Tomasz Adamek reigns supreme!

Steve CunninghamBy Geoffrey Ciani: Last night, Tomasz Adamek won a split decision victory over IBF cruiserweight champion Steve “USS” Cunningham at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. In addition to winning the IBF strap, Adamek also became recognized as the new Ring Magazine champ and he established a new lineage for the division. The victory also secured Adamek’s legacy as one of the greatest Polish fighters ever, putting him alongside Dariusz Michalczewski as the only two Polish fighters to ever win belts in multiple weight classes.

Adamek first burst onto the scene with his heroic effort against Paul Briggs back in May of 2005 on the Andrew Golota versus Lamon Brewster under card. In a sensational effort, Adamek won the vacant WBC light heavyweight title. He was an underdog going into that contest, and many observers were quite impressed by the heart and courage he exhibited in that bout. In addition to showing such determination, Adamek also proved to have some very good skills, including a fantastic jab and an ability to throw fluid combinations.

After winning the title, Adamek would successfully defend it two times, first against German pugilist Thomas Ulrich and then again in a rematch with Briggs. Against Ulrich, Adamek took a more tactical approach, showcasing his vastly underrated boxing skills, as he worked behind the jab and systematically beat Ulrich down for a sixth round stoppage. The rematch with Brigg was another war which saw Adamek rise from the canvas after a first round knockdown to come back and win the fight.

Things took a turn for the worse for Adamek when he then made a voluntary defense of his title against rising prospect “Bad” Chad Dawson. Dawson was originally slated to face Adrian Diaconu in a title eliminator for the right to face Adamek, but when that bout fell through, Adamek decided to give the American prospect a shot, anyway, rather than take an easier defense against a lesser opponent. The decision proved ill, as Adamek was out boxed by the slick young speedster throughout most of the contest.

After suffering a loss against Dawson, Adamek’s stock took a hit, and unfairly so, in my opinion. It is sad that we live in a day and age where pundits are willing to write a fighter off after just a single loss. It reminds me of the way many are now viewing Miguel Cotto in the aftermath of his devastating loss against Antonio Margarito. It is as if people have suddenly forgotten how highly Cotto was regarded before that bout. It was a bad style match-up for Cotto, and the same can be said of Adamek’s match-up with Dawson. I had always felt Adamek was being grossly underrated by the boxing community following that loss, and last night’s victory helps vindicate this view point.

Frankly, I think Adamek fought the wrong fight against Dawson. It was a simple flaw in strategy, whereby Adamek tried to outbox a slick boxer rather than apply the relentless pressure that helped define him in his wars with Briggs. As the bout progressed, Adamek appeared to have figured something out, dropping Dawson with a vicious right in the tenth and sweeping the championship rounds, but it was too little too late.

Immediately following the loss to Dawson, Adamek decided to move up and test his luck in the cruiserweight division. It was apparent at that time, that he was too weight drained to continue campaigning as a light heavyweight, but making the jump from 175 to 200 pounds is no easy task. Indeed, it is the biggest jump in weight from one class to another, and many questioned whether Adamek’s skinny frame could carry power into that division. It did not take long, however, before Adamek proved his worth in his new weight class. Adamek burst onto the scene with four consecutive victories, including a very impressive eighth round technical knockout versus former champion O’Neil Bell in an eliminator bout that paved the way for his shot at Cunningham.

Prior to his bout with Cunningham, many observers who favored Cunningham pointed to Adamek’s match with Dawson to support their case. On the flipside, many who favored Adamek compared his prospects against Cunningham’s two previous bouts with Kryztof Wlodarczyk. In the end, the fight proved to be a bit of a hybrid of both analogies. Adamek was able to hurt and pressure Cunningham much like Wlodarczyk was, and at the same time, Cunningham was able to often tame Adamek by utilizing a longer reach and good ring movement. The end result was a crowd-pleasing, entertaining, hard-fought contest between the two best cruiserweights in the world.

The fourth round was an especially good round, where Adamek’s sturdy chin was on full display. After taking a savage barrage from Cunningham for the duration of the round, where Adamek was reeling and looked as if he might be ready to go, Adamek rallied back and floored Cunningham with a booming shot to the head. It was the same type of heart and courage he displayed when he first busted onto the scene against Briggs over three years earlier.

Throughout the fight, Adamek was quite literally walking Cunningham down in order to cut off the ring, before unleashing furious combinations once in range. He ate a lot of punches in the process, but was able to stalk down his prey efficiently enough that he managed to drop him three times during the fight. Cunningham used good foot work and a rangy jab to stay out of harm’s way at times, but whenever the Polish pugilist closed the gap, Cunningham was tagged by a vicious assault. It was a give and take battle where each fighter landed his fair share of good punches, but Adamek was the one who proved more powerful and more durable.

The victory solidifies Adamek as the top dog amongst cruiserweights. With his exciting, crowd-pleasing style, it is quite possible that this victory will catapult Adamek into a more marketable realm. Where does he go from here? He has a lot of options on the table. Unification bouts against WBC champ Giacobble Fragomeni or WBA champion Guillermo Jones are both distinct possibilities. So, too, is a match-up with fellow Polish pugilist Wlodarczyk. There is also an outside possibility that someone like Joe Calzaghe or Bernard Hopkins might want to make the jump to cruiserweight and take on Adamek, and of course, a rematch with Cunningham or even Dawson, might be in the works as well. Whomever he fights next, the future is wide open!

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Article posted on 13.12.2008

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