By David P. Greisman - BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Steve Cunningham put forth the kind of performance that should have earned him long-awaited revenge in his long-anticipated rematch with Tomasz Adamek.
Cunningham out-boxed and out-landed Adamek for the better part of 12 rounds. Only one judge saw it that way. The other two judges, however, somehow saw Adamek the winner, awarding him seven rounds on one scorecard and eight rounds on the other and giving him a controversial split decision victory.
Deborah Barnes and Dave Greer had it 115-113 and 116-112, respectively, for Adamek, with the dissenting vote from Tom Miller reading 115-113 for Cunningham.
Their first fight had ended in a split decision as well, though not with anywhere near as much controversy. Four years ago, Adamek had knocked Cunningham down three times over the course of their 12-round bout, those knockdowns proving to be the margin of victory
That bout had taken place at cruiserweight. Four years later, Adamek and Cunningham met at heavyweight, with Adamek tipping the scales at 223 pounds and Cunningham coming in at 203.5.
The question going into the bout was what difference the weigh difference would make — whether Adamek, who had been at heavyweight for more than three years, could use his additional 20 pounds to hurt Cunningham even worse than he had when both had been at cruiserweight.
But Cunningham — whose only appearance among boxing’s big men earlier this year had him coming in at 207 pounds — used what some might have perceived as a disadvantage and turned it to his advantage.
Cunningham, just a few pounds above the cruiserweight limit, was faster than Adamek. He was better able to avoid what Adamek was throwing. And Adamek was less able to deal with what was coming at him.
Cunningham worked behind his jab, which seemed far stiffer than it had been in his first fight against Adamek. But while Cunningham still made the error of bringing his left hand back low, Adamek was nowhere near as able to land his right hand as a counter.
Cunningham would land 129 of 349 jabs on the night, for a 37 percent connect rate, according to statistics provided by CompuBox.
He used that strong jab, good combinations, regular movement as he circled around the ring, and the discipline not to get suckered into reckless exchanges. It also helped that Adamek seemed to be giving Cunningham plenty of respect, often waiting to explode with hard combinations until he’d heard the sound that signified that 10 seconds were left in each round.
It should not have been enough to steal the stanza.
Adamek’s mouth was open for air by the beginning of the third round. Later in that round, Cunningham sent out two jab feints before following with a strong right hand to Adamek’s head.
The fourth round saw a reversal of roles — Cunningham countering a missed Adamek right hand, while Adamek missed a right hand counter over Cunningham’s jab.
But it wasn’t just finesse and discipline that Cunningham was doing well. He was able to earn Adamek’s respect with some clean, hard punches, including a right hand in the sixth that momentarily buckled Adamek’s knees.
That’s not to say that Adamek didn’t land. He did, including with several right hands in the eighth, and more right hands in the 10th and 11th. He was credited with landing nearly half of his power shots: 45 percent, to be exact, with 120 of 267 hitting their target.
Cunningham also had a good connect rate, going 80 of 167 with his power punches.
It was a given that Adamek’s power would need to be the difference, and that was in mind as the fight entered the 12th. Adamek came out aggressively, landing several one-two combinations and leaving Cunningham reeling during the round. Cunningham stayed standing, however, and Adamek missed on subsequent home run shots.
Cunningham appeared to be the winner. And then Michael Buffer read the scorecards.
At first Buffer announced that Barnes had scored the fight a 115-115 draw, Miller 115-113 for Cunningham and Greer 116-112 for Adamek. But then Buffer announced that there had been a mistake: He had misread Barnes’ score, which had Adamek ahead, thus making him the winner. But even the score for Barnes was incorrect — her tally, when added correctly from the round-by-round scores on the master was 115-113, not 115-112.
(CORRECTION: Michael Buffer says he did not misread the 115-115 scorecard he initially read for Barnes, but that it was as written — and that Greg Sirb of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission then came into the ring and corrected the scoring for Barnes to 115-112 for Adamek.)
Nevertheless, Barnes’ score gave the former cruiserweight champion and light heavyweight titleholder his fourth straight win since his September 2011 stoppage loss to Vitali Klitschko. The 36-year-old, who originally hails from Gilowice, Poland, but now fights out of Newark, N.J., improves to 48-2 (29 KOs).
Cunningham, 36, of Philadelphia, suffered his third loss in four fights. The former cruiserweight titleholder is now 25-5 (12 KOs).
In the televised co-feature, undefeated Ukrainian heavyweight Vyacheslav “Czar” Glazkov scored a fourth-round technical knockout of Tor Hamer. The fight was stopped in Hamer’s corner before the fifth round could begin.
Glazkov initially timed counters with Hamer’s punches, landing at the same time, and harder. Hamer’s output began to dwindle, allowing Glazkov to begin to break him down. Glazkov was able to land left hooks and right uppercuts — the latter from a dangerous distance. Hamer threw less and less, either standing directly in front of Glazkov, or moving again before resuming his inactivity. And when Hamer was ready to start fighting again, Glazkov was there, waiting for him with heavy return fire.
Glazkov would follow hard right hands with good left hooks. He followed a left hook with a left uppercut and then another right hand. And he followed a right uppercut with a left to the body. Hamer looked visibly wary of Glazkov’s punches, and he looked visibly weary as the fight was increasingly getting away from him.
Glazkov, in essence, knocked the resistance out of Hamer, and then knocked the fight out of him as well.
The 28-year-old from Lugansk, Ukraine, improves to 14-0 with 10 KOs, finishing 2012 with his fourth victory of the year. Hamer, 29, of New York City, falls to 19-2 with 12 KOs, suffering his first defeat since a 2010 six-round split decision loss to Kelvin Price.
Junior welterweight Jerome Rodriguez taught Edwardo Stith a major lesson in what was Stith’s pro boxing debut — don’t call yourself “Untouchable” if your opponent can quickly prove that to be quite untrue.
Rodriguez pummeled Stith from the outset, beginning in the first round with a straight southpaw left hand, and continuing through to the end of the second round, when a Rodriguez barrage along the ropes left Stith reeling and forced the referee to jump in and stop the bout.
The time of the stoppage was 2:56.
Rodriguez’s uppercut plagued Stith from the outset. One such landed shot had Stith trying to hold during the first round. But Rodriguez kept Stith trapped on the ropes, dug thudding punches into his body, and gave himself plenty of room to continue the onslaught.
Stith survived the first, but got forced back to the ropes again in the latter part of the second round. Rodriguez went to the body, then followed with a left uppercut, a right hand upstairs and then a left that had Stith falling back into the blue corner. The end came after a few more follow-up shots.
Rodriguez, 26, of Allentown, Pa., is now 2-0-1 with 1 KO. Stith, 29, of Philadelphia, is now 0-1.
You wouldn’t necessarily expect a fight between two boxers with a combined career total of two knockouts to put on an entertaining match, but that’s what Naim Nelson and Osnel Charles put forth for eight rounds. The lightweight bout ended with Nelson the winner via unanimous decision, with two judges scoring the bout 78-74 and the third seeing it 77-75.
Nelson invested early to Charles’ body. Though Charles would continue to pursue Nelson over the course of the bout, that bodywork, and a couple of low blows, would slow Charles enough and allow Nelson to get away with being mobile between his combinations. At times Nelson would throw a fast flurry and then move away. Other times, Charles would punch and Nelson would then retaliate with several shots — sometimes up to a dozen, nowhere near all of them landing — to punctuate the exchange.
Nelson, 22, of Philadelphia, improves to 9-0 with 1 KO. Charles, 28, of Atlantic City, N.J., falls to 9-5-1 with 1 KO.
In the show’s opener, heavyweights David Williams and William Miranda fought to a four-round draw. The scores were 39-37 for Williams, 39-37 for Miranda and 38-38. If the fight’s result were based solely on physical looks, the bout should have easily been for Williams, who came in at 212.5 pounds compared to the very tubby 242 pounds on Miranda’s frame. But Miranda came to fight, giving Williams difficulty from the outset.
Williams, 35, of Philadelphia, is now 6-6-2, (2 KOs). Miranda, 34, of Allentown, Pa., is now 6-5-2, with no knockouts.
In a welterweight walkout bout, Julio Dejesus and Korey Sloane fought to a four-round draw. The scorecards were 38-38 (twice) and 39-37 for Dejesus. Dejesus, 37, billed as originally from Yacobua, P.R. but now fighting out of New Jersey, is now 6-3-3 (3 KOs). Sloane, 27, of Philadelphia, is now 2-5-2 (0 KOs).
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]