Hopkins gestured toward the pro-B-Hop crowd and they cheered their champ to end the ninth. But down on the scorecard, Hopkins needed a sizzling final three rounds to retain the title.
He didn't get it.
Dawson held the WBC and IBF versions of the light heavyweight title before. He'd like to make the first defense of this new reign against Andre Ward.
But that's for another day.
"Let the man enjoy his championship," Hopkins said of Dawson. "Hopefully he can defend it for a long time the way I defended mine."
In the co-main event, Seth Mitchell (25-0-1, 18 KOs) beat Philadelphia's Chazz Witherspoon via third-round TKO to win the vacant NABO heavyweight title.
Mitchell was clobbered in the first round before rebounding in the next two. He knocked down Witherspoon in the third then slugged him against the ropes before the match was stopped 2:31 in the third.
Mitchell used a flurry of body shots to hurt Witherspoon (30-3) in a wildly entertaining heavyweight bout in the same arena where Mike Tyson made a home as heavyweight champ.
"I knew he was coming to fight," Mitchell said. "I'm going to be honest, I was a little nervous for the fight."
It showed in the opening round. But he must have had the nerves punched out of him because he made a nice recovery to put away Witherspoon. Mitchell outlanded Witherspoon 51-11 in power shots in the second and third rounds after the Philly fighter held a 24-7 edge in the first round.
"I got a little excited after I had him hurt," Witherspoon said. "I never got back to fighting smart."
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