ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — One fight after enlisting Emanuel Steward in his corner, top-ranked light heavyweight Chad Dawson won’t be working with the Hall of Fame trainer for the toughest fight of Dawson’s career: an October meeting with division champion Bernard Hopkins.
Steward told The Queensberry Rules Friday that Dawson’s lawyer informed him two days ago that Dawson wouldn’t be reporting to the Kronk Gym in Detroit for training because he wanted to stay in his home state of Connecticut. Steward said he couldn’t move his operation to Connecticut because he’s training several fighters for upcoming bouts, including middleweight Andy Lee. And although Steward said he respected Dawson’s choice, boxers traditionally go to their trainers’ gyms rather than vice versa — and he noted that staying close to home can be fraught with distractions for a fighter.
Upheaval in Dawson’s corner is nothing new. Steward in December replaced Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, one of a list of several well-regarded trainers Dawson has worked with in recent years, among them Floyd Mayweather, Sr., Dan Birmingham and John Scully. Some analysts have blamed the constant trainer switches for Dawson lacking a strong sense of identity in the ring, despite all his physical talents.
“I’ve been waiting on him to show every week,” Steward said. “His lawyer called and said want to be closer to home. I don’t know. I respect that he wants to be close to his family, but I’m definitely not in agreement with him.”
Steward said he didn’t know who would be training Dawson for Hopkins in the Oct. 15 HBO pay-per-view headliner, and didn’t know if Dawson wanted to part ways permanently, since he hasn’t spoken to him. Steward said Dawson still might beat Hopkins on raw talent alone, and that he wishes him luck, but that Dawson is hurting his chances of victory.
“Whoever it is, it’s not a good idea to be changing at the last minute,” Steward said. “This is a very, very serious fight with Bernard. You can’t do that with Bernard. He’s got a solid team. You’ve got to respect him.”
Dawson’s promoter, Gary Shaw, said Friday he would have no comment until he put out a news release. Dawson’s manager, Mike Criscio, did not return a message seeking comment. As recently as Aug. 24, Dawson said he was glad to know Steward would be in his corner in the future. “So far, everything is great,” he told FightHype. “I’m learning from him and looking forward to go out there and fight knowing I have him in my corner.”
Harold Lederman, a partner to Steward at HBO when Steward is serving at a commentator at the network, said that it was unclear what the break-up would mean for Dawson-Hopkins. “That makes it really interesting,” he said. “We’ll see if Chad can do it on his own.”
Lederman also didn’t know who was going to train Dawson for Hopkins. “I don’t think it’s Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, but you’d have to ask him,” he said.
Muhammad told TQBR he is not training Dawson, and hasn’t spoken to him since the pair split and Dawson went with Steward.
Muhammad and Steward haven’t seen eye-to-eye on the best training philosophy for Dawson; Steward has argued when he was hired that Dawson fought the wrong fight against Jean Pascal last summer in his lone loss and should have been more aggressive. Muhammad said Steward wants to turn Dawson into another Tommy Hearns, and that doesn’t match Dawson’s skill set.
But the two trainers seem to agree on one thing, if indeed Dawson doesn’t want to leave Connecticut: He should leave get away from his home state.
“That’s crazy,” Muhammad said of the notion of Dawson staying home. “That’s where he lives at. He can’t concentrate over there. There’s too many people pulling at him. He needs to get away. When he came out here to Vegas, everything went fine.”
Steward has wondered aloud in recent interviews about whether Dawson is as focused as he needs to be for the Hopkins fight.
Steward trained Dawson in his May win over Adrian Diaconu, to mixed reviews, although Steward argued it would take time for the two to gel.