LOS ANGELES // Bernard Hopkins was stopped for the first time in his career in bizarre fashion last night, after he was unable to continue in his WBC light heavyweight title defence when Chad Dawson lifted him and tossed him to the canvas late in the second round.
Dawson (31-1, 18 KOs) claimed the belt from the 46 year old Hopkins (52-6-3) after the contentious decision from the referee Pat Russell deemed that Dawson had not fouled Hopkins.
When Hopkins leaned over the crouching Dawson after throwing an overhand right, Dawson lifted Hopkins off his feet before shrugging him onto the canvas. Hopkins landed roughly on his left shoulder.
Hopkins immediately clutched his left shoulder and grimaced in pain, unable to continue.
"They want me out of boxing, and this is one way to do it," Hopkins said. "Chad Dawson came in the ring tonight, and he just wanted to rough me up with dirty tactics. He wanted to get me out of there, and that was the only way he could."
After waiting nearly three years for a fight with Hopkins, Dawson was enraged when Hopkins stayed down on the ground, angrily taunting him and climbing on the ropes. When Russell waved off the fight, Dawson went over to Hopkins and motioned at him to get off his stool, repeatedly cursing at him.
"He jumped on me and was pulling me down, so I pushed him off with the shoulder," Dawson said. "B-Hop disappointed a lot of fans. I was looking forward to a good fight. I trained eight weeks for this. Yes, he was faking. This is a fight I wanted for three years, and Bernard obviously didn't want the fight."
"He keeps talking about Philly and being a gangster. He's no gangster. Gangsters don't quit. He's weak. He's a weak physically and mentally-minded person. He has no power."
Hopkins said he told Russell he would continue fighting "with one arm," but Russell waved off the fight and declared a TKO. Just like that, a long-awaited showdown between the ageless light heavyweight champion and his top young rival was over, enraging the lively Staples Center crowd.
"It was not a foul," Russell said. "It's a TKO. He could not continue because of an injury. No foul."
The result could be contested by Hopkins, and even California officials acknowledged the first TKO on Hopkins' record could soon be up for debate in a boardroom.
"He couldn't continue, so it's a TKO for now," said George Dodd, the California State Athletic Commission's executive officer. "At this time, that's the call."
The brief fight will be an absurd chapter in the remarkable midlife renaissance of Hopkins, who became the oldest man to win a significant world title last May with a victory over Jean Pascal, the only man who has beaten Dawson.
"He knew he wasn't in there with a 46 year old, because I was quicker and faster than him," Hopkins said. "That was a blatant foul, and it should be a no-contest, not a disqualification."
Hopkins has defied all conventional wisdom about athletes and ageing ever since his career appeared finished after two decision losses to Jermain Taylor in 2005, when Hopkins was just 40.
He won a light heavyweight title with a stunning upset of Antonio Tarver in 2006 to start a 6-1-1 streak over his previous eight fights, beating Winky Wright — Dawson's friend and training partner — along with Kelly Pavlik and Roy Jones junior
Dawson has been angling for a shot at Hopkins since shortly after winning his first world title four years ago, realising the fight could define his career — particularly if he could retire Hopkins with a stoppage victory.
Dawson got it, but not in a way anybody imagined.
"Let Bernard take his paycheck and refund it to everybody. We came to fight," said Gary Shaw, Dawson's promoter. "What I really feel is Bernard is old, and he gave it all he could for as long as he could. He beat Pascal, but there was no way he could have beaten Chad."
The undercard for the Hopkins-Dawson fight was highlighted by 52 year old Dewey Bozella's victory in his professional boxing debut after 26 years in prison.
Bozella spent 26 years in prison wrongfully convicted of murder before he was exonerated in 2009.
The New York native became the light heavyweight champion of Sing Sing while earning two university degrees behind bars.
Golden Boy Promotions fulfilled Bozella's dream by putting him on the undercard. His victory brought the crowd to its feet.
Bozella battered the winless Larry Hopkins throughout the second half of their four-round cruiserweight fight. Hopkins also lost points for spitting out his mouthpiece six times in the final round, apparently exhausted and unable to match Bozella's conditioning.
"I used to lay in my cell and dream about this happening," Bozella said. "It was all worth it. It was my dream come true.
"This was my first and last fight. It's a young man's game. I did what I wanted to do, and I'm happy. I appreciate everybody that made this possible. This has been one of the greatest experiences of my life."
Bozella was convicted of killing 92 year old Emma Crapser on her way home after a night out playing bingo. He maintained his innocence throughout a quarter-century in prison, even turning down a plea-bargain offer in 1990 that would have required admitting guilt, until his conviction was overturned.
Bozella's story attracted the attention of Oscar De La Hoya and his business associates, who arranged for Bozella to fight in Los Angeles after he passed the California State Athletic Commission's fitness requirements.
Although the crowd loved Bozella's fight, he hopes to spend his life training fighters in Newburgh, New York.
"I'm going to concentrate on the Dewey Bozella Foundation, which really means opening a gym in my town," he said. "Because there are no gyms, and I'd like to see kids who are on the street have something productive to do. No more fighting for me."
Elsewhere on the undercard, Antonio DeMarco broke Jorge Linares' nose and eventually stopped him in the 11th round of a bloody bout, rallying late to claim the WBC lightweight title.
Danny Garcia beat Kendall Holt to remain unbeaten with a split-decision victory in his light welterweight bout.
Former champion Paulie Malignaggi won his third straight fight since being stopped by Amir Khan last year, claiming an unanimous decision over welterweight Orlando Lora.