Thursday, August 25, 2011

SNB Nuggets (Hopkins-Dawson, Guerrero, Adamek)

Anyone who watched Chad Dawson toy with quality fighters like Tomasz Adamek, Antonio Tarver and Adrian Diaconu knows that Dawson is an elite talent in the light heavyweight division.  However, in assessing his next fight against Bernard Hopkins, it's perhaps best to evaluate Dawson in the fights in which he has struggled. 

In his first fight against Glen Johnson, Dawson was cruising in the early rounds until Johnson landed a series of big right hands in the middle stanzas.  Dawson seemed shell-shocked throughout the rest of the fight.  Against Jean Pascal, Dawson fell behind substantially on the scorecards, unable to cope with Pascal's idiosyncratic offensive flurries.  In both of Dawson's problem fights, he showed an unwillingness to engage his opponents.  Against Johnson, he ran throughout most of the second half of the fight.  With Pascal, he seemed uncomfortable leading until later on in the fight when Pascal's energy started to flag.  

The two fights illustrate a substantial ring flaw of Dawson's that will be exploited by Hopkins; Dawson does not make adjustments well.  

Hopkins can lead or counter.  He can start with the jab or begin exchanges with his straight right hand.  At times, he uses lateral movement but he also charges straight forward.  In short, Hopkins is a psychological master in the ring and based on Dawson's performances in his most challenging fights, it's uncertain whether he can overcome Hopkins' creative tactics, gamesmanship and tricks.  

And although Dawson now features Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward in his corner, Steward can't force his boxer to throw punches or fight Hopkins aggressively.  In fact, Dawson's default nature can often be passive.  He seems most comfortable picking up points with his superior technique, avoiding risk whenever possible.  

Hopkins will not permit Dawson to smoothly maneuver around the ring.  He will press Dawson with his lead right hand, left hook to the body and inside grappling.  Dawson will have to prepare himself for a war – not one with thousands of punches being exchanged, but a psychological battle, whereby every decision of his will be attacked and countered.

As a soldier, Dawson might be an excellent marksman.  At the firing range, he can hit the target from hundreds of yards away.  He could win competitions and trophies with his form and technique.  But, to this point, Dawson is not combat tested.  How will he be able to recalibrate both physically and psychologically when the enemy fires back and his shots start to miss their mark?

It's quite possible that Robert Guerrero could be one of the top-15 fighters in all of boxing.  However, forces inside and outside the ring have curtailed his visibility in the sport.  Over the last three years, several incidents have kept him from achieving greater glory in boxing.  He begged out in the second round of an HBO fight against Daud Yordan because of a cut.  His wife underwent treatment for leukemia where he had to tend to his family.   He also suffered a couple of key injuries.  Most recently, he had to scrap a fight against Marcos Maidana because of a torn rotator cuff.  Maidana-Guerrero was seen by many as one of the best fights of the year and its cancellation is another blow to Guerrero's career momentum.  He might miss an additional six month after undergoing surgery.

Guerrero has already defeated former lightweight champion Joel Casamayor as well as Michael Katsidis and Vicente Escobedo – two solid names within the division.  The Katsidis fight demonstrated that Guerrero might be something special in the ring.  He dominated the brawler with his large offensive arsenal, size, hand speed and ring generalship.  With just a few notable exceptions, Katsidis was unable to get close to Guerrero; it was a tremendous performance.

Moving up to junior welterweight to face Maidana, Guerrero had the opportunity to headline an HBO event and defeat one of the best warriors in the sport.  That so many boxing observers favored Guerrero over Maidana indicates just how much talent he possesses.

Spending six months on the shelf could be a significant career setback for Guerrero.  By the time he returns to the ring, it may be possible that Amir Khan, Devon Alexander and Tim Bradley all will have moved up to welterweight.  Although Guerrero has indicated that he could eventually wind up at 147 lbs., he first needs to prove to himself and his promoter, Golden Boy, that he has the physicality and chin to withstand the best at junior welterweight.  The landscape at 140 lbs. won't be as pleasing when Guerrero returns as it is at this moment. 

For Guerrero, he has endured traumas far greater than a torn rotator cuff.  He is still young (28) and finds himself in the prime of his career.  If he can get back into fighting shape, there eventually will be big game to be had.  However, there's no mistaking that he has missed out on several high-profile opportunities. 

Tomasz Adamek has done everything asked of him since moving to heavyweight.  He has fought often, built a loyal fan base, impressed in his lone premium cable appearance and sought out opponents who would best prepare him to defeat a Klitschko.  All of these things are praiseworthy, but he still won't stand much of a chance against Vitali Klitschko next month.  

At heavyweight, Adamek no longer has the physical advantages that enabled him to pick up titles at light heavyweight and cruiserweight.  In those divisions, Adamek was a brawler and a pressure fighter who won matches in close quarters.  At heavyweight, Adamek doesn't have the physical stature to rough up opponents.  He also lacks a heavyweight punch, stopping only three of his seven opponents during his tenure in the division. 

His chin at heavyweight is also in question.  He expertly maneuvered past Chris Arreola to win a decision.  However, in that fight, he avoided direct exchanges on the inside whenever possible.  Additionally, he was significantly bothered by Michael Grant's power.    

Adamek's blueprint against Klitschko will be to stick and move, using the ring to confound the older and slower giant.  However, the execution of that strategy will be challenged on many fronts.  Does Adamek have the skill to elude Klitschko for 12 rounds?  Will Adamek be able to land enough shots to win rounds?  Will his body and chin hold up to Klitschko's power and physicality? 

Surely, Adamek has earned his title shot.  He can be counted on to put forth a game effort, but his path to victory is treacherous.  Vitali has dominated all of the mere boxing mortals he has faced.  Adamek does not have Lennox Lewis' punch and it's uncertain if he has the offensive firepower that would give him a better chance of winning than any of Vitali's other recent victims. 

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