Sunset Thomas: The Harder They Fall
By Sunset Thomas, Doghouse Boxing (May 6, 2009) Photo © German Villasenor  
Chad Dawson wants to put Antonio Tarver behind him and take a poke at Bernard Hopkins. And he deserves it!

Frankie Gambino says, “You never look beyond an opponent, but Chad’s gonna destroy Tarver and then that Hopkins fella better man-up. He better quit dodging Dawson. If he’s a true great—like everyone says—he’d better get his butt in the ring with the Dawson kid and prove it or get out of the game for good!”

Frankie Gambino is old school. He doesn’t hold his punches and he doesn’t hold his tongue and when he has a little too much ‘Wild Turkey’ in him he can’t hold that either!

“Let’s forget Bernard Hopkins for a minute here,” I remind Gambino the ghost, “Chad’s got to get past Tarver first…”

“Of course,” Frankie cuts me off.

“But look at that Dawson kid,” Frankie continues, “He’s a physical specimen. Not an ounce of body-fat. He’s as fast, well…he’s as fast as you in a clinch.”

I am pretty fast; I have to agree without so much as a blush, because I am one horny hussy and that’s no secret. I kind of warm up to Frankie’s analogy and he’s right about Dawson too. We’re at the International MMA Fight Club on W. Spring Mountain in Las Vegas. Robert Chiodini—trainer extraordinaire—is prepping Chad for his fight at the Hard Rock on the 9th.

The gym is new and it’s home to prizefighters, mixed martial artists and civilians alike. It’s an impressive complex and home, not only to Chad Dawson, but also Elena ‘Baby Doll’ Reid, heavyweight contender Damien ‘Bollo’ Wills (fresh off a 2nd Round KO in San Diego), heavyweight Michael Grant, MMA star Ryan West, UFC star Greg Maynard, Ultimate Fighter Brian Humes and MMA maven Gina Carano (Frankie loves the Carano family and so do I—they run Reno’s ‘El Dorado’ and ‘Silver Legacy’ casinos).

And the in-house training staff? Forget about it. Top notch. You’ll find better nowhere else. Beside the aforementioned Chiodini, there’s Gil Martinez, Mark ‘The Hyena’ Beecher and seven-time Jiu-Jitsu Champ, Fred Paixao.
As impressive as that in-house staff of trainers, teachers and combatants is, it’s Chiodini and his prize pupil (Dawson) that really capture my imagination.

My pet beef with boxers is that they’ve always been as much fluff as fight—as much glitz as guts. And it’s nothing new. Frankie Gambino always laments on how Max Baer could have been a true great if he hadn’t spent so much time chasing skirt—trying to be the Bugsy Siegel of boxing.

In other words, fighters tend to train a month or two prior to a bout but otherwise treat their bodies like so much Dust Bowl dirt!

That’s why their weight so often balloons when they’re not in camp. There’s nothing worse than a pampered pug, making it ‘rain’ at strip clubs or, well, making movies like Antonio Tarver in ‘Rocky Balboa’!

“And don’t forget what happened to that Lewis character,” pipes in Frankie. “When he decided to become Jerry Lewis instead of Lennox Lewis and shot that Hollywood movie here in Vegas. He went from the matinee to the mat against a very average Hasim Rahman!”

You get the point. Unlike most other marquee athletes, boxers seem to get a pass. The off-season follows every bout—that’s not the case with Chiodini nor is it the case with Chad Dawson.

This kid works out three times a day! He runs four miles in a Turbo Vest. He hasn’t an ounce of body fat. He loves the gym and he loves the sport.

His father was a fighter. Instilled the passion in him. He’s something of an unknown despite the fact that he’s undefeated and has been a champion for two years! Bernard Hopkins seems to be dodging him. He can move up to cruiser or down to middleweight—his physical conditioning is so unlike any other big guy in the game.

Frankie Gambino calls them the ‘C & C Crew (Chad and Chiodini)’. He loves the vibe—the work ethic. The boys tell us that their goal is four fights a year; with training in between.

Young Rocco Santomauro (a top-ranked amateur who works in the gym) arrives. He leans against the ring canvas watching Dawson shadow box. I ask him if he has the same work ethic. He mentions that he’s still just an amateur. Dawson overhears him. Dawson says he held amateur titles himself and I think Rocco gets the point.
Chiodini confides that Dawson is a trainer’s dream-come-true. That you don’t have to find him—he’s eager and passionate and though he certainly wants the best things in life, he’s willing to work for them.

“Atta baby,” is how Frankie Gambino responds.

It’s Friday, May 1st. Tomorrow, ‘Pac-Man’ will face Ricky Hatton. Chiodini is jawing with Chad and (with a wink) he says Hatton is going to beat Manny. Chad doesn’t break his workout but he’s indignant. “Pacquiao will kill him!” he laughs, knowing his trainer is trying to get under his skin.

And of course, Chad Dawson would pick Pacquiao to clobber Ricky Hatton. He’s the ‘Pac-Man’ of his division. He’s the one with the multiple arsenals. The smaller-framed fighter. The gym rat. The one who listens to his trainer. The sweet scientist, as it were.

And of course, when I watched ‘Pac-Man’ destroy Hatton the following evening my first thought was of Chad and that infectious smile and that foregone conclusion laugh when he picked Manny.

Frankie Gambino bought a bottle of Tequila—‘Clase Azul’—just for the occasion. John King (the marketing whiz at the gym) told us that Chad’s only soft spot is a special penchant for the cactus concoction. That he (King), would love to shore up a tequila sponsor for their fighter.

And so Frankie Gambino pours shots for us—we raise our tumblers—“To the Daily Double,” Frankie toasts. And I know what he means. ‘Pac-Man’ on the 2nd of May and Chad Dawson on the 9th.

We’re half way there…

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