By Jake Donovan
Andrzej Fonfara made his way back to the win column, though it was no easy fight as the Polish light heavyweight outpointed Doudou Ngumbu over 10 rounds Saturday evening at UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois.
Scores were in 97-93 (twice) and 98-92 in favor of Fonfara, though in a fight that was far more competitive than the official tallies suggested.
Fighting for the first time since his failed title bid versus World light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson in May, Fonfara was forced to dig his way out of an early hole. Ngumbu, Congo-born but based out of France, took note of his opponent's penchant for starting off slow, forcing the action early and showing no fear fighting on the road halfway around the world from home.
The biggest concern for Fonfara came in the opening round, knocked off balance and drawing a collective gasp from the partisan crowd of roughly 4,000 rabid fans in attendance. The light heavyweight contender shook off the effects of the blow, and began to creep his way back into the fight.
A tide-turning moment came in round five. Fonfara connected with a left hook to wobble Ngumbu and drive him into the ropes. The sequence brought the audience to its feet, but Fonfara - a knockout winner in 12 of his previous 13 fights prior to the Stevenson loss - was unable to close the show.
To his credit, Ngumbu not only rode out the storm, but was taking the initiative by round's end. He wasn't done there, as he continued to force Fonfara to work every second of every round over the course of the second half of the contest.
The general feeling among home viewers was that the fight was a nip-and-tuck affair through seven rounds, perhaps one point in either direction. Fonfara took note, picking up the pace over the course of the final three rounds to ensure victory.
While the scores were perhaps on point (BoxingScene.com agreed with the 97-93 cards), Fonfara knew he was in a fight at the end of the night. It was the test he wanted, rather than line up a soft touch, even if most fans weren't terribly familiar with his opponent or his style.
"He has a little bit of a different style," Fonfara (26-3, 15KOs) said of Ngumbu, who falls to 33-6 (12KOs). "He's very sneaky and very fast. He doesn’t look like a big puncher, but he can box. He’s fought good fighters and has experience."
Fonfara has gained a considerable amount of experience in his past few fights. A come-from behind knockout win over former champ Gabriel Campillo last August put Fonfara in position to eventually challenge for the World title. One year prior came what many point to as his arrival on the light heavyweight stage, a 10-round points win over another former champ, albeit a faded version of Glen Johnson.
The bouts still serve as the biggest wins of his career, paving the way for his road trip to Canada in May. Fonfara was dropped early, but rallied back, dropping Stevenson late only to fall short on the cards but gain a world of respect in the process.
From the moment the final bell rang, all he could think about was getting another swing at the king.
"I was ready (for a rematch) right away," Fonfara insists. "We fought at the end of May. Now we’re back five months later. Maybe I get a rematch. I would like to fight him again."
Stevenson has his own piece of business ahead, facing Dmitry Sukhotksy at home in Canada on December 19. Even with a win, looming ahead is an overdue mandatory title defense versus former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal.
There is a wild card in play, however; both Stevenson and Fonfara are employed by Al Haymon these days, with both fighters signing with the high-powered adviser at different points this year.
Fonfara made the move in August, less than three months following his loss to Stevenson. Even if a rematch doesn't pan out anytime soon, the still-relevant light heavyweight contender doesn't figure to go hungry anytime soon.
"Haymon is the best adviser in boxing. I wanted to sign with the best," Fonfara said of decision to make that move over the summer. "I signed a contract with him and right away he brings Showtime to Chicago. It’s more motivating to do my job in the ring. If I win and give good fights, I make money and he makes money."
Tomoki Kameda was forced to settle for a 12-round split decision in his bantamweight title defense versus Alejandro Hernandez, in a fight most believe he won with room to spare. The bout was Kameda's second straight in the United States since signing with Haymon earlier this summer.
Unbeaten super featherweight Javier Fortuna scored a 5th round knockout over Abner Cotto, whose only game plan seemed to be to foul his way out of the fight, which almost worked thanks to shoddy officiating from referee Lou Hall. Fonfara is now 4-0-1 since moving up to 130 lb. following a title run at featherweight.
Fonfara-Ngumbu, Kameda-Hernandez and Fortuna-Cotto all aired live on Showtime in a hybrid edition mixed with elements of its Shobox and Showtime Championship Boxing series.
Off camera, former three-division champ Koki Kameda took the first step towards a title run in a 4th weight class, knocking out Omar Salado in four rounds. The bout was his first at 115 and in the United States. The oldest of three fighting brothers (including younger brother Tomoki), Kameda previously held titles at junior flyweight, flyweight (World lineal championship) and bantamweight, giving up the latter belt late last year in lieu of shrinking down to 118 lb. one more time for an ordered fight with Anselmo Moreno
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox