- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Almost four years to the day from when they met in an epic cruiserweight world championship fight, Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham are going to meet again, this time as heavyweights.
They will fight in a scheduled 12-rounder on Dec. 22 at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., in a bout that will return live boxing to network television for the first time in several years. The bout will headline a card that will air beginning at 4 p.m. ET on NBC as part of the deal Main Events has as the exclusive promoter of boxing events on NBC Sports Net's "Fight Night" series.
Adamek claimed the cruiserweight title in the first meeting on Dec. 11, 2008, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., by winning a split decision in a brutal slugfest. He scored three knockdowns, dropping Cunningham in the second, fourth and eight rounds, but Cunningham dished out tremendous punishment of his own against Adamek to keep it close.
"This is a chance for Cunningham to have a rematch with me. The first time we fought there (were knockdowns) and it was a very exciting fight. The fans loved it," Adamek said. "I think this is going to be a very exciting fight for our fans again. I am ready for a tough fight. I love a tough fight because after every big fight I have more fans. I am looking forward to this fight with Cunningham. It has been my dream to be the champion of the world and this is important to me. I will be ready."
Main Events chief executive Kathy Duva knows she has another potential slugfest on her hands, which she told ESPN.com she was thinking about after watching Saturday night's tremendous action battle between junior welterweights Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, which many have declared as a lock for fight of the year honors.
"I kept thinking after watching that amazing fight on Saturday night with Rios and Alvarado that you're not going to be able to fill out your ballots for fight of the year until the year truly is over," Duva said. "Let's see what Adamek and Cunningham do in the rematch. We're really excited about the fight and both fighters are excited about it.
"It's going to be a great fight. We know that. We saw it once."
Many called for an immediate rematch after the 2008 fight, but Adamek (47-2, 29 KOs), 35, a native of Poland living in New Jersey, instead went on to make two defenses against other opponents before vacating the title and moving up to heavyweight in 2009. He eventually became a top contender but was dominated and stopped in the 10th round in a world title fight against Vitali Klitschko in September 2011.
Adamek, who has won three fights since the loss to Klitschko, was supposed to fight 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist and former world title challenger Odlanier Solis -- also a Klitschko victim -- on Dec. 22.
However, after Solis agreed to terms, he did not sign the contract and missed multiple deadlines to do so, Duva said. At that point, the fight was offered to Cunningham (25-4, 12 KOs).
"(Solis) had a new adviser and was no longer willing to fight under the terms we thought we had agreed to," Duva said. "We went back and forth for a week and half trying to sort it out. I told them that we needed an answer by (last) Friday. By the end of the day, they said they weren't willing to fight under the terms. We waited until Monday just to give them a little more time, but they still wouldn't fight under the terms, so we offered the fight to Cunningham, and the fight was made in a couple of hours."
Duva said that after Cunningham accepted the fight, Solis' representative came back to her and also accepted the fight, but she said it was too late.
Two fights after Cunningham lost to Adamek, he reclaimed a title by stopping Troy Ross on a cut in the fifth round in 2010. He made one defense before losing the belt by controversial sixth-round technical decision to Yoan Pablo Hernandez last October. Cunningham also lost a unanimous decision in the February rematch.
Cunningham's contract with promoter Sauerland Event expired and he decided to move up to heavyweight and signed with Main Events in July. One of the first things he asked when he signed with Duva was if he could have a rematch with Adamek, whom Main Events has co-promoted with Ziggy Promotions for several years.
"When he came to us he asked us to make the fight. We said of course we would," Duva said. "I think it was just a matter of time. This rematch was always out there and would always be interesting."
Cunningham, 36, of Philadelphia, made his heavyweight debut on Sept. 8 on an Adamek undercard and rolled to a 10-round unanimous decision win against Jason Gavern. He hoped it would lead to a rematch with Adamek and it has, even if sooner than expected.
"This is a fight my team and I have wanted since the first one," Cunningham said. "Adamek and I have been on two different paths, but in December our paths will collide again. I have respect for Adamek he has done great things in his career, but I'm confident I'll get the victory. I'm looking forward to it. On Dec. 22nd, I'll be the best Steve Cunningham anyone has seen yet."
Duva said the afternoon time slot on NBC is what allowed the fight to be made.
"I've got a bigger budget to work as an afternoon fight because that means that it's prime time in Europe," Duva said, explaining that a significant part of the revenue for the bout will come from television in Poland, where Adamek is a major star.
Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham are going to meet again, this time as heavyweights.