By JACK McCAFFERY
ATLANTIC CITY --- The long, entertaining, historic career of Bernard Hopkins turned wobbly late Saturday night in the Boardwalk Hall when the North Philadelphia champion lost a majority decision to Chad Dawson.
In his second fight with Dawson since October, the North Philadelphia light-heavyweight showed willingness but lacked punching power at age 47.
Hopkins fell to 52-6-2. Dawson, of New Haven, Conn., improved to 31-1.
Their previous fight was stopped in the second round when Hopkins suffered a separated shoulder. The fight was ruled a no-contest, setting up the rematch for the Ring Magazine and WBC light heavyweight championship.
Two judges scored the rematch, 117-111, 117-111 in favor of Dawson. A third scored a 114-114 draw, drawing boos. The Daily Times favored Dawson, 118-112, awarding Hopkins the third and fourth rounds.
Said Hopkins: "What did he do to win that fight?" He added, "Let the public judge for themselves."
Hopkins stayed competitive early when he was able to work in tight. But Dawson, 29, found his range in mid-fight and his reach was too much for Hopkins to overcome.
"It feels good," Dawson said. "He is a great fighter. I will say one thing: Bernard Hopkins is a heck of a fighter. He fought his heart out. He is a great fighter."
Dawson built up a big lead, frustrating Hopkins, who hadn't won a fight by a knockout since 2004. At one point in the 11th round, Hopkins tackled Dawson. By the 12th, he was content to try to push Dawson into a corner.
Earlier, Dawson suffered a major cut over his left eye as the result of what referee Eddie Cotton ruled an "accidental" Hopkins head-butt.
In the semi-windup, heralded Seth Mitchell of Brandywine, Md., scored a TKO over Philly's Chazz Witherspoon at 2:31 of the third to win the vacant NABO heavyweight championship.
Mitchell improved to 25-0-1 with his 19th knockout, recovering from a fast start by Witherspoon in the first round. Witherspoon dipped to 30-3.
"I got a little excited after I had him hurting," Witherspoon said. "I never got back to fighting smart. He dealt with adversity great. I was fighting a stupid fight after I got him hurt. I was just looking for the knockout."
A left jab set Witherspoon up and Mitchell followed with a devastating right, prompting Randy Neumann to stop the fight.
"We have to sit back and see where we go from here," Mitchell said. "I believe we have something set up for September."