Fonfara was “Stuck in the Middle With You”

06/20/2016 - By Paul Strauss - Comments

By now you know light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara was annihilated in the first round this past Saturday night. Fonfara was being showcased on NBC by Premier Boxing Champions at UIC Pavilion, Chicago, Illinois. Chicago is Fonfara’s stomping ground, and the largely Polish crowd looked forward to an impressive win by their hero. After all, Fonfara was a top World Title contender, and “Who was this Joe Smith, Jr. guy”? Fonfara, the heavy favorite, was expected to do a little Polka as he danced through the gaps in Smith’s defense.

The “Irish Bomber” with a record of 21-1-0 with 17KOs seemed impressive on paper, but really who had he beat? Five years ago he suffered a TKO loss to Eddie Caminero, whose current record is 7-9-0, 7KOs. To make matters worse, Caminero has been kayo’d seven times. What does that say about the power of this Irish lad from Long Island, N.Y? The announcers let fans know Smith’s real job was in construction with Union #66. Polish fans expected an exciting, but short night with a Chicago Honky or Push to follow.

Before the opening bell stopped reverberating, Fonfara marched out and pressed the action. As he stepped forward, he would snap out a crisp hard jab, moving in behind it. When close, he would unleash rapid combinations. They were the standard type, jab, right hand, left hook. They had power behind them, which caused Smith some problems, even when he partially blocked them.

Just when Fonfara seemed to have Smith hurt, a big looping right hand came out of no where. Its accurate downward trajectory resulted in an explosion with Fonfara’s jaw. He went down with a thud. It was immediate. Instead of staying down for an eight count to let his head clear, he struggled to regain his feet. Out of courage and instinct, he told the referee he wanted to continue.

His “want” and reality were two different things. He was in no shape to withstand the Irish Bomber’s explosive finish. Hard accurate shots came in from all angles resulting in severe and debilitating results. Fonfara used his back against the ropes in an attempt to keep himself erect, but it also made him a vulnerable target. Fonfara was knocked sideways toward the corner. An especially hard left and right sent Fonfara into a prone position with his head outside the ropes on the ring apron. There was no need to count.

All of a sudden, this common laborer propelled himself into the upper echelon of the light heavyweight division. He had outdone the champ Adonis Stevenson. Fonfara had “Superman” on the canvas in the 9th round of their matchup.

So, what the hell happened? How did this part-time fighter manage such an impressive feat? Fonfara was a heavy favorite, and rightly so. He had fought the much tougher competition, and was the better skilled fighter. Experts gave Smith credit for a big punch, but again it was against questionable opponents. The thinking was Fonfara should be able to avoid Smith’s punches and land his own. His fans were confident the fight would not go the distance.

When the unthinkable happened, and the dust settled a bit, a closer look was possible. The scene reminded me of the song “Stuck in the Middle With You”, by the Stealers Wheel. That’s what Fonfara looked like. He was stuck in the middle with Smith. That old bit of advice that is given to fighters to remind them to get out of harm’s way had been ignored. Instead of punching and then moving, he was anchored in front of Smith admiring his work. It was a gift to Smith, and he accepted with a thank you send over in the form of a big right hand.

Even before Smith could complete his follow through, Fonfara was on his way down.

Then Smith proved one more thing. He is an excellent finisher. He swarmed all over Fonfara, and the dense group of his punches had Fonfara thinking he should have stayed down, because he was once again headed there. Smith had skillfully bombed Fonfara out with body shots, hooks, uppercuts and straight right hand shots. There were no duds or clunkers. This Irish Bomber proved he is a legitimate threat to anyone in the division. He is now a belt holder, the WBC International light heavyweight division champ. (As opposed to the WBC “World” champ) The only remaining question is whether or not Joe will continue to work construction?