By Jake Donovan
Light heavyweight prospect Andrzej Fonfara has spent the past four years proving that his last loss was a fluke. A 12-fight unbeaten streak – including a current run of nine straight knockouts – goes a long way towards restoring confidence.
Now all he has to do is prove that he’s for real.
Fonfara currently stands at the crossroads of his career, with a much clearer sense of direction to be provided after Friday’s showdown against former light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson.
The bout serves as this week’s main event on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights and takes place at the UIC Pavilion in Fonfara’s adopted hometown of Chicago. The Polish transplant has become a favorite son to the area and the venue in particular, fighting at the Pavilion for the 11th time in his past 12 fights.
“I’m glad to get this opportunity in front of my fans,” Fonfara (21-2, 12KO). “It will be very loud.”
It’s up to Fonfara to prove an old axiom true, that action speaks louder than words.
There is the train of thought that this fight comes at the perfect time – Fonfara is red hot, while the 43-year old Johnson (51-16-2, 35KO) appears to have seen better days. A ring veteran of nearly 20 years, Johnson enters the fight having lost two straight, though against the sport’s upper echelon of talent in Carl Froch and Lucian Bute.
Johnson looked like a fighter on the way out the door against Bute, losing nearly every round and not offering much in the way of a competitive fight for the first time in more than a decade. Still, most of his losses in recent past have been followed up with an impressive enough win to keep his career afloat, which leads to the intrigue surrounding Friday’s headliner.
It’s an experience to which Fonfara can’t yet truly relate. His two career losses have come against far inferior competition to the man who will stand across him on Friday evening. This fact isn’t lost on his promoter 8 Count Productions, but “that’s what this fight is all about. Adrzej is now 20-plus fights into his career. Everyone wants to see what he’s made of and it’s put-up or shut-up time. We know he’s ready, but it’s up to Andrzej to prove it.”
His modest competition level aside, Fonfara has taken tremendous strides in his career development. Moving up from middleweight - where he lost to Findley – and even super middleweight has proven wise, as his fights over the past two-plus years have shown a 24-year old fighter who has finally grown into his 6’2” frame.
Fonfara still comes across as deceptively rail thin, but has added enough muscle to where his opponents feel the difference.
“I still learn from every fight. The smartest thing I’ve done (so far) was move up to light heavyweight,” Fonfara admits. “I don’t walk around heavy at this weight, and can spend training camp focusing on getting stronger and sharper, instead of trying to get down to fight weight. That is the key for my success.”
That level of confidence alone goes a long way towards facing a wily veteran like Johnson, who possesses a flair for reshuffling the deck. Many in the media and among the general boxing public wonder how much Johnson has left at this stage of his career.
Fonfara is right there with them, as he prepares for the very best version of ‘The Road Warrior’, refusing to bank on the possibility of his opponent showing his age.
“Glen Johnson is a very tough fighter,” Fonfara acknowledges. “We trained very hard for this fight because we know he’s dangerous. I want to prove I’m ready for (the best) light heavyweights.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox