Sports

Hopkins vs. Dawson: Another Strange HBO PPV

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By Nick Tylwalk

After the bizarre finish to the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz fight last month, I thought it would be a shoe-in for least satisfying boxing main event in 2011. Our site's mystery benefactors, the ones who actually allow us to cover pay-per-views without destroying our tiny operating budget, agreed.

Turns out we were wrong. Oh, so very wrong.

Unless you have no access to television, the internets or social media of any kind, you already know what happened to end the Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson fight. Here's a capsule version anyway: The fight lasted two rounds, it ended with more clinches and takedowns than punches landed, the winner scored a TKO without landing a fight-ending punch, and both fighters were booed by fans during their post-fight interviews.

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At least Mayweather had the decency to end his bout with two vicious head shots. Plus while I firmly believe that fight would not have been close if it had gone longer, at least it held the promise of some interesting exchanges. In contrast, Hopkins-Dawson very well may have dragged on for 12 dreadful rounds. In that respect (and only that respect), the quick finish could have been a bit of a blessing.

There were some similarities between the two fights once they got to the aftermath stage. Like Mayweather, Dawson was indignant after getting the victory, blaming Hopkins for what transpired and almost sounding incredulous when asked about the possibility of a rematch. Some boxing writers and fans have speculated than maybe Bad Chad is embracing his inner heel on purpose. Hey, it worked for Floyd.

It was also hard to feel too sorry for the loser in both bouts. Don't get me wrong; I firmly believe Hopkins was fouled and the result should have been a no decision. Unlike Ortiz, his loss wasn't self-inflicted in the heat of the moment. But when you've built your Hall of Fame career by mixing sublime skill with the willingness to employ rough, borderline dirty tactics when necessary, you pretty much forfeit the chance to become a sympathetic figure when they are used against you.

The HBO announce team declared the whole situation far from over, with Emanuel Steward certain that legal action would be forthcoming from the Hopkins camp. That's probably true, but the damage is already done. Fans laid out their money for the second time in as many months and got ripped off again. At this point, HBO has to be hoping that either Pacquiao-Marquez III or Cotto-Margarito II is the Fight of the Year, because that's probably what it will take to earn back the goodwill of anyone who isn't an absolute diehard boxing fan.

I honestly don't think that any one controversy is going to kill the sport, or that the majority of people who would pay to watch something would be so disgusted by one bad experience that they would swear it off forever. But if it keeps happening over and over? Let's hope we're not on our way to finding out.

At BoxingWatchers HQ, our one occasionally grumpy benefactor raised the issue of payment for some of the recent PPVs. I'm guessing if Hopkins-Dawson had turned out differently, that wouldn't have happened. Thanks a lot fighters and officials!

More random boxing thoughts from the last three days or so:

* It's been a really, really horrible last few months for referees working televised fights. Obviously I'm talking about Joe Cortez not even looking when Mayweather scored his KO and Pat Russell sticking to his guns about Dawson not fouling Hopkins. Then I remembered Russell Mora apparently deciding shots to the groin were okay in the Abner Mares-Joseph Agbeko bout. These aren't bad officials, either (well, the jury is out on Mora), but the sport can't afford too many more bad nights like these.

* Tim Starks, one of my favorite boxing writers and head honcho at The Queensberry Rules, tweeted after the fight that despite his critics, Max Kellerman handled the especially tense post-fight interviews extremely well. I'll second that and add that Kellerman even took the California State Athletic Commission's refusal to allow him to speak to Russell in very diplomatic fashion, reasoning that the commission members probably wanted to have all of their ducks in a row before saying or doing anything they would regret. Switch Kellerman with Jim Gray and we'd probably have seen a brawl or arrest of some kind. Well played Max.

* Hopkins has already said he's not retiring and is thinking only about the appeal, rehabilitating his shoulder and getting back in the gym. Good for him. Despite my lack of sympathy for him, I'd hate to see his career end like that. Who he would fight if he can't force a Dawson rematch is a big question though. Tavoris Cloud and Nathan Cleverly are the first two names that come to mind, but both seem like relatively high risk for the little financial reward they'd bring. Unless, of course, B-Hop would agree to face Cleverly in the U.K. Hmm...

* Moving on to nice things I can say about the PPV, how about the drama in Round 11of the Antonio DeMarco-Jorge Linares fight? Maybe Linares doesn't lose that one if his face doesn't cut up so badly, but despite his skill and athleticism, his lack of single shot power could keep him from achieving the greatness Emanuel Steward sees in him. DeMarco was able to absorb a high number of clean shots from Linares until he managed to get the stoppage.

* I finally had time to process the hiring of former Showtime Sports shot-caller Ken Hershman to run HBO Sports. It seems like a no-brainer type of good move for HBO, because the number of people who have experience running a boxing-heavy sports programming department can probably be counted on one hand. Showtime stepped it up over the past few years under Hershman's leadership, never really challenging HBO in the U.S. boxing market but definitely becoming a much stronger No. 2. One wonders, though, if this may end up as an overall negative for the sweet science. After all, if Hershman keeps the HBO ship running smoothly but his successor at Showtime isn't as good, that's a net loss for boxing.

Get more great boxing news, recaps and analysis over at Boxing Watchers.