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.
“Plus, you have such a contrast in styles. You have Adamek, who is going to go in there and brawl, and you have Cunningham who is going to try not to. But the two of them can’t seem to help themselves.”
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.
Steve Cunningham is fighting as a heavyweight for the first time, and that could work against him. But I’m going with USS this time around.
Cunningham was able to get to Adamek the last time, albeit, not often. Still, weighing USS’s speed, reach and footwork against Adamek’s predictable power-punching style leads me to go with the long, lanky Philly fighter.
Cunningham has been in a lot of big fights, and I feel that he just has too much veteran savvy to lose to what I feel is a less-confident, one-dimensional, declining, flat-footed power-puncher in Adamek.
USS, I’m sure, will do a lot better this time. I know that he saw what Chambers did to Adamek, and I expect him to do a lot of jabbing and moving. When the time is right, Cunningham will fire off combinations.
I stand by my prediction on how Cunningham will out-box Adamek, but I also feel that, much like in the Chambers fight, Adamek still can still receive a gift decision.
So while I favor Cunningham to win either a split-, or, possibly unanimous decision, there is the lingering potential for Adamek to win a controversial one as well.
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.
Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham have proven their resilience repeatedly by getting up from knockdowns. Cunningham did it three times in his split-decision loss to Adamek in a 2008 cruiserweight classic.
Time and experience figure to be the difference. Both are 36 years old. Cunningham, 1-3 over his last three, has relied on quickness and reflexes, which are the first to erode.
Adamek’s power is still there. Adamek also should be more comfortable at heavyweight.He’s been at the weight for 10 straight bouts, losing only to Vitali Klitschko.
Cunningham made his debut in the division with a victory in September. A lack of familiarity at the weight will make him wish he didn’t get that rematch for Christmas.
Tomasz Adamek TKO 9 Steve Cunningham: In a real slug fest, which this fight will turn into, I like Tomasz Adamek by TKO in nine.
Kathy Duva only sells great fights to NBC, so I know this will be the Ghost of the Main Events once again coming to the Sands and causing this fight to be a Duva War. I think USS Steve Cunningham will drop Tomasz in round three.
But Adamek will survive the onslaught and win the fourth round. USS will tire, and Adamek will pull it out in the ninth. This is a sure fire bet.
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.
So I am not sure how Cunningnam will take a heavyweight punch. He will show heart and skill, but Adamek will eventually get him. Adamek TKO in seven.
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.
Adamek is much more accustomed to fighting at heavyweight and Cunningham’s chin, which was vulnerable at cruiserweight, will be even more so at heavyweight.