(Chad Dawson attempts to rise from being flattened by Adonis Stevenson; photo credit: Graham Hughes/AP)
Chad Dawson's technical decision loss to Jean Pascal in 2010 signaled the end of his tenure as an undefeated fighter. It wasn't a big deal, though; losses do and should happen in boxing, even if the sport has evolved to a point where they mean more than they should. Past that, the loss was to a fighter quick of hand and feet, relatively heavy of fist, and seemingly a rising force in the light heavyweight quadrant. He learned to walk, and tripped.
In rising from this setback and securing a win against one of the sport's more frustrating and crypt-straddling riddles in Bernard Hopkins, Dawson proved he could dust himself off and endure. But Andre Ward teased forth all sorts of doubt in Dawson's noodle, one would assume, in routing Dawson over 10 rounds and downing him multiple times in the process. Losses like that are when fighters typically rebuild and relearn how to walk.
Fast forward nine months, and along comes Adonis Stevenson, fresh off avenging his only loss -- a stoppage loss, no less -- to Darnell Boone by knockout. The Chad Dawson bout would be only his second bout as a light heavyweight hopeful, not counting fights early in his career, before he really had to choose a weight class. Not much was known about him on that stage, making Dawson a favorite by fight night despite coming off his first serious defeat. To top if off, Dawson was still the one and only light heavyweight champion, as the Ward fight was held at super middleweight.
A natural counterpuncher, Dawson opened up round 1 fighting uncharacteristically aggressive, throwing a jab laced with the mentality of vengeance. And Stevenson, a thudding puncher, backed away from the jab, wary and searching for ways through his fellow southpaw's defense. He just didn't need to look very long. A distracting jab paved the road for a plum of a left hand that drove itself right on into various bundles of Dawson's neurons and left him horizontal. He got up, sure, but he was in absolutely zero shape to continue fighting, which referee Michael Griffin thankfully recognized.
So shocking and decisive was the knockout, it took a little while to completely absorb. And it happened so quickly that Stevenson's victory romping, stomping and limb-flailing quite literally lasted longer than the fight, which itself only lasted less than half a round.
The last time the light heavyweight title was seized in such a fashion, Antonio Tarver deflated the myth of Roy Jones, Jr. in two rounds almost 10 years earlier. (The lineal light heavyweight title belonged to Zsolt Erdei at the time, however.) Chad Dawson was no Jones, to be sure, but the way in which he was sent packing was no less calamitous.
Going into the bout, much was said of Dawson's tendency to burn through trainers with ease; he had gone through at least 10 to that point, and his former trainer John Scully repeatedly told the media that Dawson's training camp for the Andre Ward bout was the worst he'd seen. The excuses sounded valid, though, and they opened the door to have many believing in him once again. But that door was shut, swiftly and resoundingly, with one left hand bomb. In place of a champion often accused of being without a personality or defined in-ring style, we now have a colorful, hard-hitting guy who excites his local audience enough that they actually show up to watch him fight.
2013 was a year in which fans of boxing were given a lot. Adventure, excitement -- we craved all of these things, and usually got them. But a mallet of a left hand is what gifted Adonis Stevenson the Knockout of the Year.