Bernard Hopkins grimaces after being pushed out of the ring by Chad Dawson in the second round of their fight. (Photo: AP Photo/Jae Hong)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Bernard Hopkins was stopped for the first time in his career in bizarre fashion Saturday night when Chad Dawson lifted him and tossed him to the canvas late in the second round, leaving the 46-year-old champion unable to continue.
Dawson (31-1, 18 KOs) claimed the WBC light heavyweight title from Hopkins (52-6-3), but both fighters were left furious when referee Pat Russell ruled Dawson hadn't fouled Hopkins.
"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."
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, his head poking underneath the bottom rope, and might have glanced off the ringside table.
Hopkins immediately clutched his left shoulder and grimaced in pain, apparently unable to continue. Russell declared a TKO — and just like that, a long-awaited showdown between the ageless light heavyweight champion and his top young rival was over, infuriating 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."
After waiting a half-decade for a fight with Hopkins, Dawson was enraged when Hopkins stayed down on the ground, angrily taunted 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.
"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."
The result seems likely to be contested by Hopkins. Even California officials acknowledged the first TKO on Hopkins' record could be erased on appeal.
"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."