By Ryan Songalia
When a contender ascends to champion status, he abdicates his role as hunter and becomes the hunted. The champion has what the men beneath him desire, therefore holding all of the cards.
It makes life a lot easier when you don't have to chase opponents down; but with all of the offers filing in, which one do you choose?
This is the situation IBF cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek finds himself in.
A little more than a week has passed since he knocked out previously unbeaten Kronk product Jonathon Banks in eight rounds. Since then several matchups have been discussed, most notably Bernard Hopkins.
Hopkins expounded on his intentions this past Friday on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights, where he reprised his role as semi-regular in-studio guest. "This guy has a straight-forward, blood and guts type of mentality. Those are the type of guys I like to fight, who come in there and try to knock you and [are] willing to take that risk. It's going to be a big test for me and I'm willing to take that test."
Hopkins said that Adamek makes the most sense since Joe Calzaghe is unlikely to return for a rematch. He said that his target weight for the challenge would be between 180 and 185 pounds. Adamek weighed in at 199 for the Banks fight.
Still, the native of Poland, who now resides in Jersey City, NJ, is not reserving himself to just one option.
"I'm happy that Bernard is willing to fight me but I will fight anybody," says Adamek, 37-1 (25 KO). "He's a famous guy, a legend and a world champion.
"I'm a mountain boy, a fighter from the mountains so I'm not afraid of anybody. If my team puts King Kong in front of me, I will fight him."
Hopkins, a former middleweight and light-heavyweight champion, would be facing the biggest, strongest opponent of his career if he was to select Adamek for his next fight. When questioned whether he felt he could become the first to stop the 44-year-old icon, Adamek took the high road.
"I don't want to predict anything but it will be a great fight on my part. It will be a tough fight and the fans will have a great outing."
Steve Cunningham, whom Adamek bested to become cruiserweight champion last year in a Fight of the Year candidate, believes that if Hopkins comes into the fight at his intended weight, he can defeat Adamek handily.
"I see Bernard beating him and roughing him up and pounding out a decision," says Cunningham, who like Hopkins is a native of Philadelphia.
"The only thing that I think would give Bernard a problem is Adamek's power, that's about it. And he can avoid the power. Bernard is smart; he's got Nazim Richardson as his trainer. I don't see any obstacles in there he wouldn't be able to overcome."
Perhaps the reason opponents are not deterred by his recent displays of punching clout is his popularity. His last two fights have taken place in Newark, just a short drive from his residence, and have drawn raucous, passionate crowds waving the Polish colors of red and white.
The first fight, against Cunningham, was televised on Versus on a Thursday night and drew in approximately 6,000 people to the home of the New Jersey Devils hockey team. The latest fight, televised by Showtime on a Friday, drew about 8,000 people.
"Next time it'll be a Saturday night and will draw even more," says Ziggy Rozalsky, Adamek's co-promoter (alongside Main Events) and advisor.
"We have many offers and we're going to choose the best one. We're very flexible."
Rozalsky, who co-promoted Andrew Golota along with Main Events during his peak, revealed that there is also a standing offer for Adamek to fight in his home country of Poland. He says that Adamek will most likely return in the end of May or the beginning of June. A date has already been reserved for June at the Prudential Center.
Adamek, a former light-heavyweight titlist who moved up after his lone career loss against Chad Dawson, says he plans on an eventual ascent to heavyweight.
Audacious? Yes, though it comes with conditions.
"I have a problem with the 6'8” giants. I'd like to fight any heavyweight around 6'3”, 6'4”."
Regarding the growing popularity of Adamek, highly-respected boxing writer Keith Idec brought up a parallel between Adamek and Jersey's last super-draw Arturo "Thunder" Gatti last month in a column that appeared in the New Jersey Herald News.
Gatti, who also took up residence in Jersey City after relocating from Canada, regularly packed the house at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall. Like Gatti, Adamek is a vulnerable fan favorite not shy about taking a punch to deliver his own.
Factor in his ethnic appeal and he has the potential to achieve similar success in North Jersey. And while Adamek wasn't comfortable comparing himself to Gatti when posed with the question, Rozalsky had no such reservations.
"I think he's going to be as popular as Arturo Gatti because he's got a chin and has the same style of fighting as him. He just loves to fight."
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected] .