By Jake Donovan
Just eleven weeks after winning in a Fight of the Year candidate in the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, lineal cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek offered an entry for Knockout of the Year, stopping previously unbeaten Johnathon Banks in eight rounds in the same arena.
The bout headlined a televised doubleheader aired live on Showtime.
Chants of “Ah-dah-mek!” filled the Prudential Center pretty much from the moment the co-feature bout ended, making the arena feel like Little Warsaw. Banks knew he was in hostile territory the moment he received his cue to make his way toward the ring, entering to a chorus of boos from the sold out crowd.
The boos turned to an eruption of cheers as Adamek was treated to a hero’s welcome the moment his face was visible. It didn’t die down until the action in the ring called for a more appropriate reaction.
It came earlier than expected, as the bout opened to a slow start. Banks picked things up midway through the round, with consecutive right hands driving Adamek to the ropes, forcing the champion to readjust. The remainder of the round was relatively quiet, until Adamek landed a right hand before the bell, much to the delight of the partisan crowd.
Both fighters were patient to a fault in the second, though the slow pace favored Banks. The jab was the primary weapon for challenger and champion, with little else to choose from for the rest of the round, save for a shoe-shine from Adamek toward round’s end.
A slow-paced third was followed by an action-packed fourth round. Banks was boxing smartly throughout the round – and in fact the fight – when he suddenly exploded with a left hook following a right hand, driving Adamek backwards. It wasn’t enough to score a knockdown, but more than enough for Banks to secure the round, as well as draw blood from the champion’s mouth.
There wasn’t much reason for the pro-Adamek crowd to celebrate through the first four rounds, leaving the fans desperate for any reason to erupt. That moment came midway in the fifth, when Adamek landed a body shot. More cheers came when he landed a looping left late in the round. The crowd returned to pre-fight decibel levels in trying to will their guy back into the fight.
Despite the already deliberate pace, Banks showed signs of fatigue in the sixth. A low blow late in the round would unintentionally give him a chance to rest and regroup, even if not the best means to catch a breather. Adamek didn’t give his challenger a chance to rediscover his groove, raking him with body shots and consistently beating him to the punch.
Adamek carried a major momentum swing into the second half of the fight. Banks was running on empty, while the champion effectively boxed and traded throughout the round. The game plan going in was to exude patience and break down his challenger later in the fight. Adamek followed it to the letter, putting on a clinic in what became the bout’s penultimate round.
The end appeared to be near, though Adamek’s corner warned him that Banks possessed fight-altering power, meaning don’t deviate from the script. Banks tried to prove Adamek’s handlers correct, letting his hands go early in the eighth. It went well for as long as the sequence lasted, until he was forced to clinch.
It would prove to be the challenger’s last moment in the sun. Adamek recovered, and landed a right hand, left hook combo that sent Banks reeling to the canvas. He managed to beat referee Eddie Cotton’s count, but spent much of the eight seconds staggering abound. Action resumed, at which point Adamek went in for the kill. Body shots were followed up by a right hand that drove Banks to a neutral corner, where the champion unloaded before forcing his foe to collapse to the canvas. No count was necessary, with Cotton jumping in and immediately waving off the action.
The official time was 1:30 of round eight.
Adamek rolls to 37-1 (25KO) with the win, his first successful defense of the lineal cruiserweight crown. The fight was his fourth in a span of just over ten months, with this defense coming just 11 weeks after defeating Steve Cunningham for the crown in this very same arena.
Cunningham was perhaps the most interested ringside observer in the arena for this fight, having longed for a rematch ever since the end of their epic battle last December. He might have to accept another rematch, in order to move into the mandatory slot; IBF rules state that you cannot enter a title fight coming off of a loss. Plus, with the top two slots vacant, a box-off with Marco Huck could be ordered to produce the next number-one challenger.
In the meantime, the good news gets better for the cruiserweight division. The natural comparison for any champ at the weight is to measure him up against Evander Holyfield. The most recent candidate, David Haye, emulated Holyfield only in that he bolted to heavyweight soon after gaining worldwide recognition as cruiserweight king.
Adamek, now six fights deep into his cruiserweight career after having spent eight years as a light heavyweight, appears comfortable fighting at or around 200 lb. Hopefully, this means it might be awhile before boxing loses another cruiserweight king to the heavyweight division.
Of course, that didn’t stop him from expressing his dream shortly after the fight to one day win the heavyweight title. It remains a dream for now, and cruiserweight’s good fortunes.
Banks suffers the first loss of his career, falling to 20-1 (14KO). The bout was his first shot at a real world title and really against a live opponent of any kind, entering the biggest fight of his career with a paper thin resume. He also entered the fight without head trainer Emanuel Steward, who was in Houston preparing for a telecast on another network, leaving corner responsibilities to longtime assistant James Ali Bashir.
Eight months ago, middleweight contender Giovanni Lorenzo was one fight away from earning a mandatory shot at alphabet titlist Arthur Abraham. That opportunity disappeared along with his undefeated record after suffering an upset loss to Raul Marquez.
Lorenzo left nothing to chance in his co-feature bout with Dionisio Miranda, standing his ground with the Colombian banger before blasting him out in less than two rounds of action.
Both fighters had their moments early, but the fight came down to who committed more to his punches. That fighter was Lorenzo, as evidenced by the fight ending sequence. The Dominican took a right hand from Miranda, shrugged it off and fired back with a right hand of his own that put his challenger down and out. Referee Samuel Viruet issued a count before waving off the action at 2:48 of round two.
The win was Lorenzo’s first fight back since the upset to Marquez last summer, also on Showtime. He advances to 27-1 (19KO) and now awaits Arthur Abraham’s next title defense, an April showdown with undefeated but grossly untested Lajuan Simon.
Miranda dips to 19-4-2 (17KO), having now lost two of his last three.
The show was presented by Main Events in association with K2 Promotions.
Jake Donovan is a voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Comments/questions can be submitted to [email protected].