Adamek-Cunningham II: Sweet, then sour

December, 22, 2012
12/22/12
8:05
PM ET
Steve Cunningham got robbed on Saturday.

There, I said it. And I won't be convinced otherwise.

Why? Because the decision of the judges to award Saturday's heavyweight bout in Bethlehem, Pa., to Tomasz Adamek was, simply, wrong. Was it as egregious as the theft some say was dealt to Manny Pacquiao at the hands of Timothy Bradley Jr.? Perhaps not. But it was a decision that was shared by a small minority -- a minority of two, namely the judges who tabulated their confusing numbers and awarded Adamek a bewildering split decision.

For Cunningham, there was nothing but tears after his fistic mistrial, while for Adamek this must have been the most unexpected of gifts for the holiday season.

But it's a result that is likely to leave more than just a bitter taste in the mouths of those who watched it. Instead, the residue of this fight will be a plethora of questions with little hope of any forthcoming answers.

For the second network-televised fight in as many weeks -- the first in more than a decade -- any person who tuned in would undoubtedly have been thrilled and entertained. Amid the ritual and seemingly endless hullabaloo surrounding boxing's questionable officiating, one thing must not be forgotten: This was a great fight.

Adamek is routinely half of a great scrap whenever he climbs through the ropes, while Cunningham played a perfect matador to Adamek's aged bull in a rematch of a dazzling 2008 battle. But when the fight was over, any fan who let out a "Wow!" at the final bell must have uttered another word when the final scores were announced: "Why?"

Seriously. Why?

Why was the fight awarded to the fighter who consumed jabs all evening in the most gluttonous of fashions? Why is the winner the man whose defense deteriorated from being merely negligent to nonexistent as the rounds wore on? Why is the loser the fighter who gradually was able to time his opponent's jab like a bejeweled Swiss watch? Why does boxing always find a way to trip over itself, even when presented with the golden opportunity of strutting down a red carpet rolled out so lovingly by network television for the first time in epochs?

Saturday night is unlikely to have deterred the dedicated fans of the bittersweet science in any way. After all, they've seen worse. How sad.

But to the casual fans who enjoyed feasting on the passionate and physical encounter put on by Adamek and Cunningham, both of whom are blameless in this situation, how could they not be turned off by the result? Well done, NBC, for giving boxing a shot. Credit to Adamek and Cunningham for delivering on the promise of thrills. But last -- and not least -- credit (if that's what it can be called) must go to the judges for ruining all of these things for the rest of us.

Saturday's result reaffirmed one thing: Boxing can be the most delicious of apples. But too often, you devour it only to find a worm burrowing inside. And the trouble is, you'll always remember the worm.

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