Dawson leans on Scully to prepare for Hopkins
The spotlight is about to shine a lot brighter upon John Scully. The scrutiny will be significantly more intense.
Training an elite fighter in a high-profile match is always a challenge, but to do so while succeeding one of the legendary coaches in boxing history can produce plenty of sleepless nights.
Scully, though, is sleeping just fine, thank you, and isn't keeping the bottle of antacid tablets on the nightstand. A little more than a week away from the biggest night of his professional life, Scully can't wait for the world to see what he's been up to.
Scully has been hidden away in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, preparing Chad Dawson for his light heavyweight title bout against Bernard Hopkins on Oct. 15 on HBO Pay-Per-View at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Hopkins is one of the sport's legends and is trained by Naazim Richardson, widely acknowledged as one of the game's finest.
Dawson was trained his last time out by Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, who was brought in following Dawson's surprising Aug. 14, 2010, loss in Montreal to Jean Pascal. Dawson is clearly a major talent, but he hadn't looked like himself since drubbing Antonio Tarver in Las Vegas on May 9, 2009.
And while he's not going to get elected to the International Boxing Hall of Fame solely on the basis of his performance against Adrian Diaconu in May, Steward's influence was clearly seen. Dawson was in better shape, more motivated to fight and seemed to adapt easily to Steward's teaching.
Dawson, though, can be mercurial, which is probably why he's been through a string of top trainers, including Floyd Mayweather Sr., Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and Steward, among others.
Scully, who trained Dawson for three fights in 2004 and 2005, had heard all the stories about how Dawson was recalcitrant and indifferent in training. He never saw that side of Dawson before, and swears he hasn't seen it since he was rehired.
"I've never seen that side of him, ever," Scully said. "Is it there? Who knows? People talk about that, but I haven't seen it. Whatever problems he had with anyone else, being hard to deal with, not training, not working, I didn't see it. The first day, I was curious. He became a big star after he left me and became famous and all that and I kind of wondered whether he'd think he was above me in a sense, and not listen."
Scully, 44, was shocked by what he saw. Not only did Dawson work at a blistering pace in that first workout, he paid attention and asked questions. He was, in all respects, a model student.
Scully watched a tape of Dawson at his best and noticed a combination he threw that was very effective, a hook to the head followed by a hook to the body.
"That's a devastating combination and James Toney taught it to me," Scully said. "It's a combination I've always liked and always felt was very effective. So I talked to Chad and I said, ‘Where did you get that move?' And he smiled and he said, ‘You taught it to me.' That was kind of funny, but he's shown the entire time we've been in camp that he's open to learning and working on things he needs to work on."
Dawson said he feels comfortable with Scully and wanted to get back to being the fighter he was in those days. He is only 29 and is still one of the most physically gifted fighters in the world, though it's been a while since he's performed to that level on a consistent basis.
He knew in taking the fight against Hopkins that he it would require him to be on top of his game in all areas. The more he thought about it, the more he became convinced that Scully, who isn't an internationally known trainer, was the better fit than Steward, the high-profile Hall of Famer.
"I'm open to learning," Dawson said. "And one thing about me, I love to learn. I feel like if I'm not learning anything from a trainer, I feel like it's time for me to go. So not knocking any of my past trainers or anything like that, but working with Scully – just thinking about working with Scully back in the day – that's when I was the happiest. I was learning. I was stopping guys. I was knocking guys out.
"So I felt like in order for me to be myself again and go back to knocking guys out and showing guys what I'm made of, I had to go back to my old roots, and that was John Scully. And since we've been in camp, I've learned so much, and I've picked up so much. Like he said, it's like we picked up right where we left off. And if you ask me, I regret ever parting with Scully. I regretted that for a long time. I got a chance to work with some great trainers, Floyd Sr., and Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and other guys like that. But this is where I feel more comfortable. I feel more comfortable with Scully."
Scully, who was 38-11 in a career that spanned 1988-2001, has never coached a thoroughbred like Dawson, though he's had plenty of good fighters, including former super welterweight champion Jose Rivera, cruiserweight Matt Godfrey and featherweight Mike Oliver.
He's got the goods as a trainer, but most importantly in preparing a fighter to face Hopkins, he understands people. He's an easy-going guy and isn't bothered by what anyone else thinks.
"I understand the nature of people, and I know that it can get pretty vicious at times," Scully said. "Just read any boxing message board and you'll see how nasty, how vicious it gets. Everybody talks and everybody's a tough guy when they're on their computer at home. But it's not just boxing. You read it on the Internet and people think they know Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan. That's just the way the world is now.
"I know what to do to get Chad ready for this fight. And I know I've done a good job and that I'll do the right thing for him the night of the fight. I'm content with that. I don't need the spotlight and I don't need anyone telling me how great I am. I just want my fighter to perform and do well. And if he does well, I know I did my job. I'll be happy with that."