Interview: Bad Chad Dawson goes back to school
Interview and Photos by Alex Pierpaoli (March 28, 2005)  
Photo © Alex Pierpaoli
On Friday night, April first, Chad Dawson will return to his high school or at least the school’s official gym, right back in his own hometown. When he was a student at Hillhouse High in New Haven Connecticut, Bad Chad lived up to his nickname but not in the same way he hopes to later this week when he fights a ten round Main Event at the City-Wide Fieldhouse. The twenty-two year old Dawson headlines this Friday’s Jimmy Burchfield promoted card which features other action fighters like Joey Spina, Matt Godfrey and former US Olympian, heavyweight Jason Estrada in his second bout as a pro.

On Thursday night, Doghouse Boxing caught up with Bad Chad at the Manchester PAL where this writer found Dawson and his trainer, John Scully, talking about weight and studying the reflection of Dawson’s carved abdomen in a mirror.

“I’m 165 now,” said Dawson. With one week to go before fight time the pair was content things were right on schedule.

“Training’s coming real good. I mean I’m in shape. I’ve been in camp since January so the only thing I have to worry about [now] is losing the last couple pounds. As far as training wise, we’re done…We’re not even working that hard. We’re just hitting the bag. Hitting the bag, hitting pads; light but not hard. I mean, the hard part is done.”

Dawson will face Efrain Garcia, 17-4-1 (11), of Texas this Friday night and he shared a few thoughts on his opponent. “I’ve seen the tape on him when he fought Jermain Taylor. He looks like a strong guy but boxing wise it should be a pretty good fight for me. He doesn’t look like he’s an aggressive guy. He just waits for an opportunity to land a big punch…looks like it’ll be a pretty good fight for me. I got the upper hand. He’s a big guy but I think I got the upper hand.”

Dawson’s confidence is due in part to the hard work he’s put in with his trainer, and light heavyweight boxer, John Scully. Scully and Dawson have developed a bond during their time together.

“Me and Scully… If he tells me something I’m gonna trust it and I’m gonna try it…We work on my boxing, my boxing technique. I think I’m a good boxer but I think my boxing skills could get better…If I get hit I’m prepared for it. I’ve been hit. I’ve been dropped once…”

Dawson was down in the first round against Willie Lee in his eleventh fight as a pro.

“What we work on is boxing, boxing, boxing. I mean the game is hit and don’t get hit, so that’s what we work on.”

Dawson gets a rare opportunity this week when he returns to New Haven and goes to work on school property as a fighter rather than a student.

“I went to Hillhouse. So I mean all the teachers there are definitely supporting me. And my father is a security guard at the school too so he’s getting a lot of love too. It’s good to have support of the school system, even though I was a knucklehead at school. It still feels good to have their support and love.”

Dawson laughs at his high school experience admitting he wasn’t the model student.

“I was a knucklehead. I skipped school. Skipped class. I mean I was bad.”

Fighting in one’s hometown can add a lot of pressure to a young fighter; pressures that make it hard to focus on boxing smart to get a win and not just pleasing a crowd. Last year one of the most widely accepted and brightest heavyweight prospects, Dominick Guinn, seemed flat and uninspired when fighting in front of his hometown. Guinn ended up losing a decision and swallowing a lot of pride. Does Chad Dawson worry about the pressure of fighting at home?

“I think about it every day. What if this, what if that? It’s something you gotta be prepared for.
You gotta have a plan be B. And if Plan B don’t work you gotta have a plan C...I’m ready for it. I’m ready for whatever. If my jab’s not working that night, if boxing’s not working, then I’ll find something else, fight him on the inside. Find something else, I’ll work the body…Whatever the kid comes with, I’m sure I’ll be prepared for it. A lot of people are sayin’ you’re fightin’ on April Fools? I hope you don’t be the April fool. Nah, I’m not gonna be the April fool. I’m ready. I’m prepared…Every time I fight, after training camp [is completed] I think about everything I’ve been through, everything I did. All the roadwork all the hills, and I work off that.”

Last year Chad Dawson was to fight in an ESPN2 Main Event versus Massachusetts’s Ian Gardner, a bout that would have been a regional war on the cable network and a moment in the spotlight for Dawson. But the night before the would-be Friday Night Fight match-up Dawson produced a pre-fight urine sample that tested positive for marijuana which barred him from the bout and from the prize-ring for 6 months.

But did the very public embarrassment sap the drive in this undefeated middleweight?

“Actually, it helped me. It helped me a lot. It helped me in ways I thought it wouldn’t help me. After I failed the drug test and when I went back to New Haven everyone knew who I was.”

Dawson giggles at the notion, a bit embarrassed but with a mature sense of accomplishment from having rebounded from the incident.

“So it worked out in a good way, but in a bad way I let a lot of people down. I also let myself down. I was outta the gym for like four months. I didn’t wanna be seen. I was in the house. After a while I just had to come out of my shell. So I got back in the gym and ever since then I’ve been back on track. Everybody makes mistakes. I made a mistake at the wrong time…Since then I’m three and oh. I got three big wins under my belt since then, so I’m happy.”

And now has boxing become the main focus, has he gotten the passion for the fight game back in his life?

“Actually I just got passionate about it. I mean, after I failed the drug test. I mean, I was smoking weed. I failed the drug test. It took that. It took for that to wake me up. I got suspended. My license was suspended. That woke me up. I figured if I’m not going to do it for the love of it, I’ve gotta do it for something. I’ve got a son. My son, believe it or not, he’s running around with gloves on right now. He keeps on jabbing everything. He’s only one. He’ll be two in May, May twenty-fifth. He’s running around with gloves on. He’ll sleep with his gloves on. He’s been to all of my fights since he was born. He’s got it in him. Every time he sees me he says: My daddy fighting. My daddy fighting. It’s a real good feeling.”

It’s likely his son will be ringside again this Friday night to watch daddy fight. But excited as Dawson is to fight in his hometown, he looks to taking his fists and boxing savvy on the road.

“I gotta break away from the east coast. I gotta showcase my talent in other areas… It’s time to jump on a boat and go,” Dawson smiles.

“That’s what I think about a lot, fighting in other states. Like Vegas. Going down to California, fighting in Texas. I fought fourteen of my pro fights here in Connecticut. The same people are seeing me…I wanna keep bringing good opponents in because it’s only gonna make me better. And hopefully within the next 6 or 8 months I’ll be in line for a title shot.”

Chad Dawson hopes to be a champion someday and knows that means more than just what he does inside the ring is going to matter, not only to himself but also to the fans.

“I wanna be the best champion. I wanna be one of the best champions to ever hold the belt. Not fighting wise, I mean personality wise. Being a good guy and stuff like that. Because I see how Bernard Hopkins, and these other guys, it’s how they carry themselves. Like Roy Jones Jr., he carries himself, I mean; his demeanor is a good guy…People think of just being a world champion. You gotta have personality. It’s not just going in and knocking people’s heads off and holding a title. A lot of people can hold a title and be a f@#king a**hole. It’s not about that. I wanna be a great champion.”

There hasn’t been a professional boxing card in New Haven, Connecticut since "Poison" Junior Jones fought at New Haven’s Coliseum during his short-lived comeback effort in April of 2001. This Friday night, Dawson hopes to leave an impression on his hometown so that fans and teachers at Hillhouse High will remember him not as a knucklehead but as Bad Chad, undefeated middleweight and future champion.

To order tickets to the live event call 401-724-2253 or 860-432-4253.

The entire CES promoted card will air on Saturday, April 9 at 9pm ET on CN8, the Comcast Network and will air LIVE on “Guilty Fight Night” as well as on tape (check local listings).

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