After the first encounter in the winter of 2008, Tomasz Adamek was riding high. He had just defeated Steve Cunningham to claim the vacant RING cruiserweight championship and was on the upswing in the boxing world. More so, his bout with Cunningham was a slugfest from start to finish, reaffirming Adamek’s stock as one of the sport’s all-action fighters.
Fast forward four years and the landscape and profile of Adamek’s career is vastly different. He’s now campaigning at heavyweight, where he has feasted on a diet of mostly middling contenders, victories over Chris Arreola and Eddie Chambers the exceptions. He soundly defeated Arreola but barely edged Chambers, and the latter was fighting with just one arm. Adamek did secure a shot at the heavyweight title, receiving a vicious beating from Vitali Klitschko for his troubles.
Cunningham (25-4, 12 knockouts) ran into a rough patch of his own. He suffered consecutive defeats to RING cruiserweight champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez, opting to follow Adamek up to heavyweight this past fall after the second loss.
On Saturday, the former foes will become reacquainted — and on a far grander stage than they’re used to — when they face each other at The Sands Casino Resort in Bethlehem, Pa. on NBC (4 p.m. ET), a rare appearance for boxing on network television.
“I know everybody is waiting for Saturday. I’m waiting, too,” said Adamek, 36. “I’m ready. We had a good camp. This is Steve’s big chance, the rematch from (our fight in) 2008. But I’m working very hard. I started with Roger (Bloodworth) in 2009, and I am a different fighter, as everybody will see. I’m feeling good. I had good sparring and I’m ready for war.”
The first meeting was a Fight of the Year candidate for 2008, a big-man brawl that saw Adamek floor Cunningham three times. The fight was close, though, with Adamek edging Cunningham by split decision. Adamek looks forward to putting on a great fight again.
“My career is long, since 1999. For me, looking for the heavyweight title (shot) again, I have to beat everybody. I was happy when I heard that Steve got the chance because we can have the rematch. I think he was angry after our fight in 2008. That fight was very good, interesting for TV, for fans, and I believe it will be the same on Saturday afternoon.”
The Zywiec, Poland native believes he is an improved fighter since the last meeting, namely that is he is less reckless.
“As you’ll see, I’m a different fighter,” said Adamek (47-2, 29 knockouts). “I have a new coach. I don’t stand in front of an opponent. I stand side to side and slip a lot of punches. I can hit harder, too. It depends what Steve brings to the ring. If he wants a war, I’m ready. I’m a tough mountain boy.”
With both fighters four years older and with four more years of wear and tear, it’s fair to wonder how much each guy has left in the tank. Main Events CEO Kathy Duva expects the fight to be different than the first.
“We’ve seen this fight before, and yet it’s going to be all new,” said Duva. “They are both in a different weight class. They both have different trainers. They both have taken the long path back to each other from very different directions. So this is one of those fights that when the bell rings, I’m going to sit back and just try to enjoy it.”
Adamek anticipates another slugfest and hopes that with the extra pairs of eyes on him this weekend, he’ll have some new fans come final bell.
“We’re going to see what Cunningham brings to the ring. I’m ready for everything. For war? I love war because the fans love watching war, and I’ll have more fans after these kinds of fights. I’m ready for everything. It’s my job.”
Photos / Al Bello-Gettyimages; Matthias Kern-Bongarts/Gettyimages