By Cliff Rold
The days are sliding by faster now. Menorahs and Christmas trees are set to light up the sky, setting the stage for Father Time to make way for Baby New Year once again. In Boxing, it means another ‘season’ is nearing its finish. With only a few significant bouts left on the slate, it’s time to begin to look back at the year that was.
After etching yet another name on the list of Fight of the Year contenders, the Cruiserweights are first up. On Thursday, December 11th, fans saw not only the best fight in the division this year but also the division’s best fighter in 2008.
Cruiserweight Fighter of the Year: Tomasz Adamek (36-1, 24 KO)
When he was losing all but a single round and his WBC Light Heavyweight belt in 2007 to Chad Dawson, the thought of the 32-year old Adamek becoming a World champion some twenty-five pounds up the scale by the end of 08 would have seemed far-fetched.
Adamek did just that when he captured the vacant claim to the lineal World Cruiserweight championship and an IBF-belt from then-titlist Steve Cunningham to cap the best year of a nine-year paid stint. The fight was a classic, but so too was the all-year surge from Poland’s new favorite fistic son. In going 3-0 on the year, Adamek made his first statement in April, forcing a quit from proven warrior and former World champ O’Neil Bell in eight dominant rounds. A stay-busy win over journeyman Gary Gomez filled out the space between his two mammoth wins but, given the glory of the bout, it would be okay if fans remember only the last impression.
Also notable in 2008…former Jr. Middleweight contender and long-time Cruiserweight stalwart Guillermo Jones captured the WBA title from Firat Arslan to top (so far) long tenure…and then-lineal champion David Haye added the WBO title to a collection of belts by destroying local rival Enzo Maccarinelli in two rounds. It would be Haye’s farewell fight before moving up to Heavyweight.
Cruiserweight Fight of the Year: Tomasz Adamek SD12 Steve Cunningham
The final bell sounded only days ago and already fans are asking when they’ll see these two at it again. As reported at https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17428:
Cunningham came out at the opening bell circling the ring to his left, flicking the jab. A lead left hook and left to body crashed home for Cunningham just past the first minute and a minute more would pass before Adamek landed a clean right lead along the ropes. Cunningham slammed a right-left combination to the head of Adamek in the final thirty seconds, punctuating with another right immediately.
Adamek increased the pressure in the second, ripping a left and right which caused Cunningham to drop his hands before firing back with a left hook of his own. Both fired and landed sharp, fast punches but Adamek’s were harder. With less than a minute to go, a right hand jarred Cunningham to the temple and in the final ten seconds an exchange of blows ended with a counter left, again to the temple, to deposit Cunningham on the floor. Cunningham rose quickly to hear out the mandatory standing eight-count before heading to his corner.
The rabid crowd’s echoing chants of “Adamek” went up another notch to start the third as their favorite continued to stalk. Cunningham bounced, moving side to side but only sporadically firing his jab early. A left from Adamek landed to the chin and Cunningham clinched before moving away. A pair of long rights landed to the head and body for Cunningham late but control remained Adamek’s.
Right away in the fourth a right slammed into Adamek’s chin and Cunningham came forward with a bevy of left hooks and uppercuts. Adamek reeled from one set of ropes to another, covering and barely keeping his feet. The crowd gasped and Cunningham came forward with fury for close to two minutes before the assault left him arm weary. Stepping back and looking for the next opening, Cunningham instead gave one to Adamek, lazily leaving his left hand hanging and eating another right hand to the temple, toppling to the floor with some thirty seconds to go. Cunningham rose with far unsteadier legs then had been the case in his first trip to the floor. Adamek came forward, landing another right hand, and then another, but Cunningham would not relent and the bell ended a round of the year candidate.
Round five would play out in slower, more dominant fashion as Cunningham played defense in search of his legs while Adamek’s right sought a final sweet spot. Again in the closing seconds, momentum would swing as a right and left from Cunningham would turn his back away from the ropes and turn him stalker for the closing seconds.
Marking the halfway point of the bout, Cunningham boxed intelligently for the full three minutes of the sixth, capturing his most decisive frame of the bout to then. Circling and using the jab he’d largely forgotten, Cunningham refused to stand still and trade. The tactic continued in the seventh but Adamek was unwilling to stay at distance. A massive Cunningham right seemed only to inspire Adamek’s urgency and the challenger pushed forward. Cunningham stayed with the right but it was an Adamek left and right hand in the closing seconds which reminded the fight was far from over.
The Cunningham right again landed early in the seventh; Adamek responded with his own. A series of flurries for Adamek along the ropes set Cunningham up with a minute to go for yet another right and Cunningham was down for the third time in the bout. Rising and shaking his head in disgust, Cunningham again hung on, slipping Adamek’s attempts to finish before landing two neck stiffening uppercuts. Adamek didn’t seem to notice, pulling his head back into place and returning to battle.
In yet another gutsy turn, the first two minutes and forty seconds of round nine would be all Cunningham. Boxing and circling, he landed jabs and right hands which seemed to stun Adamek, one driving him across the ring. With twenty seconds to go though, it was an Adamek right bringing another wobble to the knees to Cunningham. He stayed up and fired back right away, refusing to give any more ground to Adamek.
A right hand and left hook blistered the jaw of Adamek early in the tenth and again working off the jab proved effective for Cunningham. His right hand landed and left hooks followed while Adamek stalked. In the final thirty seconds, it was again an Adamek right birthing a violent explosion of action. Both men traded heavy power shots until the bell.
Three rights landed to start the eleventh for Cunningham and Adamek, swelling under the left eye, was moved forcibly to the ropes. Adamek gripped Cunningham beneath the armpits and swung him around, landing a right before Cunningham returned fire and snatched control back from the challenger. Each traded sporadically until the closing seconds again brought the action to a crowd pleasing crescendo.
And there were still three minutes to go.
Touching gloves at center ring, Adamek probably ahead on the cards, neither man would play the shrinking violet. Both would land telling blows but with a minute to go, Cunningham caught Adamek with a whipping right to the chin. Adamek, exhausted, fought him off, taking the worst of it down the stretch but was the late rounds surge enough to save the night for Cunningham?
It was not.
Clark Sammartino’s 114-112 for Cunningham was overruled by John Stewart at 116-110 and Shafeeq Rashada at 115-112, all for the winner and new champion Adamek.
Cruiserweight: The Year in Results
Since last January, BoxingScene has produced quarterly ratings for each of Boxing’s seventeen weight classes. Ratings for the first quarter of 2009 should be available at the new year; for now, here’s a look back at the critical Cruiserweight results of 2008.
02/09: #6 Krysztof Wlodarczyk (40-2, 30 KO) W TKO4 Gabor Halasz (20-11, 8 KO)
02/23: #9 Grigory Drozd (29-1, 22 KO) W UD8 Michael Simms (19-9-1, 13 KO)
03/08: World Champion David Haye (21-1, 20 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC/WBA) W TKO2 Enzo Maccarinelli (28-2, 21 KO, WBO)
03/08: Rudolph Kraj (14-0, 10 KO) W UD12 #8 Matt Godfrey (16-1, 9 KO)
04/05: #3 Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (41-2, 31 KO) W KO1 Gabor Gyuris (6-11)
04/12: #7 Marco Huck (20-1, 15 KO) W TKO5 Leon Nzama (2-6)
04/19: #4 Tomasz Adamek (34-1, 23 KO) W TKO8 #8 O’Neil Bell (26-3-1, 24 KO)
05/03: #6 Firat Arslan (29-3-1, 18 KO, WBA) W UD12 Darnell Wilson (23-7-3, 20 KO)
07/11: #3 Tomasz Adamek (35-1, 24 KO) W RTD7 Gary Gomez (18-10-1, 7 KO)
09/20: #7 Marco Huck (22-1, 17 KO) W TKO12 Jean Marc Monrose (24-2, 15 KO)
09/27: Guillermo Jones (36-3-2, 28 KO) W TKO10 #2 Firat Arslan (29-4-1, 18 KO, WBA)
10/24: Giacobbe Fragomeni (26-1, 10 KO) W TD8 #10 Ruldolf Kraj (14-1, 10 KO); vacant WBC title
10/25: #6 Marco Huck (23-1, 18 KO) W TKO2 Fabio Tuiach (22-2, 14 KO)
12/06: #7 Enzo Maccarinelli (29-2, 22 KO) TKO2 Matthew Ellis (20-6-1, 9 KO)
12/11: #3 Tomasz Adamek (36-1, 24 KO) SD12 #1 Steve Cunningham (21-2, 11 KO, IBF); for the vacant Lineal/Ring World Championship
Check in tomorrow for more of BoxingScene’s 2008 Year in Review.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org