I think this is a great fight and I wish there was a bigger buzz about it. You got two guys who have been champions for quite some time at some point. Andre Ward is coming off of the Super Six serious after an awesome 2 years. Chad Dawson has beaten some legends in the game in Tarver, Glen Johnson and Hopkins. The #1 light heavyweight, he's dropping down in weight to super middleweight and going to Andre's backyard to say, "Hey, I can beat you!" It's funny because Chad is taking all of the chances, but it's a good gamble because he's got a built-in excuse.
No matter how many times they say he can make the weight easy, I guarantee you if he loses, they will be talking about how he struggled to make the weight and that was the problem. Just because you can make the weight, doesn't mean you can fight affectively at that weight. Andre Ward could probably make 160, but I wouldn't count on him looking good doing it. I would have definitely tested the waters if I was Team Dawson, just to see if we could do it, but I would have definitely asked for a catchweight super-fight first at 171. It's like, hey, you're running out of options at 168 anyway and you are probably gonna have to come to 175 for greener pastures eventually, so let's go to 171 and see what that's like for you. But if Andre wouldn't have budged, I would have gave in and done it.
For Ward to win, he definitely has to nullify that reach advantage that Dawson possesses. He's going to have to get on the inside and rough him up and make it a grimy and gritty type of fight. If he can do that, then obviously that's in his favor. But he's not gonna win a battle where they are on the outside all of the time. Dawson has some skills and he's a good boxer, and he's also very long, so that's something that Ward is going to have to overcome.
On the flipside of that, for Dawson, he's going to have to stay at range and keep Ward at bay and make sure he can't get on the inside. He's going to have to do something that nobody has done in a very long time, I think since Andre was 11 or 12 years old, and that's convince this guy that he's going to lose a fight. He ain't lost in so long, you gotta convince this dude that this is not gonna be his night. So far, every night has been his night from the Olympics on. That's the thing, you are in his hometown and you are going to have to work to get it.
Chad has to jump on him early and not be the typical slow starter that he is, because that fast start is what it's gonna take to put that doubt in Andre's head. He has to establish his range, his rhythm, and his timing very early. You gotta hit Andre with something that says, "You know what? You ain't been dropped in a while or knocked out, and this is what can happen to you if you're not careful." And he definitely has to slow Andre down and not let Andre get in a rhythm, because once Andre is in a rhythm, it's hard for people to break him out of that rhythm, and he's been a guy that's great at making adjustments going into a fight and taking away your best weapons and neutralizing you. Chad is going to have to jump on him early and give him some doubt. If he lets rounds go in the bank for Andre Ward and he's gotta play catch up in the late rounds, it's going to be tough. He's going to be in a situation where if he needs a late stoppage, it might not be there for him. It's very hard to do. I mean, if you look at these guys past 8 or 9 rounds, especially at the high level, you don't see high level guys getting knocked out late in fights. He's going to have to put some rounds in the bank early and create some doubt for Ward.
I think a lot of this fight could play out on the scale. It's hard for me to make this observation accurately because I don't see Chad in the gym on a daily basis, but he is a big 175-pounder, and they say he's been around the weight that he need to be for a couple of weeks now. That can be good or bad. It can be that the diet and nutrition and strength and conditioning is right on point, or it can be he's over-trained and he's depleted his body too much and it's not going to respond to him the way he needs it to on fight night. It's kind of a wait and see kind of situation here. Don't forget Oscar De La Hoya was on 24/7 for the Pacquiao fight saying he's been on weight for quite some time and everything was fine. Listen, you don't want your guy on weight 2 to 3 weeks before the fight. You want them to have to be able to cut a little bit to get around the weight where he wants to be at. You don't want them on weight. I think you seen it on fight night for him when they tried to put an IV in him and his veins were collapsed and he was just too dehydrated.
I've always been a Chad Dawson fan. I have always liked him, but I never thought he capitalized on his opportunities the way he should have. He is a highly skilled fighter and I wouldn't be surprised if he won this fight, but I'm going with Andre Ward; just the roll he's been on and he's undefeated, and he's just a confident dude. Plus the fact that he's shown so many different ways to win fights, and making them adjustments and nullifying his opponents. And the fact that he's in his hometown and you gotta convince him that he can lose, I just don't think Chad is up to that challenge yet.
[WRITER'S NOTE: Be sure to check me out on The Ultimate Fighter season 16 on September 14th at 9 pm on FX. I will be a part of Team Nelson with Roy "Big Country" Nelson. It's going to be a very interesting season for sure. I hope they didn't edit out some of my best lines. I have a feeling a few will come out, but some should stay in.]