By Keith Idec
NEWARK, N.J. — Tomasz Adamek needed to win impressively Saturday to re-energize his fan base and generate momentum for a potential rematch against Steve Cunningham.
Adamek overcame serious second-round trouble against heavy-handed Travis Walker and stopped his bigger, stronger opponent in the fifth round of a thrill-filled heavyweight main event at Prudential Center.
Atlanta’s Walker (39-8-1, 31 KOs) dropped Adamek (47-2, 29 KOs) with an overhand right to the side of his head about 15 seconds into the second round. Adamek appeared about as hurt as he has ever been in his 13-year pro career, even more disoriented than he did at any point of a lopsided, 10th-round technical knockout loss to WBC champion Vitali Klitschko nearly a year ago in Wroclaw, Poland.
But a recovered Adamek awakened a small-but-loud group of proud Polish fans by flooring Walker after connecting with a right cross, with about 20 seconds left in the second round. Walker reached his feet, but clearly was hurt.
Adamek pounced on him, but Walker survived the round, even after Adamek hit him several times after the bell sounded. Referee Eddie Cotton couldn’t hear the bell because the crowd was so loud and the fighters were going at it in Adamek’s corner, clear across the ring from where timekeeper Danny Fishbane was banging the bell.
The ensuing two rounds were action-packed, with Adamek getting the better of the action. The former cruiserweight and light heavyweight champion wasted no time pouncing on Walker in the fifth, when he hurt Walker early with an overhand right near the ropes.
Walker wobbled back into his own corner and couldn’t answer Adamek’s barrage of punches. Cotton stepped in to stop the action at 1:08 of the fifth round.
In the co-main event broadcast by Wealth TV, Philadelphia’s Cunningham (25-4, 12 KOs) out-pointed Jason Gavern (21-11-4, 10 KOs) rather easily in his heavyweight debut. Cunningham won the rather uneventful 10-round fight by wide margins on all three scorecards (100-90, 100-90, 99-91).
Adamek and Cunningham could meet again at Prudential Center later this year. Their first battle, a 12-round cruiserweight title fight Adamek won by majority decision, was one of the best action fights of 2008.
Jerry Belmontes passed the toughest test of his four-year pro career Saturday at Prudential Center.
Belmontes, 23, overcame some defensive failures against gritty Josesito Collado to win a unanimous decision in an eight-round, junior lightweight fight on the Tomasz Adamek-Travis Walker undercard. Belmontes, of Corpus Christi, Texas, improved to 17-0 by winning an entertaining fight on the scorecards of all three judges.
Judges Henry Grant and Emil Conforti scored Belmontes a 78-74 winner. Judge John McKaie credited Belmontes with a 77-75 victory in a reasonably competitive bout that should help Belmontes make the transition from prospect to top 15 contender at 130 pounds.
Collado, who was effective when he switched to a southpaw stance, fought with a cut near his hairline that was opened during the first round when they accidentally clashed heads. The loss dropped Collado, of Queens, N.Y., to 13-2.
In the second bout broadcast by Wealth TV this afternoon, Philadelphia heavyweight Bryant Jennings needed to just 35 seconds to stop Chris Koval in a scheduled eight-round heavyweight fight. Jennings dropped Koval twice before the fight was stopped.
Koval (25-10, 18 KOs) was a huge underdog against Jennings (15-0, 7 KOs), but also entered the ring distracted because his father, Michael Koval Sr., 59, died in a car accident Sunday in Koval’s native Youngstown, Ohio.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.