Adamek Takes IBF Cruiserweight Title

By Tim Donaldson
Photos: David Martin Warr - DKP

Steve “USS” Cunningham must have thought that he was fighting back in Europe again as he entered the Prudential Arena in Newark. The then champion was treated to a mix of cheers and boos as he approached the ring. Just minutes before, Adamek was treated with loud cheers and applause as he entered the ring from a crowd that must have been 70 percent Polish. Looking out over the crowd, you could not help but see the large sea of red and white, the colors of the flag of Poland, covering the not only the stands of the arena but also the majority of the floor seats. They wore red and white jackets and held up scarves with Polska written on them. Some had even gone to the trouble of painting their faces. They were here to see Adamek do what he does best, fight. And that is exactly what Adamek did.

Not that Cunningham had come simply to turn over his title to Adamek. The fight was between two aggressive fighters, and the action never seemed to slow. Both fighters approached in the first round intent on winning. After sizing each other up in the opening moments of the round, they went to work. Cunningham looked good in the first round, throwing several good combinations. It appeared as though he had taken the round. However, Adamek came out on the attack in the second round. Cunningham countered quick, but Adamek never let up the pressure. And Cunningham kept dropping his hands, something he did throughout the fight, giving Adamek a clear shot. Near the end of the second, Cunningham found himself down. The third round saw much of the same, with Adamek dominating.

In the fourth round, Cunningham appeared to realize that he was in a serious fight. He would start out probing with his jab and follow that up with a flurry of punches. It was the only time in the fight that Adamek looked angry, losing that calm and determined look on his face that was so apparent throughout the fight. But maybe it was that anger that turned that round over to Adamek as he dropped Cunningham with only a few seconds left in the fight.

Cunningham came out of his corner looking angry in the fifth round, and the two fought a close round. But the middle of the fight seemed to slow down some from the earlier rounds. You could see that Cunningham was getting tired and was hurting from the abuse given by Adamek. Whenever Cunningham took a hit to the face, he would shake his head and dance around a bit. In contrast, Adamek just kept coming at Cunningham when hit.

The lull ended by the eighth round. Cunningham came out of his corner looking determined, and for the beginning of the round he controlled the action. But Adamek came right back, never letting Cunningham keep the advantage. He caught Cunningham in Cunningham’s corner and delivered a series of blows. And Adamek put Cunningham on the ground for the third time of the night.

Cunningham looked much better in the ninth round and tenth rounds. Adamek was beginning to look tired. But even with Cunningham apparently winning those rounds, the crowd kept up with its chants of Adamek and Polska, giving the impression that this was no ordinary fight, but rather one of national pride. Chants began to go back and forth. Polska, followed by USA. It had the feel of an Olympic event.

Adamek kept pounding away in the eleventh round, taking advantage of the times that Cunningham would drop his arms. Cunningham was fighting for if not his life at least his title at this point. He looked almost desperate at times, trying for that knock out punch on the chin of Adamek. Both came out tired in the twelfth with their arms looking extremely heavy. Cunningham was still looking for that knock out punch, but he was unable to deliver it. The fight would go to the judges.

The announcement of the judges’ scores was the one time that the arena became quiet. The decision was split, one judge scoring the fight 114 to 112 in favor of Cunningham, one scoring 116 to 110 for Adamek, and the third 115 to 112 for Adamek. The crowd erupted into cheers, chants, and applause, calming only slightly to hear the ring interview of Adamek and then getting right back into it so no one in the arena could hear the interview with Cunningham.