So young Johnathon Banks wasn’t so evidently doomed as I imagined. Fighting the cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek, Banks had scads of nice moments, landing huge right hands and left hooks that at times dealt surprising hurt to Adamek’s chops. Most cruiserweights get knocked out by those shots. Adamek is an altogether different kind of boxer. Even with Banks landing as flush and frightening blows as he did in the 8th, it was Banks who was on the wrong end of a crushing knockout in that round. Banks impressed me beyond my expectations, but all it did was give us all a chance to behold the badassery of one of the finest chins in the sport, all wrapped up in a package of big power and underrated ring smarts.
It was the conclusion to a Friday night that saw two unheralded welterweights in Antwone Smith and Norberto Gonzalez put on a really nice show on ESPN2′s Friday Night Fights; an FNF main event where the constantly, criminally underappreciated Glen Johnson easily swept aside a member of the villainous Judah clan; and a Showtime undercard to Adamek-Banks where middleweight Giovanni Lorenzo delivered to us, and Diosinio Miranda, one of the best knockouts of early 2009.
Before getting to Adamek-Banks, some quick words on the other fights of the night:
I love it when two guys I’ve never heard of give it their all and provide the crowd something to cheer about on a Friday Night Fights undercard. Gonzalez was the guy in the match-up who was considered the prospect, and he did appear to have some power. Smith, though, had some skills, and it very quickly became a battle of Gonzalez’ volume versus Smith’s precision. In the 2nd round, Gonzalez appeared to have Smith in some trouble, only to get knocked down himself. It was back and forth for the rest of the fight, but Smith came out on top at the end of eight. Overall, it was the second or third best fight I’ve seen on TV in 2009. So cheers to these fellas.
In the main event, Johnson avenged a years-ago draw with Daniel Judah by getting a very clear decision win highlighted by a 1st round knockdown. That got my hopes up. The Judahs irritate me to no end — Zab, his dad, the whole misbegotten family. So imagine my dismay when Johnson, a fighter I root for nearly every time out, decked Judah, member of a family I root against every time out, then failed to capitalize on his giant right hand that left Judah sagging comically against the ropes. (The Judahs are good for that — being hilarious when they get shook.) And then, to add insult to injury, as Johnson pummeled Judah in every imaginable way — inside, outside, body, head — Judah spent most of the fight pretending not to be hurt by any of it. At least 734 times per round, Judah faked shaky knees, or motioned for Johnson to come on, or held his gloves down in disdain, or other histrionics. None of this would bother me so much if the dudes didn’t have some talent, and there were milliseconds of quality boxing by Judah spread throughout the fight. The right man got the victory. It’s my hope that Johnson gets a rematch against Chad Dawson some day soon, but it’s more likely that Dawson shuns him and Johnson rides his position in alphabet title rankings to a title shot quite soon, most likely against Adrian Diaconu. That would be a good fight, and if it happens, I hope some TV station picks it up.
In the Shobox opener, Lorenzo made swift work of Miranda, landing a beauty of a right on Miranda’s chin to score a one-punch knockout. Miranda and Lorenzo showed considerable respect for one another’s power in the 1st round, but in the second, Miranda began to open up. Seeing as how Miranda was a Colombian power puncher, that might have been the end of Lorenzo, but there were a few mitigating factors. First, Miranda wasn’t a middleweight by birth, and Lorenzo is. Second, Lorenzo, in fact, had trouble making weight, and may have come into the ring at 180 or so. Third, after Miranda landed a great big blow, he began to paw at Lorenzo to try another time, and that opened him up for Lorenzo’s knockout right over the top. It was a pretty good recovery for Lorenzo from his first loss, one that puts him in position for a mandatory title shot against Arthur Abraham. Nothing here said to me that Lorenzo is anything but roadkill for Abraham, in part considering the way Abraham so easily dismissed the man who handed Lorenzo his first loss, Raul Marquez.
TOMASZ ADAMEK – JOHNATHON BANKS
In some ways, Adamek-Banks went how I expected. That is, Banks would be dangerous early, but Adamek would score a middle rounds KO. But that didn’t tell the whole story.
Banks was dangerous in ways I didn’t anticipate. His superior size gave Adamek some real strategic obstacles. I knew Banks would be faster, but he was considerably faster. I knew Banks could punch, but I didn’t expect him to rattle the granite from which Adamek’s face is carved. And I thought Adamek would have more luck early in beginning to wear Banks down. Instead, the fight was waged at a slow pace, one that benefited Banks, whose stamina late in fights had been suspect. Adamek was having difficulty putting pressure on Banks, who was countering him effectively and forcing him to hesitate. I had Banks winning three of the first four rounds.
All fight long, when Adamek was cornering Banks, I was shouting at the television (and my friend Kevin, and my cat, and a nearby basketball) that Adamek should go to Banks’ body. And when he listened to me — I’m convinced Adamek heard my instructions — it really did the trick. Banks was keeping his gloves high when he got backed up, which left big openings along the tall Banks’ ribcage. In the 5th, Adamek began to target those tender bones. For the next few rounds, Adamek was wearing Banks down, and it helped him avoid the shots that earlier did big damage. But Banks was still in the fight. He dropped a couple big right hand bombs on Adamek in the 8th, at least until Adamek dropped his own short right on a forward-moving Banks’ chin. Banks had real trouble getting up, and when he did, he wandered about aimlessly; the ref even turned him around to wipe off his gloves. He didn’t look good, and the fight should have been stopped. Adamek predictably capitalized with a power flurry that left Banks scarily slumped over in the corner when the ref finally halted it.
There was too little action to make it as action-packed as I thought it could be, but Adamek-Banks ultimately entertained. Some of that had to do with Banks’ performance, but most of it had to do with the fortitude, intelligence and finishing power of Adamek. The Polish-born cruiserweight champ is rapidly moving up my list of favorites.
Next for the loser: Assuming the unnecessary punches Banks took at the end of the fight didn’t do him too much damage, I have to like Banks’ chances against some other top-10 cruisers. His chin and stamina are a liability, but his power, speed and size are very good, and despite the loss, I’m less skeptical of him now than I was before. He hung with a top-notch fighter pretty well. So let’s see him against a top-10 cruiserweight soon. Or it can wait, if he needs a few get-well fights. He’s only 26.
Next for the winner: Adamek said something about wanting to move to heavyweight, and I must say no God please no. I just don’t care about those guys, nor do I think Adamek has the size to be terribly good at the weight. Consider, Tomasz, the following two men who want to fight you: A. Steve Cunningham. The rematch would be lucrative. B. Bernard Hopkins. You said you wanted big names? B-Hop is a big name. You’re one of the reasons the cruiserweight division is heating up again. Don’t abandon it now.