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Adamek-Cunningham II: Who wins the clash of ages?
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Steve Cunningham's four-year appetite for revenge against Tomasz Adamek conjures comparisons to grudge matches like Thomas Hearns-Sugar Ray Leonard II and Juan Manuel Marquez-Manny Pacquiao IV.
Sometimes, the old fogies make for some of the more entertaining fights.
Saturday's rematch between 36-year-old heavyweights Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham at the Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa., could fit the bill. It will be broadcast on NBC beginning at 4 p.m.
"This is going to be another knock-down, drag-out brawl between smallish heavyweights with huge hearts," said Keith Idec of The Record and BoxingScene.com.
"Tomasz Adamek appears to be the stronger of the two fighters, though, and is much more comfortable and accomplished at heavyweight than Steve Cunningham."
But by the time he enters the ring opposite Adamek (47-2, 29 knockouts), a former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titleholder, ex-RING 200-pound champion Cunningham will have waited nearly four years to the day to avenge what was the second loss of his career.
"I wanted this rematch for a long time, especially right after the first fight, but it didn't happen," said Cunningham (25-4, 12 KOs), who was dropped three times while losing his IBF belt by split decision to Adamek on Dec. 11, 2008.
"My career went on, his career went on, and now our paths cross again. I'm excited. I'm looking at this like it's the first time we're fighting."
Leonard was 25 years old when he dropped 22-year-old Hearns during his 14th-round knockout triumph in September of 1981, only to be floored twice during an equally brutal rematch eight years later that ended in a draw.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, scored a combined four knockdowns and emerged with two controversial wins and a draw from his trilogy with Marquez.
But it was the 39-year-old Marquez winning the fourth meeting via sixth-round knockout over the nearly 34-year-old Pacquiao.
"Sometimes, when fighters get a little older, and a little slower, their rematches can be very compelling, because they end up beating the hell out of each other," said longtime boxing commentator and historian, Rich Marotta, of KFI Radio, Los Angeles.
"It was that way with Manny Pacauiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, who are still fighting each other eight years after they first did battle, and it was that way with Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns when they met eight years after their first fight. Hopefully, it will be that way with Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham."
Promoter Kathy Duva certainly hopes that Idec and Marotta are correct in their assessments.
"The last time they fought there were three knockdowns, and it was Steve who went down all three times. Yet, he only lost by a split decision, which should give you an idea of what to expect," said Duva, president of Main Events.
Adamek is coming off September's fifth-round stoppage of journeyman Travis Walker, and having lost just once in 10 heavyweight fights, claims that he will be an even greater challenge for Cunningham this time.
"I am a different fighter than I was in 2008 when I fought him," said Adamek.
"I've changed everything. Everyone can see. I don't stand straight in front of my opponent anymore and I move my head. I am stronger."
Before losing to Adamek, Cunningham had won two straight: a majority decision over Krzysztof Wlodarczyk of Poland in May of 2007, and a 12th-round knockout of Marco Huck. Wlodarczyk and Huck are the current WBC and WBO titleholders.
On the Adamek-Walker undercard, Cunningham, of Philadelphia, made his heavyweight debut with a unanimous decision over Jason Gavern.
RingTV.com's Lee Groves hints at the makings of a classic battle of the ages.
"Although both men are in their mid-30s they also are in exceptional condition," said Groves. "Could we see another late-career classic on the scale of Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III or, more recently, Marquez-Pacquiao IV?"
Idec seems to think so.
"I can’t see either guy winning by knockout," said Idec. "But I wouldn’t be surprised if both boxers hit the deck this time in what figures to be another highly entertaining slug fest."
Idec and Marotta are among 17 boxing insiders who took their stab at determining who will win Saturday's bout below.
Tomasz Adamek TKO 7 Steve Cunningham: Steve Cunningham always seemed one second away from getting stopped -- at cruiserweight.
He's typically rallied back, and in doing so, has become one of the most exciting fighters in the world. But if he's in danger below 200, what will he do when he's hit by a heavyweight?
A lighter Tomasz Adamek dropped him, and I imagine that a heavier one will too. Cunningham may be capable of staying away and taking rounds off Adamek as Jason Estrada and Michael Grant both did.
But can he curb his instinct to take chances and brawl? I'm guessing that the circumstances, a raucous environment, etc., will all work against that. Adamek by stoppage.
John J. Francis, guest/fan, Sacramento, Calif.
After being knocked out by Vitali Klitschko and being out-boxed by Eddie Chambers with one arm -- although he got the gift decision -- I feel that Adamek has kind of been exposed.
Tomasz Adamek, UD 12 Steve Cunningham: The last man standing might be the winner. But the guess is that both will be battered, yet still upright after 12 rounds.
Harold Lederman, HBO's unofficial ringside scorer
Tomasz Adamek KO 7 Steve Cunningham: I got Tomasz Adamek. He's grown well into the heavyweight division. Steve Cunningham never had the greatest chin, even at cruiserweight.
Tomasz Adamek TKO 10 Steve Cunningham: Although both men are in their mid-30s they also are in exceptional condition.
Could we see another late-career classic on the scale of Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier III or, more recently, Marquez-Pacquiao IV? That's a lot to hope for, but if their epic first fight at cruiserweight four years ago is any indication it's possible.
In any case, this fight has the potential to produce an excellent return to boxing for NBC, which, I hope, will lead to more shows on terrestrial TV in 2013.
Cunningham will use his mobility and busy jab to keep Adamek away for the first quarter of the fight. But once the middle rounds arrive Adamek will close the distance and use his superior power to gradually wear Cunningham down.