to make 168, so it was definitely inevitable one day, but no, it was presented after the Super Six, after a couple months of rest. Some people said, ‘Why don’t you fight Dawson?’ We said, ‘Why not?’ He’s a great fighter. Let’s get it on and let the best man win.”
Ward claimed the WBC and Ring Magazine belts and won The Super Six World Boxing Classic when he beat Carl Froch with some ease on December 17 at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.; he broke bones in his left hand days before that fight and hasn’t been in the ring since then.
After the Froch fight, Ward had to let his hand heal, he was ready for a rest and his fourth child was born in June. He believes the break, the longest of his career by a couple months, has done him well.
“I think it was good that I was able to get that rest, both mentally and physically,” said the 28-year-old, who believes that being two years younger than Dawson is a notable advantage. “With the Froch fight, we trained really hard and the Super Six, the toll that took, I think (the layoff) was a good thing.”
Dawson, the 30-year-old WBC light heavyweight champion, last fought on April 28, when he dominated Bernard Hopkins, also at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. He said that while he’s serious about fighting the best, it also made good business sense to challenge Ward after beating Hopkins.
“I definitely think I can continue to make 168,” he said. “I’ve kind of got the best of both worlds. If everything works according to plan and I win the title, I’m looking for good fights in either weight class.”
Lots of interesting prospects at super middleweight and probably more to come, Dawson pointed out.
“I think 168 is a lot more loaded than the light-heavyweight division is,” he said. “I also do think that those guys at 168, including Andre Ward, will be coming up to light-heavyweight real soon, so as I say, I’m in a great position. I could go back to light-heavyweight and wait for those guys or I could stay at 168 pounds and contend against the Kesslers and Froch and those guys so I think it’s a great position to be in.”
The oft-discussed move down in weight’s no big deal, beneficial, in fact, because it sharpens the edge, the New Haven, Conn., resident said.
“I came into training camp at 178, 180 pounds,” he said. “Like I told everybody before, it’s not hard for me to make the weight. I put another little bit extra mile on my runs and I’m dieting; that’s something that I haven’t done in years. When I was fighting at light-heavyweight I was able to eat what I wanted and still go into the weigh-in and make the weight, so this camp, it was great.
“It just made me a little meaner, the fact that I can’t eat what I want and have to diet so I’ll be ready for the weigh-in.”
John Scully, Dawson’s trainer, commented that the focus on food’s been a positive step.
“When we fought Hopkins, I mean he beat Hopkins on a diet that I wouldn’t have chosen, you know what I mean?,” Scully said during the call.
Much is made of Ward’s ability to fight inside and work effectively off his jab and movement, but Dawson said that his sparring’s to prepare for what Ward can do has been surprisingly good.
“I think the sparring that we’ve had is a lot better than what we’ve expected, so on that note, everything is great. I’m not worried about finding guys to emulate him too much, because we got guys that emulate him very well.”
Dawson added that he’s done just fine against all sorts of opponents.
“I fought everybody from Tarver to Glen Johnson and Bernard and Tomasz Adamek, and those are three different styles so when they say that Andre Ward can adapt to any style, I’m saying, ‘Wait, I can adapt to any style and I can figure out how to beat any style,” said.
Figuring out how to live best and right’s been a significant part of the learning process, too, after the entourage got too big, Dawson admitted.
“When I came home (from earlier fights), I was embraced by 30 guys that I hung around with, that I would go out with,” he said. “We’d always be together.”
Until he lost to Jean Pascal on Aug. 15, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
“When you’re up, everybody wants to be around you and be there to hold your coattail, but when you’re down, nobody really knows what to say to you, or nobody tries to pick you up,” he said. “So when I lost to Pascal, when I got home, it was literally maybe a handful of people that said, ‘It’s okay, we know you’ll bounce back,’ but everybody else disappeared. No phone calls, no nothing, and that just put my mind in a different place. I’m a different person from that. I learned who my real friends are and who my real friends aren’t.
“You see me after the fight now and I’m in the house with my family, bringing my kids to school every morning, picking them up, making sure that my home, my kids, and my wife are straight. That’s my whole game.”
It’s exactly what Ward has related about his approach to life, though it was Dawson who said, “My family comes first before anything. At the end of the day, my job is to raise my kids and be a good husband, and that’s what I try to do. I try to live my life like that. Only good things come to people who live their life like that so that’s what I try to do.”