Heavyweight Tomasz Adamek was supposed to get an elementary introduction to gigantic, 6’7″-style boxers — that is, the Klitschko brothers — with 38-year-old, once-promising Michael Grant. For all but about 10 seconds of the first six rounds, he was handling it with ease, with Grant looking like such a big stiff it was hard to tell how, other than his dimensions, Grant presented anything that replicated the Klitschkos. Then, at the end of the 6th, Grant landed a big right hand that wobbled Adamek, and for the remaining six rounds, Adamek and Grant fought, shockingly, on pretty even terms.
In the end, Adamek got the deserved decision, but his viability as a future heavyweight king took a lump or two. Consider that, with the exception of his drubbing of Andrew Golota, Adamek has been in three close-ish fights at heavyweight against Jason Estrada, Chris Arreola and now Grant; that’s three fighters of varying degrees of talent and experience, and all of them have given him trouble. Adamek is a top-5 heavyweight, according to Ring magazine, and he should be. But he’s really a cruiserweight who’s overachieving.
Maybe it’s too early a judgement. Adamek has shown his capability to evolve, both over the course of his career and within fights. But he hasn’t hurt anyone but Golota at 201 pounds or more the way he used to hurt people at 200 or less, and Grant had been knocked out pretty conclusively in the past. Grant didn’t seem to respect Adamek’s power at all, especially once he discovered he could hurt Adamek. Adamek’s chin at 200 was extremely reliable, but he’s been wobbled a few more times at heavy. And while he’s nimble on his feet for a heavyweight, he doesn’t fight well enough on the inside to be able to do as much damage in there as he needs to against bigger men.
For six rounds, what he had was plenty. Grant just followed him around and fired the occasional jab, and Adamek lunged in with looping shots, sometimes set up by a jab to the head or body. Then Grant timed him with a straight right, and Adamek was lucky it was the end of the 6th.
They split the remaining rounds on my card, with the suddenly more aggressive Grant getting the 7th, 8th and 12th, but they were mostly close rounds. Adamek appeared tired in most of them, although he found a second gear in the 11th and the fight was more like the first half. Then, in the 12th, Grant again hurt Adamek, this time with a right hook to the top of his head, and Adamek had to hold on and run to survive to the final bell.
As with all Adamek fights, it couldn’t help but be fun, and I’m not complaining about that part. The heavily Polish crowd in New Jersey loved it, even though they were trepidatious when Adamek ran into a spot of trouble. But if you were estimating Adamek’s chances against the kings of the division, you couldn’t help but emerge more pessimistic than before.
Good for Grant for finally deciding to get involved, and this probably extends his career by a little bit. As for Adamek, the plan apparently never was to put him in against a Klitschko in the fall; he will likely fight again in a fight of this level before seeking something like that. At this point, I’d be more convinced of Adamek at heavyweight if he could beat the likes of David Haye or Alexander Povetkin. In fact, because I’m not sure who would win either of those fights, I’d far rather see Adamek-Haye or Adamek-Povetkin than Klitschko-Adamek. Because I can’t conceive how Adamek would be able to handle a better-conditioned, faster, harder-hitting and better-boxing version of Grant, which is what the Klitschkos are.
On the undercard, and in other boxing this week:
- New Jersey, part one: Junior middleweight Joel Julio got tested early in the first three rounds before taking full, brutal control in the 4th and 5th then coasting to a unanimous decision 10-round win over a tough Jamaal Davis. I wish I knew what was missing, exactly, with Julio — he has power, he has some speed, he can box fairly well. But he probably should’ve knocked this guy out. Davis’ grit had something to do with that, sure. Is it his confidence? Might he be stuck in between styles? He’s neither a pure slugger nor a pure boxer. At age 25, maybe his team just needs to spend some time developing his identity still.
- New Jersey, part two: Welterweight Sadam Ali stopped Lenin Arroyo in the 5th with a doozy of a left hook to the body. Arroyo had lost a ton of fights, but he’d fought prospects like James De La Rosa and gone the distance, so he was a noticeable step up in competition for the 2008 Olympian. Ali does have real potential — speed, power, defensive acumen — even if play-by-play man Col. Bob Sheridan got carried away with comparisons to Manny Pacquiao and Muhammad Ali. Ali walks the fine line between “unconventional” and “sloppy,” and his career will be predicated on how carefully he walks it, I bet.
- New Jersey, part three: In one of the weirder endings of a year that’s had plenty, Jeremy Bryan scored a 1st round TKO over Daniel Mitchell that looked fishy; the doctor recommended stopping it because Mitchell said he couldn’t see. Replays showed that Mitchell didn’t really receive any kind of injury, either via a butt, shoulder or elbow (as he vocally complained later) that I or Sheridan could see. Even stranger, Mitchell at first touched at his right eye with his glove after emerging from a clinch where he had some histrionics about it. Later in the round, he switched was touching at his left eye, and complained between rounds that was the one that gave him trouble. Bryan bounces back from his first loss.
- New Jersey, part four: Lightweight Shemuel Pagan made his pro debut, knocking down and repeatedly hurting Raul Rivera en route to a four-round decision. I liked Pagan’s above-average speed and some aspects of his technique, but he leans his head too far forward and spreads his legs too far apart. I usually think referee Steve Smoger does a great job of stopping a fight at the right moment, but this one could have been stopped earlier.
- In Germany Saturday, cruiserweight Marco Huck stopped Matt Godfrey in the 5th round. Read an account here. It’s a solid win for Huck. Let’s bring on this cruiserweight Super Six.
- On Wednesday, in a special edition of ESPN2/ESPN Deportes’ Friday Night Fights, junior middleweight Erislandy Lara creamed Willie Lee in one round. I’m high on Lara, but this said more about Lee than it did Lara. Lee has given rounds to top prospects before, but he had no punch resistance left against the Cuban. Lara dropped him with a combo, then forced the referee to step in and stop the assault when Lee got back up. Since the win, Lara got called out by Ishe Smith, and, most intriguingly, promoter Gary Shaw said he’d put Sergiy Dzinziruk in with Lara. On the undercard, light heavyweight Yordanis Despaigne beat up blown-up middleweight Frank Paine to score an easy decision.
- Junior bantamweight Guillermo Rigondeaux got a KO win and junior lightweight Joksan Hernandez got a knockout win Saturday on Top Rank Live; lightweight Mercito Gesta got a knockout win Friday on Solo Boxeo; and junior middleweight Jimmy Lange got a unanimous decision win Saturday.