Tomasz Adamek Defeats Steve Cunningham On NBC, Displaying Best Of And Worst Of Boxing

If anyone who doesn't usually watch boxing tuned in to the show on NBC Saturday afternoon, I hope they changed the channel before the decision was announced. Heavyweights Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham delivered a worthy sequel to their classic cruiserweight fight four years ago, even if it didn't reach those lofty heights. Then ring announcer Michael Buffer read the scores, then read them again, and both times they made no damn sense.

The universal view was that Cunningham deserved the victory. Instead, Buffer announced scores of 115-115, 115-113 for Cunningham and 116-112 for Adamek. That it was a split draw would've been screwing Cunningham enough. But that 115-115 scorecard was odd — it would've meant the judge, Debra Barnes, scored a bunch of rounds even, which you don't see in boxing judging these days. Seconds later, Buffer announced a correction. Barnes' scorecard was actually 115-112 for Adamek, which is wrong in several ways, too, namely that it turned Adamek into the winner, and it meant that at some point she scored a round so dominantly for Adamek that he got a 10-8 round, something that, in reality, never came close to happening.

Cunningham dominated the first half of the fight with his jab, movement and defense, and Adamek couldn't find him and couldn't pull the trigger, which probably had something to do with Cunningham's intelligent game plan but just as much if not more with the fact that Adamek is old, battle-worn and no longer the offensive machine he once was. You could give Adamek a round here or there, but the first half of the fight belonged to Cunningham.

When Adamek tried to mount one of the mid-round surges we've seen from him before, Cunningham didn't wilt: Rather, the much smaller man (he has only fought at heavyweight twice and was outweighed by nearly 20 pounds) staved off the Adamek charge with nasty power punches. Cunningham's legs look like sticks at heavyweight, but his upper body is legit, and apparently he had enough power to make Adamek think twice. And he stuck to his plan by not engaging in a brawl. His trainer, Naazim Richardson, advised him at one point: "You ain't gotta prove your heart. You gotta prove you're smart."

Adamek did muster an authentic late-rounds surge, finally upping his punch volume and connecting on some big shots to win the 11th and 12th on my card and bring it to a narrow 115-113 Cunningham win. And it's not like there weren't some close rounds, or it wouldn't have been as good a fight as it was. But overall, Cunningham controlled the bout, and in situations like that, the tide of overall opinion favors the fighter in charge. Yet one of the judges — I didn't catch his name — thought Adamek won EIGHT rounds. Where he found them, only he knows.

It was a shameful conclusion to an otherwise happy occasion: a quality heavyweight bout on network television, the second weekend in a row when live boxing graced one of the four major networks. The hasty NBC cutoff after this disaster — commentator Freddie Roach offered a succint, "That's boxing," and this fight likely indeed will reinforce for casual fans that poor decisions are a fact of life in the sport — didn't exactly help, either.

Adamek moves on to a fight with Kubrat Pulev, and based on quality of performance, I wouldn't favor Adamek in that bout. But based on the fact that Adamek has gotten two straight decisions he didn't deserve — the first against Eddie Chambers — I'll pick Adamek to win anyway. Cunningham moves on to Walgreen's, where he'll purchase some Advil and some ointment to help him recover from being screwed.

The undercard bout had its own mysterious conclusion. Heavyweight Vyacheslav Glazkov got a 4th round stoppage win over Tor Hamer after Hamer's corner called it off. We haven't heard yet from them why that happened, but by all appearances Hamer simply quit. Glazkov was the superior fighter in there, and the career boost Hamer got from his win in the U.K. "Prizefighter" TV tournament was evaporating before our eyes under Glazkov's superior speed, timing and hard counters, particularly his left hand. It's hard not to speculate that Hamer, a very intelligent man with a college degree, saw that the fight wasn't going his way and wondered whether he needed this whole boxing thing anymore.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.