Prizefighting — justifiably so — is closely associated with savagery.
But anyone, media type or casual fan, who attempts to attach such a brutish label to Saturday’s super middleweight championship bout between Oakland’s Andre Ward and his challenger Chad Dawson, will have erred.
Both combatants, who are among the best American professional fist fighters active today, favor the careful employment of boxing intellect over the blatant display of violent bravado.
And for good reason.
Ward, the reigning ruler at 168 pounds and last American man to claim Olympic boxing gold, has never lost as a professional. And Dawson, despite a fistic resume that includes some of the best light heavyweights of his era, has only been bested once in 34 contests.
“The guys that make it in this sport, the greats, the guys that can still walk and talk when their careers are over ... those guys are masters,” the 28-year-old Ward said. “And I’ve always been trained to be a master.”
And if Ward — who has not lost a bout since the age of 12 — hopes to remain unbeaten against the lanky Dawson and his hellish lefty counter-punching stance, a master he’ll have to be.
“A lot of people are making a big deal about Chad’s height and reach and that’s a given,” Ward said. “Whether it’s inside, outside, the key is not to be one-dimensional.”
Being one-dimensional seems not a part of Ward’s repertoire. He’s equally capable of speedily battering an opponent from range as he is wrestling one on the ropes. It’s a style that is awfully effective if not always crowd-pleasing, and one not meant to give an opponent a chance.
If Saturday’s bout were one that features scuffles in close, Ward would seemingly hold an advantage. And though no opponent — thus far — has succeeded in matching Ward’s in-ring moxie, Dawson, the underdog for the first time in a long while, will give it a go.
“I don’t take offense to it at all,” Dawson, 30, said of the odds makers labeling Ward the favorite. “All I can say is that they’re making the wrong bet.”
Wrong bet or no, Dawson, the current light heavyweight world champion, will be climbing down seven pounds to meet Ward — something he claims won’t be an issue with his training diet.
“It just made me a little meaner,” Dawson said.
But if he’s to dethrone Ward in his hometown at Oracle Arena, mean simply won’t be enough.
“I’m a very intelligent fighter when I’m in the ring and, come the eighth, everybody is going to see that,” Dawson said. “And they’re going to realize that I am a better fighter than Andre Ward.”