By Jake Donovan
The last time Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham fought, they waged war for 12 rounds, with Adamek scoring three knockdowns en route to a split decision and the lineal cruiserweight crown.
The bout landed deep in discussion for 2008 Fight of the Year contenders and was well-celebrated by the fans and media. Saturday’s rematch at Sands Resort Casino in Bethlehem, Penn. proved entertaining, though in the end memorable for far different reasons.
Fans had plenty of reason to cheer after the 12-round heavyweight bout, but the announced scores – botched in its order of being read by Michael Buffer in addition to one card having to be corrected twice – left a bad taste in nearly everyone’s mouth. Adamek was once again awarded a split decision, though this time in a fight where not a single reporter in press row had him winning the fight.
Immediately following the decision – even when initially declared a draw before the corrections came – were cries of the fix being in, that promoter Main Events was determined to have Adamek win by any means necessary.
Lost in that equation is that, unlike the first fight, Main Events promotes both fighters. Adamek has been with Main Events for more than four years, though Cunningham has always had a special place in the hearts of the New Jersey-based company long before signing with them earlier this year.
“I like them both,” Main Events CEO Kathy Duva stated afterward when asked of her ringside reaction to the fight. “It was tough to watch them beat each other up. They are both great warriors with great heart and we got a great fight.”
The overwhelming majority of viewers thought Cunningham – in just his second heavyweight fight after a career spent at cruiserweight – won and with room to spare. The initial draw verdict was considered bad enough, but two cards somehow having Adamek winning was tougher to swallow.
Debra Barnes scored the bout 115-113 for Adamek, though her card was first announced as a 115-115 draw. A clerical error was sighted, but it still took the inept members of the Pennsylvania Boxing Commission to properly tally up the card before coming to the right total.
Lost in the shuffle was the ban-worthy day’s work turned in by Dave Greer, whose card of 116-112 had Adamek winning five of the final six rounds.
Regardless of the outcome, it is the belief of the promoter that both fighters have bright futures awaiting them.
“Just seeing the two of them throw so many punches, your heart is in your throat,” said Duva. “I just wanted it to be great and it was, but then I just wanted it to be over.
In a fight like that there are no losers. (Cunningham) will definitely be back.”
Adamek will now go on to face unbeaten Kubrat Pulev sometime in 2013. The winner of that fight will become the mandatory challenger to lineal heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko, assuming he is still champ by then.
Where Cunningham goes from here isn’t immediately known. Whatever the direction, Main Events plans to remain involved in the Philadelphian’s career.
“He’s a heavyweight contender no matter what the judges said.” Duva insists. “Before the decision was even rendered, he showed that he could compete against a guy who right after the Klitschkos is right there among the best heavyweights. He’s a great fighter with great heart.
“But the thing about Tomasz which struck me from day one is that he always finds a way to win.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox