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Chad Dawson Adds Some Punch To Road Race Field

Former WBC light heavyweight champion boxer Chad Dawson running in New Haven

HAMDEN — Former WBC light heavyweight champion boxer Chad Dawson is on the comeback trail.

But he's starting with a road race, not a fight.

Dawson, 33, of Hamden had shoulder surgery last November after suffering ligament damage in his last fight. He started running again to stay in shape and one day, as he was running with Michael Dolan, a lawyer who has known Dawson since he was 13, Dolan suggested he try to run the Faxon Law New Haven 20K road race.

"I said, 'OK, I'll try it,'" Dawson said. "When he told me about it, I thought it was some fun thing. Now I see that it's really competitive. I didn't think it was so big."

The 20K, which starts at 8:40 a.m. Monday on the New Haven Green, is the USATF national championship for the distance. Seven Olympians, including last year's women's winner Molly Huddle, two-time winners Matt Tegenkamp and Abdi Abdirahman and current 20K American record holder Dathan Ritzenhein, will be there. About 6,000 runners are expected to compete in the 20K and 5K races.

Dawson has run for years as part of getting in shape for fights but has never run in a road race before. Ever competitive, he'd like to see how he matches up with some of the better runners.

"I'm going to do my best," he said. "But I've got to pace myself. I got to be smart about this."

In 2012, Dawson won the WBC light heavyweight championship with a victory over Bernard Hopkins. But he has lost three of his last four fights, including a 10-round split decision to Tommy Karpency at Foxwoods last October.

During that fight, Dawson tore ligaments in his shoulder (fighting one-handed for part of it), and he had surgery to repair the damage in November. He's been on the comeback trail since.

"This is a little motivation," he said of the road race. "Something to boost my spirits, something to get back to being in competition."

While training for fights in the past, Dawson had run between 3 and 6 miles at a time but usually not more than that. Now he will race 12.4 miles.

He trains with Dolan, who is a member of the board of directors for the race.

"We'll start together," said Dolan, who ran at West Point and whose fastest time at New Haven is 1 hour, 12 minutes. "We're probably pretty evenly matched right now. I think Chad is a little faster than me, so he may lose me that last mile. I've run this race a lot. I think I'd be a good barometer for him the first 5 or 6 miles."

"I think he's being modest," Dawson said. "I think it's even."

They laughed.

"We're going to hold hands when we cross the finish line," Dolan said.

They laughed again.

When Dawson would start to get into shape for a fight in the past — say he'd have to drop from 215 pounds to 180 — he would run. Now he's already in shape, weighing in at 183. So if a call comes for a fight, he would be ready to start training.

"Two years ago, in Vegas, I was running every day, trying to drop [down from] 215 pounds," Dawson said. "I was killing myself. I was burning more muscle than fat. Now I'm doing it the right way.

"I'm a lot further along. I'm used to going into training camp not in tiptop shape, but in decent shape. Now I'm in really good shape, as opposed to getting there and not being able to spar because I got to get myself in decent shape. I plan on keeping this up for the rest of my career. Boxers, as we get older, the young guys like to train hard, but as you get older, you have to train smarter, not harder."

Dawson, who graduated from Hillhouse High in New Haven in 2000, said that while he doesn't have a fight lined up, he could get a call any day and could fight as soon as January.

His wife and four boys will be on the Green Monday, watching him and cheering for him. His 12-year-old wanted to run with him. Next year, Dawson told him.

"He'll be running competitively, but I think it will be a nice little tour of New Haven for him," Dolan said of Dawson. "The community will recognize him out there."

"Being in the competition, it's like being in competition in a fight," Dawson said. "Especially if I finish it and finish good, that will be a big boost. I'm looking forward to that."

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