By Jake Donovan
The rematch between Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham already stood out for a number of reasons. In addition to the fight being a rematch to their Dec. ’08 war, it also serves as the first live fight card to air on NBC in more than eight years, and perhaps the most significant bout to air on the network in over two decades.
Their first fight was for the lineal cruiserweight championship, in which Adamek rode three knockdowns en route to a split decision. The sequel takes place one division north at heavyweight, headlining a Saturday matinee at the Sands Resort Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
On its own, the choice to make this fight the first entry on free network TV as part of Main Events’ working deal with NBC Sports was already a no-brainer. Fans tuning in (or attending live) will now to get to experience a showdown in which its winner will move within one fight of a crack at the true heavyweight crown.
“The fight has taken on added significance,” pointed out Kathy Duva of Main Events while formally announcing the fight during a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Garfield, New Jersey. “The winner of this fight is going to fight Kubrat Pulev. He is the #1 contender (with the IBF).
“The winner of this fight will be the #2 contender. The winner of that fight is going to have the opportunity to fight Wladimir Klitschko (next year).”
Pulev entered the fray with a dominant knockout win over Alexander Ustinov last month in Germany, to emerge as the top contender to the younger Klitschko.
Adamek and Cunningham have both served as titlists in lower weight classes – Adamek a former ruler at light heavyweight and cruiserweight, while Cunningham enjoyed two reigns as a cruiserweight titlist. Both have aspirations of capturing the heavyweight crown before calling it a career, which made for great timing when Cunningham opted to move to heavyweight earlier this year.
“There is tremendous significance here, quite a lot on the line,” Duva acknowledges. “The fight style wise has to play out as good or as better as the last one. Interesting nuance that they’re both going to be fighting at heavyweight now, which will certainly change the dynamics of the bout.”
The IBF was involved with the first fight and has sanctioned several title bouts involving both fighters. Both of Cunningham’s reigns at cruiserweight was with the IBF title in tow, his first tour ending with the aforementioned loss to Adamek.
“We’re excited to be a part of this again,” said Daryl Peoples, IBF President. “The first time they fought in 2008, the fight ended in a split decision. It was a great fight, probably one of the best fights of the year. We’ve had the opportunity to see Steve and Tomasz develop as fighters while both were winning IBF titles and were IBF champions.
“This is going to be the perfect fight for network television, to bring network television back into big (time) boxing.”
While sanctioning bodies are generally vilified at its mere mention, the IBF has earned a reputation as the best among an otherwise bad bunch.
“It’s wonderful to work with an organization that actually follows its own rules,” Duva quipped. “That makes you very special in our heart.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox