Analyzing Saturday night's HBO-televised bout between champion Bernard Hopkins and challenger Chad Dawson for the WBC and The Ring magazine light-heavyweight titles.

AGENDA

When: Saturday, 9 p.m.

Where: Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City

At stake: Hopkins' WBC and The Ring magazine light-heavyweight titles.

TV: HBO

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BERNARD HOPKINS

Hometown: Philadelphia

Age: 47

Record: 52-5-2, 32 KOs (2 NC)

Height: 6-1

Weight: 175 pounds (prior to Friday's weigh-in)

Reach: 75 inches

KO Pct.: 52.5%

Rounds boxed/average: 446/7.3

KOs in first four rounds: 18 (last: 1996)

World title fights: 21-3-2, 13 KOs (2 NC)

Turned pro: 1988

Fights in Atlantic City: 15-1, 8 KOs

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CHAD DAWSON

Hometown: New Haven, Conn.

Age: 29

Record: 30-1, 17 KOs (1 NC)

Height: 6-1

Weight: 175 pounds (prior to Friday's weigh-in)

Reach: 76.5 inches

KO Pct.: 51.5%

Rounds boxed/average: 207/6.3

KOs in first four rounds: 12 (last: 2007)

World title fights: 7-1, 2 KOs (1 NC)

Turned pro: 2001

Fights in Atlantic City: 0

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STRENGTHS

HOPKINS: In a 24-year professional career of banging for bucks, "The Executioner" has never been on the wrong side of a major beatdown. It is a testament to his ring smarts, exceptional conditioning and superb defense that only one of his five official defeats, way back in 1993 in his first pairing with Roy Jones Jr., could be described as indisputable. Even then, Hopkins did not absorb copious amounts of punishment. B-Hop has a remarkably low odometer reading for a 47-year-old whose resume includes virtually every big name in his weight class, which accounts for a longevity that defies convention. He truly is one of a kind, an obstinate dinosaur who keeps refusing to allow his extinction.

DAWSON: He's taller than Hopkins, with a longer reach. His right jab is active and accurate, and he is a harder puncher than a lot of people give him credit for. No, "Bad" Chad isn't much of a risk-taker, but he fights under control, knows when to let it go and when to dial it back. Maybe most of all, he believes he was on his way to a convincing victory over Hopkins when their first bout ended, controversially, in the second round when the old champ suffered an injury to his left shoulder after being tossed to the canvas. Unlike other Hopkins opponents who insist they were immune to the Philadelphian's mind games, but weren't, Dawson's sense of self-assurance seems legitimate enough.

WEAKNESSES

HOPKINS: They say the last thing a fighter loses is his punching power, but then Hopkins hasn't showcased his in quite a spell. His last knockout victory, on a left hook to the body in a middleweight title defense against Oscar De La Hoya, came on Sept. 18, 2004. That's a span of 12 fights (including the no-decision in his first meeting with Dawson) over 7½ years. Not overly worried that he can still turn a bout with a single blow, opponents increasingly dare to believe they can outwork the age-resistant marvel in the hope that one of these days, he will dip into his trick bag and find that it's finally empty. A slow starter who tends to marshal his resources, B-Hop can't afford to give away too many early rounds this time.

DAWSON: You say that Hopkins is a southpaw slayer, with a 10-1 record against lefthanded opponents, the sole defeat coming on a disputed split decision against Joe Calzaghe? And that he's 15-1 in all bouts in Atlantic City, including a 5-0 mark in his home-away-from-home, Boardwalk Hall? Well, some might say that gives B-Hop an advantage over Dawson, who hails from Hartford, Conn., and will be fighting for the first time in AC. Neither man is publicly stating that the champion's familiarity with the city and the venue gives him an edge, but judges are human and this is apt to be a pro-Hopkins crowd. That could prove the difference in a close fight that goes to the scorecards.

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THE PICK

Even Nolan Ryan lost some zip on his fastball in his mid-40s. If advancing years are the most fearsome enemy of all middle-aged athletes, that is especially so of fighters, who pay a stiffer price for hanging on than those in other sports. The smart pick is Dawson, but my gut tells me B-Hop has the right plan to pull another shocker, by split decision.