Joe Santoliquito

Adamek beat Grant but may have failed Klitschko test

Tomasz Adamek landed more than enough solid punches to outpoint Michael Grant on Saturday in Newark, N.J. Photo / Ed Mulholland-FightWireImages

NEWARK, N.J. — Tomasz Adamek has risen up the heavyweight ranks in increments, measured in pounds and inches.

The former light heavyweight beltholder and RING cruiserweight champion who used to starve himself to make weight no longer has to feel enervated each time he enters the ring. He no longer has to limit his activity for fear of exhaustion.

Adamek can finally let loose, and he has with the aim of something larger each time he ventures into the ring with a heavyweight. His first foray with the big boys came in stopping fellow Pole Andrew Golota in five rounds. He then went the distance in a less-than-scintillating performance against U.S. Olympian Jason Estrada before taking a majority decision from sloppy contender Chris Arreola in April.

The 6-foot-4 Golota weighed a career-high 256½ pounds when Adamek took his fellow countryman apart in Lodz, Poland, back in October of 2009. The 6-foot-1 Estrada came in a little more compact against Adamek, weighing a career-low 237. And Arreola was around the same dimensions as Golota, at 6-foot-4 and 250½.

However, Adamek’s challenge on Saturday night against large and streaking Michael Grant had a more direct flavor to it. The surprisingly interesting 12-round bout, which Adamek (42-1, 27 knockouts) won by unanimous decision, pointed to an idea the Polish attraction has harbored for some time: A chance at RING heavyweight titleholder Wladimir Klitschko, or the world champ’s older brother, beltholder Vitali Klitschko.

Adamek, who at 6-foot-1½ and 217 pounds is tiny in comparison to today’s heavyweights, wouldn’t know what it’s like to face someone of Klitschko proportions without fighting a heavyweight who at least 6-foot-6½ and a rock solid 240 pounds. Grant, who stands 6-foot-7 and weighed 261 pounds for Saturday’s fight, was as close to a Klitschko facsimile as Main Events, Adamek’s promoter, could find.

However, the 38-year-old former contender who was annihilated by Lennox Lewis more than 10 years ago, is without a Klitschko chin. Without their punching power. Without their speed. Without their effective imposing phone-pole length jabs. Without their ability to use their great size to get out of harm’s way.

In other words Grant was a poor Klitschko imitation. He is large but he doesn’t fight large.

However Grant entered the Adamek fight having won eight in a row since being belted by Dominick Guinn in 2003. Grant’s seven-year winning streak wasn’t exactly filled with Ali, Frazier, Norton, and Holmes, but he did have one thing in his favor. Working his corner was Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, who currently trains Chad Dawson, the only man who has defeated Adamek in the pro ranks.

It didn’t help.

The Polish star consistently got inside Grant‘s reach, fired to the body, and landed looping shots to the head, causing the bigger man to back up throughout the first half of the fight.

If Grant was supposed to be Adamek’s Klitschko test, it certainly stirred a number of questions:

Does anyone think either of the Klitschkos would need their trainers to implore them to come forward, as Mustafa Muhammad had to with Grant in the third round? Does anyone think the Klitschkos would let Adamek get inside the way Grant did? Would either Wladimir or Vitali wait until the eighth or ninth rounds before they exerted their superior size and reach as Grant did?

If Grant can make Adamek’s face look like it went through a meat grinder, what will the Klitschkos do it?

No amount of pulsating “Polska, Polska, Polska,” or “Ad-a-mek, Ad-a-mek, Ad-a-mek” chants will help him then. More importantly, if either of the Klitschkos have Adamek in trouble — as Grant did at the end of the sixth and 12th rounds — they’d finish him.

This experiment against the shopworn giant may have exposed Adamek. He couldn’t hurt Grant (46-4, 34 KOs) and after having his way with his much larger adversary in the first six rounds, there was a considerable drop off. Grant began coming forward and imposing his will, especially in the 12th round when he hurt Adamek with a right on top of the head that him reeling and in trouble.

The unanimous scores of 117-111, 118-110 and 118-111 were a little deceiving. THE RING saw it much closer, not questioning Adamek’s victory, but how close the fight was, scoring it 116-112.

“I knew I had him hurt in the 12th round, but I know one thing, I’m not fighting anyone under 217 again,” Grant joked afterward. “The only thing that Adamek brought to me is what I expected, and that was his speed. Other than that, he didn’t hurt me. I knew I was wearing him down. He sustained and endured. I knew he was gone in the 12th. I knew he was hurting and he kept running.”

Adamek was pleased with the victory, though not very pleased with his performance. THE RING’s fourth-rated heavyweight contender was frustrated by Grant holding down his head, and also by the fact he didn’t feel he progressed toward a fight with the Klitschkos, who he was noncommittal about.

“I think I found out the big difference in size and finding the space in going underneath the jab,” said Adamek, his left eye swollen. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. I’m going to watch this fight and learn from it.”

Smashing Grant was supposed to facilitate a Klitschko fight. It didn’t. Adamek may target another large, lumbering hand-picked heavyweight. Maybe Lance Whitaker in November, back at the Prudential Center. Maybe what we saw from Adamek against Grant was the 33-year-old’s best against a large heavyweight.

For now, the Klitschkos will have to wait.

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