On Saturday, September 8 from Oakland, California HBO Boxing will present a true clash of world champions as undisputed light heavyweight kingpin Chad Dawson, 31-1 (17 KOs) drops down in weight class to face undefeated super middleweight champ Andre Ward, 25-0 (13 KOs).
Earlier this afternoon I spoke with Dawson. With less than two weeks to go before fight night, the New Haven, Connecticut native sounded anxiously enthusiastic: "My camp has been great, weight has been coming down easily. I'm all ready for Oakland."
Dawson's willingness to come down to 168 and challenge for Ward's belts has been one of the intriguing aspects of this high-profile showdown of champions. In most cases, the smaller man goes up in weight.
But for Dawson, who fought at middle and super middleweight for the first five years and 20 fights of his career, dropping seven more pounds was never an issue. Even as he celebrated in the ring after beating Bernard Hopkins last April, he was calling out Ward and offering 168 as an option.
Dawson credited conditioning coach Alex Murillo for his confidence about dropping in weight. "I've got great strength and conditioning guy and he's been talking to me about it as a possibility...I could eat whatever I wanted and make 175."
The weight-cutting process has added another interesting wrinkle to training camp for Dawson. "I've been having fun doing it. It's been interesting to see the way my body changes."
Dawson claimed to feel so comfortable with the drop in weight that he could make it a more long-term proposition. "If 168 is my calling, I'll stay at it another year or so. Wherever the best fights are."
But ultimately, Dawson's willingness to drop to 168 was a business decision: "I knew I could do it, so why not if it would make the fight easier to make?"
After settling business with Hopkins last April, and reclaiming the belts he had dropped during his only career loss to Jean Pascal in August of 2010, there was no potential opponent who interested Dawson so much as the 2011 "Fighter of the Year," Andre Ward.
"Andre is No. 1 at 168 and I'm No. 1 at 175....and the way I look at it, that's still the same weight class. That's the old light heavyweight division...we're the same weight, so really, what other fight is out there? For either of us?
"It's a win-win...and we're showing other fighters they can take the best fights."
The willingness to make the highest-profile fight available has paid off for both Dawson and Ward with the opportunity to headline a run of the popular 24/7 reality series.
"It's been a great experience," Dawson enthused. 'I've always wanted to do one...neither me or Andre Ward have had a chance to be in the spotlight like this. It gets two new faces out there for the fans to learn about."
For Dawson, who has beaten some of the best light heavyweights and super middleweights of the previous generation (he is 5-0 with a no contest against Bernard Hopkins, Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson), it is clearly exciting to be taking on a contemporary for a change.
"This time I'm not fighting a guy who is 10 to 12 years older than me. He's right around the same age as me, right around the same point in his career.
"This will be two great fighters, me and Andre Ward, right at the top of what we do."
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