Christmas is coming early for area boxing fans in the little town of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania this year. The Sands Casino-Resort is hosting grudge rematch between former cruiserweight champs Tomasz Adamek (47-2, 29 KO) and Steve Cunningham (25-4, 12 KO) Saturday, December 22nd, a chance to see a good action contrast of styles by two top level pros.
Adamek is the more credentialed as a champion in both lightheavy and cruiserweight divisions and he is more acclimated as a top ranked heavyweight contender, the division where this battle will be waged. Both are 36 years of age and turned pro within a year of each other, so how is it that Adamek sports almost twice as many wins as the former IBF cruiser champ USS Cunningham?
That is a more sordid revelation of the role promoters and managers play in the career of fighters, so skipping back to Cunningham the fighter, he won his belt the hard way in enemy territory of the hometown favorite Polish legend, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, and Europe is where he’s spent most of his last 5 years, winning a few and losing a few more title matches.
These two are more oriented to old school gentlemen out of the ring, fighters in the ring type of mentality than the current trash talk, thuggish walk type of modern behaviors that promoters sell to the public like cotton candy. As such, there is no actual grudge that I can see other than that Cunningham feels like he was shorted by the judges when they first met that saw Cunningham hit the deck thrice between outboxing Adamek for periods in a thrilling seesaw battle, so here we are with the rematch.
On paper by careers, Adamek is the big favorite to win. No matter the howls of the litters of critics that hound every fighter from the start to finish of their careers, Adamek showed excellent nuance to control the range and pace of Eddie Chambers who reverted back to his losing spoiling tactics against Wlad Klitschko. It was an awkward, ungainly match when Chambers ditched his offense to go on a run after a supposed arm injury.
The last full fight of Cunningham I saw was the Troy Ross fiasco. Ross looked to have taken over that bout before suffering a nasty torn eyelid that was not for squeamish viewing. Cunningham was accused of the thumbing after Ross had knocked him hard to the canvas. Cunningham continued to reprise his canvas pratfalls in consecutive losses to Cuban defector Yoan Pablo Hernandez, a relatively light hitting fighter.
Could be that Cunningham’s punch resistance is on the wane, as good as reason as any for team Adamek to risk a rematch, but Cunningham has some speed and can box and move better than most, so he could cause some troubles if he stays upright. Adamek did look slower than normal against Chambers, perhaps enough for Cunningham to squeeze in more shots.
The stakes are the IBF North American Heavyweight Title and the #2 spot in IBF rankings
Adamek is much closer to the top of his form than is Cunningham, that’s the bottomline skinny going into their fight. Eventually opening tactics will play out and I see them reverting to previous stylistic form with Adamek prevailing, possibly by knockout this time, but, regardless, I see a good fight even if they can’t quite reach the heights of their first memorable encounter.