Boxing: Tomasz Adamek

Steve Cunningham fights for family

December, 13, 2013
After a fighter dies, or is rendered brain damaged, there is the inevitable blowback. "Boxing should be abolished," some say. It happened after Russian heavyweight Magomed Abdusalamov suffered brain damage and was comatose following his Nov. 2 fight against Mike Perez at the Madison Square Garden Theater in NYC.

Those crusaders don't consider two things. First, fighters need to compete at an extreme level and aren't built, mentally or physically, like them. Second, boxing exists as a rare path to prosperity. This world contains fewer and fewer such avenues, as technology replaces the need for many jobs.

Crusaders against the sport don't consider people like Steve Cunningham, a 37-year-old former cruiserweight champion who gloves up Saturday in a heavyweight tussle against Manuel Quezada, a scrap promoted by Main Events to run on NBC Sports Network. Cunningham (25-6, 12 KOs) has lost back-to-back fights against Tomasz Adamek (SD) and Tyson Fury (KO7).

The do-gooders don't consider that, without the structure of the sport and the opportunities afforded by it, Cunningham, or thousands of men like him, would not have been able to shrug off the temptation of the streets and the black-market hustle that, while remunerative, is inevitably a dead-end endeavor. They don't consider that men like Cunningham wish to test themselves to a degree that us regular folks can't fathom. Cunningham wants -- and needs -- to fight men considered bigger, stronger and better than him, to prove doubters wrong.

I chatted with the boxer and got the lowdown on the 36-year-old Quezada (29-7, 18 KOs with three straight losses), his future plans and maybe the largest single reason he puts his life on the line for our entertainment.

"Quezada is a natural heavyweight, normal sized, and has been in with some opponents I'm looking to fight," said the also "normal-sized" heavyweight. "He's a good measuring stick for me, and I want to look impressive. It's not just about winning."

No, it wouldn't be, not when he has daughter Kennedy, age 8, on his mind. Cunningham and family just learned that Kennedy will need a heart transplant instead of corrective surgery. Steve and wife Livvy went online, joined a Facebook group and are feeling optimistic about Kennedy's chances to get a transplant -- and thrive.

It can't go without saying that if Cunningham beats Quezada, gets back on the winning track and gets a title crack against a Klitschko down the line, it would take the load off the family financially. When Kennedy gets her transplant, the family will need to move to a house in Philly more suitable for her condition, so Cunningham knows this is a must win.

"I want to get this money, to move and also become a world champ again," he said.

While he grinds to provide for his family, he hears from people who think his sport, his path to prosperity and financial security, should be abolished. In fact, he heard it from a doctor who was assessing him for his pre-fight medical examination.

"This guy is telling me to stop boxing," Cunningham said. "And I'm thinking to myself, 'Is this guy really saying this?'"

He was, and they will. And usually it is from people who are secure and have no concept of the dearth of opportunities available to the masses. I don't know about you, but on Saturday night, I'll put journalistic integrity aside (I'm only human) and root for Steve Cunningham, little Kennedy and all the good souls who are lifted up by the sport, which elevates far more than it drags down.
Talk to old-timers, and they'll lament on how it used to be. Boxing was on every Friday night, and the whole family used to crowd around the tube and watch bouts, they say.

There hasn't been as much crowding around the tube in the last decade, with boxing being largely absent from network TV, but that trend seems to be reversing. On Dec. 22, NBC ran the Steve Cunningham-Tomasz Adamek heavyweight scrap, put on by promoter Main Events, and fight fans -- and I count myself among them -- rooted for the numbers to come in strong. The numbers are in, and they look good. A source tells us the NBC Fight Night showing did a 1.2 rating, and a 3 share, with 1.6 million folks tuning in to watch, on average, during the event. Perhaps the standout stat from the presentation? At peak viewing time, over 4 million persons tuned in to the bout. I do believe that could be the most viewers for a boxing match this year...

Kathy Duva, who heads up Main Events, told NYFightblog she was "very pleased" with the ratings. This comes on the heels of a Golden Boy bout which ran on CBS that produced similar numbers.

The NBC scrap had a controversial ending, with the Polish heavyweight Adamek leaving the ring at the Sands in Bethlehem, Pa. a split decision winner over the Philadelphian Cunningham, who seemed to get the nod from a majority of viewers who weren't official scorers. The people I watched with, most of whom hadn't seen a fight on a network since the Ali era, were attentive, and seemed to accept that iffy decisions were part of the sport.

Adamek stops Walker in Newark

September, 8, 2012
Tomasz Adamek had to work his tail off, and even get off the deck, to win in Newark, N.J., on Saturday afternoon.

The Polish fighter was sent to the deck by 33-year-old American Travis Walker in Round 2 at the Prudential Center, but Adamek returned the favor at the end of the same round, which should get some love as a Round of the Year candidate.

The ref didn't hear the bell and the action ran about 10 seconds long. Adamek got the better of it in the third, but the underdog landed his share as well.

It got crazy again in the fifth, when Adamek (46-3) stunned Walker (39-7-1) and his finishing instinct kicked in. He hurled a bunch of punches, backed him up, and the ref had to step in to save the challenger with 1:50 left in the round. About 25 shots were thrown, and most of them landed, in the climactic portion of the clash.

Not sure where Adamek, 35, goes next. No one will clamor for him to get another crack at a Klitschko -- not after Vitali battered him last September, finishing him in the 10th. We can see him giving problems to beltholder Alexander Povetkin, who we assume will get past challenger Hasim Rahman on Sept. 29 in Germany.

Walker a far stiffer test for Adamek

August, 22, 2012
Tomasz Adamek is a heavy-duty draw in New Jersey, his second homeland, and the pole will once again glove up at the Prudential Center in front of rabid rooters on Sept. 8 (2 p.m. start time).

A couple months ago, it looked like he'd be meeting the beyond-grizzled vet James Toney in a heavyweight clash. But that trial balloon crashed, so Travis Walker will get the assignment instead.

Russell Peltz, the promoter who works as matchmaker and advisor to Main Events. On Sept. 30, he will celebrate 43 years in the business. Peltz is happy that Toney won't be part of the card. "I thanked my lucky stars when the Toney-Adamek fight fell out," said the Philadelphian Peltz, who entered the Hall of Fame in 2004. The Jersey Commission, Peltz said, initially gave a thumbs up to Toney, who turns 44 on Friday, and hasn't definitively won a meaningful scrap since 2003, but then back-tracked. "Thank God," Peltz cracked. Pundits savaged an Adamek-Toney tussle, and voila, we get Walker, a 33-year-old Floridian who is coming off a decent win (TKO6), against Kali Meehan in March. "Even if Toney could hang some with Adamek, I don't think he should be fighting at all. Where will the people who gave him a license be in 20 years, when he has deteriorated? I feel the same way about Roy Jones. If they're going to get licensed, let it be on someone elses' show."

Peltz says that Walker will press Adamek (46-2 with 28 KOs; turns 36 in December; ex light heavy champ) , and that pair will put on a better show than Adamek did against Eddie Chambers, back at the Pru on June 16.

Adamek won a UD12, in a fight I could have seen going to Chambers, who fought almost the whole fight with a useless left arm after tearing his bicep in round one. "With the beating Adamek took against Vitali Klitschko in September 2011, maybe he's not the same. Walker is talking good. And it's a better fight than people think," Peltz said.

I agree. Just because Walker (39-7-1) has seven losses on his ledger, that doesn't mean he isn't of a decent caliber. (Don't get Peltz started on know-nothing TV execs who, in years past, have cautioned him not to use this guy or that because he has a few losses on his resume.)

I asked Peltz about the longer-term plan for Adamek. Is he aiming for a another Klitschko fight? "Well, that's where the money is," he said. "I guess it depends on how long the Klitschkos stick around. If he does [fight Klitschko], I hope he has a better fight plan. To fight him from the outside is insane. First, he has to get by Walker."

Adamek beats Chambers in Jersey

June, 17, 2012
His record won't indicate it, but June 16, 2012 was and will be one of the best professional nights of Eddie Chambers' life.

The Philadelphia heavyweight lost to Tomasz Adamek in the main event at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on a card televised by NBC's cable sports channel. But he did so with just one good arm, as he seemed to tear something in his left when throwing a hook in the first. With 34 seconds left in the start-up frame, his left was rendered useless -- he threw, missed and twice looked down at the crippled wing -- and he fought Poland's Adamek with one arm the rest of the way. The fight was a tight one, but the judges -- not being the sentimental sorts that I am -- gave Adamek the nod, by scores of 116-112 (twice), 119-109.

Adamek, 35, threw more but landed less. He went 134-919, as Chambers' elusiveness proved hard to handle over the whole 12. Chambers, 30, went 152-462, and this decision once again cements, as if it wasn't already glaringly apparent, that judges love the guy who punches more. Adamek threw more than Chambers and won. Timothy Bradley Jr. threw more than Manny Pacquiao last week and "won."

Now, I could be wrong -- and someone please alert me if I just missed this -- but it looked to me like Adamek's corner never picked up on the fact that Chambers didn't use his left hand at all after the first. Maybe trainer Roger Bloodworth did tell Adamek (now 46-2, 28 KOs) of this development and I missed it. If not, it goes to show you that even a wise hand like the vet Bloodworth can miss a big ol' thing in the haze of battle. Chambers dropped to 36-3 (18 KOs), but there was no shame in his game in Jersey on this night.

N.J. fight could mean green for winner

June, 14, 2012
Being green is hot the world over right now, even in the oftentimes backward world of boxing, where there is a sometimes perverse pride in being "old school." The Klitschko brothers have had their way in the heavyweight division for so long, we've reached a point where they are recycling opponents.

Because there is a paucity of heavyweight contenders, fighters can find themselves losing to a Klitschko, and if they bide their time and accumulate a few wins, after a couple years, they can secure another crack at one of the Brothers K. Little brother Wladimir is going green on July 7 in Switzerland, where he will defend his WBA, WBO and IBF crowns against Tony Thompson. He already defended against Thompson, a D.C. resident, back in July 2008, snagging a 11th-round knockout win.

It's hard to see what the 40-year-old Thompson could do to fashion a different, better outcome, save for the younger man turning old in the ring that night. But hope, and the quest for meaningful paydays, springs eternal in the fight game. So Thompson will look to get it done this time.

Meanwhile, two veteran heavyweights will gun for green, to enter the recycling track, on Saturday night in Newark, N.J. Tomasz Adamek will take on Eddie Chambers, and the winner will move a step closer to another go at a Klitschko. Adamek is the favorite in the scrap, which will unfold at the Prudential Center, and be televised on NBC's cable sports channel.

Adamek (45-2, 28 KOs), 35, of Poland, lost by 10th-round TKO to big bro Vitali last September, and bounced back with a win over Nagy Aguilera in March on another "Fight Night" card. Chambers has been out of the ring -- two fights were scrapped because he was injured -- since 12-round decision win over Deric Rossy in February 2011. At age 30, he would seem to have more upside than Adamek. So if he were to win, get some love from a sanctioning body and elevate to the top of the rankings heap, he could conceivably do better than he did in March 2010, when he was stopped by Wladimir in the 12th round in Dusseldorf.

"I know I am not the favorite versus Adamek," said Chambers (36-2, 18 KOs), of Philadelphia. "I'm definitely going to be the underdog. For the most part, most boxing people think that after spending a year and a half off I'm not going to be able to do it. But I have to, and I will.

"A win against Adamek is a huge step in the right direction for me. Being that I've been off for so long, to come right back and win would show what kind of fighter I am and can be. At that point, I will get a lot more respect and I'll get put in a position for a title very soon.

"Adamek is in a position for title contention at this point, so I think a win for me would put me right in his spot. My career has always been that I have to fight everybody, right back to back, so I'd rather just beat the best and get them out of the way."

Check back for more from Chambers.

Adamek gets UD over Aguilera

March, 26, 2012
Tomasz Adamek is undersized as far as heavyweights go, but hey, this is where the money is. He met another undersized fighter, Nagy Aguilera, at the Aviator on Saturday and won handily on the cards: 99-91, 100-90, 100-90, drawing robust cheers from his rooters, who comprised a good 60% of the house.

Aguilera is himself fighting out his class; he looks like he could make light heavy if he put his mind to it. But that said, he earned his check. Both his eyes were swollen and he was cut on the right eye, but he kept chugging forward, landing the odd power right. Adamek is 35, but it looks like the drubbing he absorbed from Vitali Klitschko in a TKO10 loss last fall didn't drain him. He jabbed with pep, moved the whole ten rounds, and keeps his hopes alive for another title shot. It'd help if the Klitschkos both exit the sport ASAP, of course.