A Fallen Warrior

Last Saturday I witnessed one of the more tragic things I’ve ever seen in my life. I saw a warrior quit fighting up close and personal. I was on hand September 8th at the Oakland Coliseum to see Andre Ward land just about every left hand that he threw to the face of Chad Dawson. I stood up in my seat and cheered for each of the three knockdowns that Andre Ward scored. But then after the 3rd one, the event got really sad for me.

It was at this point that Chad Dawson who had previously shown the heart and grit of an all time great boxer said, out of his own mouth, “I’m finished…I’m done” causing referee Steve Smoger to stop the fight. To his defense it was a really intelligent decision by Chad. After all he still has his belts at the 175-pound division and there was no way he was going to win the fight. I only wish that Dawson’s trainer John Scully would have thrown in the towel or that Smoger would have stopped the fight on his own because boxing, for better or for worse, is the only sport in which a man cannot quit under any circumstances. It is rather callous and undoubtedly barbaric but true fight fans expect their fighters to be willing to die in the ring in the same vein that citizens expect marines to be willing to die for their country. In other words one plays basketball, one plays soccer, and one plays baseball, but one does not play boxing because boxing is not a game.

If anyone knew this “Bad” Chad Dawson did. He knew it when he begged the ref to continue after he sustained a terrible cut over his right eye in the final rounds of his fight with Jean Pascal. He vehemently demanded that he be allowed to continue even as blood gushed down his face and onto his shoulder. Even though the fight was ultimately stopped and Dawson suffered his first loss, no one could be upset at how he behaved at the sight of his own blood. He was willing to fight to the death no matter what the consequence.

Chad knew the fighter’s code when he hovered over his then 46-year-old opponent Bernard Hopkins while Hopkins lay on the canvas with a dislocated shoulder and hurled expletives at him because he chose not to continue. After calling Hopkins a bitch and a pussy Dawson repeated during the post fight interview; “You don’t quit. I don’t care what happened. You don’t quit.” And then less than two years later—though in far less dramatic fashion—it was Chad’s turn to be logical.

Credit must be given to Andre Ward for cementing his claim to the Mayweather’s spot as top pound for pound fighter on the planet whenever Floyd decides to hang up the gloves. Ward put on a spectacular show against a world-class opponent. He touched up the taller Dawson on the outside and roughed him up on the inside. In the 8th round Ward landed an uppercut that sent Dawson’s blood flying several feet in the air. But Chad kept fighting. Even though he rarely landed a shot and never really hurt Ward he seemed determined to finish the fight for the sake of pride and pride alone. When the best young fighter in the world lands 83 punches to the right side of your face, however, the idea of pride becomes very relative.

So “Bad” Chad the former undisputed light-heavyweight champion of the world was reduced to whispering to the referee in a tone so low that it would have been inaudible were it not for HBO microphones; “I’m finished…yeah I’m done.” And as Smoger waved it off my elation for the victor quickly turned to despair for the fallen warrior. Dawson fought a brave fight but in the end he was forced to violate the lone rule that he held so dearly as a fighter. He was forced to quit for his own mental and physical wellbeing and it was the saddest thing this fight fan has ever seen in the ring.


Notes on Muhammad Ali’s 70th Birthday

February 26, 12

I was on the treadmill at the gym last night when I just happened to catch a scene from Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday celebration on one of the plasma screens. It was a star-studded event with everyone from Sean “P-Diddy” Combs, to Evander Holyfield in attendance. Everyone seemed to be having a great time. Everyone was jovial and lively everyone except for the birthday boy himself who was confined to a wheelchair due to pugilistic Parkinson’s.

A lot of people who claim to be boxing historians will swear that Ali is the greatest boxer of all time and I’m not here to dispute that. What I do have a problem with is people who have never set foot in a boxing ring holding Ali up on a pedestal as the type of fighter that young fighters should try to emulate.

Let’s face it Ali with all of his speed, charisma, power, and originality took way too much punishment in his career. It’s never cool for a heavyweight champion to invite 200-pound men to hit him at full strength until they themselves get tired. Muhammad Ali is a very intelligent man but that is a very poor strategy, which is evidenced by his inability to talk right now or walk on his own.

I know people loved Ali for what he did outside of the ring as much as what he accomplished within the ropes but it’s not OK for us to say that someone like Floyd Mayweather will never be as good as Ali because Floyd has a defensive style. It’s not ok for fight fans to criticize Andre Ward and Chad Dawson for their unwillingness to have their brains beat in to please a crowd that doesn’t even regard them as human beings.

As I looked at Muhammad Ali shaking in his wheelchair I saw a champion who gave all that he had to the sport that he loves so dearly. But I also saw a man who should serve as an example of what young fighters should avoid at all costs. Boxers need to keep their hands up in the ring, develop a solid defense, and once you retire then you need to stay retired. Remember that even when the crowd chants your name they do not love you, all they really want is blood.

When all the cake has been eaten, the stage has been cleared, and people take off their fancy tuxedos and elegant nightgowns to go back to everyday life the champ will still be in a wheelchair. Above everything else, I think that’s very sad.