The heavyweight division has been in the doldrums for years. Especially in the U.S., the big men have been largely ignored, save for the rare occasion Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko is matched with someone the public thinks has a chance to compete with one of the heavyweight titleholders. However, outside of fights involving the Ukrainian brothers, there are many good fights that can be made (at least on paper).
Eddie Chambers against Tomasz Adamek is one such fight. While both men have recently lost to a Klitschko brother, the winner will have established himself as the best heavyweight residing in America (Adamek, though a native of Poland, lives in Kearny, N.J.).
Chambers (36-2, 18 knockouts) is determined to prove his mettle and worth against Adamek (45-2, 28 KOs) Saturday on NBC Sports Network, but he will have to deal with a hostile crowd in Newark, N.J., where the 35-year-old Polish veteran routinely packs the Prudential Center with a sea of red. Rowdy Polish fans wave towels embroidered with “Polska” as they go hoarse cheering their man on.
“Fast Eddie” will be fighting with a heavy heart, though. He’s dedicating the bout to his advisor and mentor, Rob Murray Sr., who passed away on June 2nd at age 67.
“It was a really, really big loss for us,” Chambers told RingTV.com. “It kinda came out of nowhere, making it harder – way harder.”
The 30-year-old Philadelphian has been inactive for more than 16 months, his last bout a decision victory over Derric Rossy in February of 2011. He was scheduled to fight Tony Thompson last October, but pulled out with a back injury. Then, in January, he was slated to face Sergei Liakhovich in the inaugural main event of NBC Sports Network’s Fight Night boxing series. He was forced to pull out of that match after suffering a rib injury in training.
Inactivity can stymy a fighter, especially when that fighter’s opponent seeks to outwork his foe, as Adamek often does. Chambers is counting on the many sparring sessions he had in preparation for the two cancelled bouts to offset any accumulated rust.
“I’ve been working a lot preparing for fights, the two that I pulled out of because of injury,” said Chambers. “I should be ready to go. But of course there’s going to be overthinking at times, possibly.”
Two of his chief sparring partners for this bout have been Edwin Rodriguez and Don George, who fought each other in a 168-pound bout this past March. Chambers says the smaller fighters will help prepare him for the activity Adamek – a former 175-pounder – will bring. Critics have long pointed to Chambers’ lack of activity in throwing punches as his biggest problem.
“I think (Adamek is) a good fighter. I think he’s a much-improved boxer, coming from the light heavyweight and cruiserweight division, fighting quality boxers like Chad Dawson and Steve Cunningham and so on,” said Chambers, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa. “It’s a quality match-up and I think it’s going to be exciting for the fans.”
For a change, Chambers won’t have to deal with a fighter who towers over him or outweighs him by dozens of pounds. Adamek is around the same size, which Chambers anticipates will make it easier.
“I’ve fought some big guys, but everybody’s bigger than me,” Chambers said with a laugh. “It does make it a tad easier that I won’t have to use a ladder to hit him. He’s had more trouble with the guys who can box more so than the big, strong guys, because they were slower, more stationary and easier for him to hit.”
He’s reviewed countless tape of Adamek’s past fights in preparation for what he calls a “must-win fight.” In addition, he watched the bouts of many legendary boxers to gain insight and wisdom – looking for a trick or two he can use against “Goral”. He was particularly enamored with James Toney’s fights, another smallish heavyweight after a legendary career at lower weights.
“Sometimes my mouth was open watching like ‘man, how did he do that one,” Chambers said in astonishment. “I’m figuring it out for myself so I can pick up some things that may help me with my boxing and my career.”
As with Toney, another criticism of Chambers has been his physique. At 6-foot-1, he usually comes in at the 210-to-220 pound range and doesn’t exactly resemble a body-builder. Chambers is OK with the detractors, though. He believes that how a fighter looks has nothing to do with winning fights.
“I’m one of the more skilled fighters there is,” Chambers proclaimed. “I’m more of a student now than ever and I’m going to learn more. Muscles don’t win fights, they have never won a fight. [Evander] Holyfield just happened to be gifted with that body. What won his fights are his skills and his ability and his toughness. And that’s what I have. So I may not be ripped up looking like Atlas, but if my skills were a body, they would be ripped.”
In Chambers’ only appearance on HBO, he suffered the first defeat of his career, a wide-points loss to Alexander Povetkin. With a second chance on national television in America, Chambers says he has cut no corners in training camp, knowing what is at stake.
“I just want to make sure I’m ready to fend off any offense he brings to the table,” said Chambers, who has been promoted by Dan Goossen for most of his career, but is soon to be handled solely by Main Events. “What I’ve been preparing for is the best possible Tomasz Adamek there is. If he comes up anything short of that, then he’s going to have a problem.”
If Chambers can capture the signature win of his career on Saturday, he will have established himself as the top American heavyweight with big fights on the horizon.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” said Chambers. “And I’m going to definitely seize the opportunity and try to win the fight at all costs.”
Mike Coppinger is a member of the BWAA, THE RING Ratings Advisory Panel and the Yahoo Sports Boxing Panel. He regularly contributes to USA Today’s boxing coverage and compiles the “Ringside Reports” for THE RING Magazine each month. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger. Find an archive of his work: www.mikecoppinger.com