Steve Cunningham, making his second appearance in the heavyweight division after moving up from cruiserweight, faced off in a rematch with Tomasz Adamek. Back in 2008 Adamek emerged with a split-decision victory in a superb battle which, unlike the outcome of this one, never left a sour taste on the tongue.
For 12 rounds, for a number 2 ranking in the IBF, Cunningham dictated. Working behind a solid jab followed by straight right hands, Cunningham limited the amount of success Adamek had. Discipline in refusing to trade and not allowing himself to be trapped on the ropes meant Adamek was doing little more than plodding forward and eating leather.
It seemed Adamek took a page out of Felix Sturm and Arthur Abraham’s book of waiting until the final 30 seconds of a round before initiating any meaningful attacks. Ten and fifteen second flurries from Adamek to close rounds, particularly the early ones, may have swayed the judges – but they shouldn’t have when Cunningham had controlled the first 2 minutes and 30 seconds.
Unlike the first fight Adamek struggled to land with his overhand-right counter. Cunningham never gave him the opportunity to, jabbing to the head and body then moving out of range again. When Adamek did let his hands go and attempt to be first to land a punch, he was swiftly countered by solid straight right counters. The clean work all came from Cunningham.
When the bell sounded to signal the end of the fight my gut feeling was the same as I had after Manny Pacquiao vs. Tim Bradley; there’s only one winner and it’s not close. I was wrong – again. Scores read – at first – 115-113 (Cunningham), 116-112 (Adamek), 115-115 (even). A split draw was announced. Disappointment and annoyance at yet more poor scoring was in the air. Then, that disappointment and annoyance turned to angst as Michael Buffer announced there was a correction to made. He re-read the scores and this time, instead of a split-draw, the 115-115 scorecard was read out as being 115-112 for Tomasz Adamek. Which was later amended to 115-113 for Adamek. What a mess.
A draw was bad enough. But a win for Adamek?
I scored the bout 117-111 for Cunningham and, looking back over my card and calling on my memory of the fight, rounds four and eight were rounds that could have went either way – I gave both rounds to Cunningham. So with that in mind, should those two rounds be given to Adamek then that gives me 115-113 for Cunningham. I have no problem with that score, even if it does suggest the fight was close, but I can see it. I really can’t make a case for Adamek winning any more than five rounds.
The winner here would, theoretically, be set to meet unbeaten Bulgarian Kubrat Pulev. It shall be interesting to see if Adamek moves in that direction as he is very clearly on the decline. The beating he took at the hands of Vitali Klitschko seems to have affected him more than we may have imagined. For Cunningham, I hope he is rewarded with a meaningful fight.
More than likely, however, we’ll get a third bout and it will probably go the same way as this one did – hopefully this time minus the incompetent judging.