Only a day after the controversial TKO ruling by referee Pat Russell, commentaries, analyses and predictions regarding the Hopkins-Dawson bout began pouring into the boxing scene. Almost a week later, this influx of opinion has not slowed. Some of the comments predicted a reversal of the decision, some compared the decision to other mysterious boxing controversies, but most of them emphasized how unfortunate the result was. Not just for the fighters, but for the fans, and, perhaps most importantly, for the sport itself. Chad Dawson, most agree, demonstrated a glaring lack of sportsmanship after his “win.” Bernard Hopkins, on the other hand, is known, almost by total consensus, as a fighter who takes shortcuts, or at least as one who plays up an injury if he feels it will benefit his career. The fight had a lot going against it. Aside from being a fight between two of the least marketable big names in boxing, Hopkins-Dawson was relegated to pay-per-view coverage. Nobody predicted a Gatti-Ward IV brawl, but the style matchup was just as unappealing as fans feared, with a $60 price tag that no one expected. By the end of the fight, the derogatory chants of “bullshit,” and “UFC” were circulating through the arena. Writers from ESPN referenced the overall decline of boxing and the increased interest in mixed martial arts and UFC, going so far as to say that such an occurrence would never be allowed to happen in an MMA fight. The California State Athletic Commission has reserved judgment for a December meeting, at which point the entire result of the contest could be erased, restoring both Dawson and Hopkins’ records to their previous state. The WBC, however, has already reinstated Hopkins as the 175-pound champion, less than a week after the fight took place.
Now, I can’t help but be an optimist when it comes to boxing. Sometimes I’m fooling myself. I probably never should have let myself hope that Ricky Hatton would come out on top against Mayweather. Or Pacquiao. Or Guinness. But this time my heart was in the right place. I knew these sanctioning bodies would make an effort to rectify the injustice done Saturday night. People have been talking about the decline of the archaic and savage sport of boxing for a century. It’s not any closer now, I hope, than it was a hundred years ago. If for no other reason, either California or the WBC would have made some concessions to Hopkins so that a major economic recession didn’t ripple through the sport causing the collapse of a carefully developed fan base. What really makes me hopeful, though, is the volume of commentary and opinion flowing in since that unfortunate decision. People care. I know this hasn’t been the most skilled articulation of ideas in my writing, but really, this entry was just a place to put down this one thought: Thank god for the fans. Boxing is dead? Really? It seems to me that the millions of fans tearing through the reports, videos and forums for updates on this otherwise off-the-radar fight might disagree. The article on ESPN.com reporting the WBC’s decision, which was just posted today at 10:30 AM, has already hit a thousand “facebook shares” and almost a hundred “retweets.” There aren’t that many Bernard Hopkins fans in the universe. This entire event, while it shows the flaws and vulnerability of the sport, also serves to highlight the underlying stability, the core strength of the discipline and dignity of boxing at its foundation. Pugilism is made up of people: their ideas, their struggles, their successes and their failures. Taken together, these things create a lasting tradition of honor and bravery that will not be eclipsed by simple financial competition. Boxing still holds a special place in the hearts of many throughout the world. The fans’ willingness to move past this debacle to enjoy new fights, new challenges, and new frustrations, will prove that.