This Saturday (12/22) we finally get the long-awaited rematch between
Tomasz Adamek and Steve Cunningham. Added to this excitement is
that the fight (along with one preliminary bout) will be
televised on network television - not PPV, not pay cable, not
basic cable. This one will be televised by NBC, on a throwback
Saturday afternoon TV broadcast.
Besides being on regular TV, the fight is special for a number
reasons. Recently Philly Boxing History spoke to Team Cunningham
about these key factors of the bout, and got their opinion on how they
might impact things.
THE OPPORTUNITY & THE TIMING
This fight is special because of its unlikely timing
and sudden manifestation. After hopes of this rematch were
almost completely dashed, the fight suddenly materialized. So here we are on the brink of the second go,
just like we always wanted to be. They say that timing is everything.
This certainly holds true for this fight. If just the right
combination of variables did not align, there would be no Adamek-Cunningham
II, certainly not this weekend.
STEVE CUNNINGHAM, Heavyweight Boxer:
"Much quicker than we thought. I know the business. I know that
if we built it up more, the fight would have been more
attractive to an HBO or Showtime, but the fight being on NBC?
That makes it even more special. The first fight in 20 years on
network television. That's enough hype right there. Sometimes
the opportunity outweighs everything else. This fight is going
to be in everyone's home. Everybody is able to turn to Channel
10 (the Philadelphia affiliate) and watch."
BROTHER NAAZIM RICHARDSON, Head Trainer of Cunningham:
"The thing about regular TV is, a guy can walk into a bar and
hit the channel and there's boxing on. I can be at the airport
and there's boxing on."
"Not only is it an opportunity, sometimes when you work a few
more fights in, the other guys get to see some of your changes
and some of your aspects at heavyweight, and then they can make
adjustments. Now they don't get the chance to make
those adjustments. All they can do is go on what they saw you do as a
"Right now, you ain't at your house, I ain't at my house. If
somebody wants to be in there (to break in), they got a much better
chance being in there, while we're here (and not at home). And
that's how we're going to do it in the heavyweight
division. We're going to catch cats while they not home."
LIVVY CUNNINGHAM, Manager & Wife of Cunningham:
"It was a culmination of things that came together. It was a
series of events that lead to this fight even being offered to
us. Probably in a perfect world, we would have said (it should
happen) down the road. But it came up, and what comes along with
the fight is huge."
"It's basically a jump to the top of the IBF (heavyweight)
rankings. We're participating now in the heavyweight box-off
that puts us in the #2 spot, and allows us to step right into an
eliminator. So to me, it was like a red carpet rollout to the
top of the heavyweight division. As a manager, I couldn't have
planned it or strategized anything better than that. So I love
"It's not just a fight. It's not just the revenge fight. It's a
strategic move to fulfill a goal we have. And that's to become
world heavyweight champion. And it's a fight we feel good
all of those pieces combined it was an opportunity that we
Both fighters have since moved to the heavyweight
division. Adamek has already had 10 fights in the division. This
will be just Cunningham's second at heavyweight. None of us are certain how this will affect the match
up on Saturday. Opinions vary. But the fact that both boxers
will weigh over 200 pounds, adds excitement and luster to the
rematch. Everybody loves a heavyweight fight - especially
between two well conditioned big men. This is the case with both
Cunningham and Adamek. In fact it feels like there should be an
asterisk by the phrase "big men". These are not two sloppy
heavyweights with just size going for them. They are both
"We definitely thought about it, but not very long. It wasn't
something we had to chew around and weigh out. But we did, and
we went through that. It felt like the right move, and it's not
like we're going in to fight one of the giants of the division.
They're very close in size. So I don't think it's going to be
too much of a jump for Steve. I know he feels great in camp. I
think he's going to feel very comfortable in the ring, and I
think he's going to do great."
"It's still new territory, but I've really seen a difference. I
was a workaholic, and I think it was hurting me at
cruiserweight. That's why my weight was so low (at cruiser). I
was training like a fighter who has to lose weight. Our game
plan now is just as much rest as hard work. I've been resting.
It's helping me. I feel comfortable. I totally feel stronger
than ever before in my career."
"In the Gavern fight, I felt very comfortable at 207. I'll come
in where I come in (weight), but I'll try to do 210. That's my
BROTHER NAAZIM RICHARDSON:
"One thing we disagree on is him saying he wants to
be at 210. I'm on board for that, but not for this fight. I
asked him what were Adamek's toughest fights? The kid who won
the belt from him at light heavyweight - Dawson. Steve at
cruiser. Eddie Chambers. It shows you, Adamek has problems with
small men. Dawson, small man. Eddie Chambers, (who) really beat
him, small man. Steve was a small cruiserweight. Everything
under 200 pounds, 205 pounds gives him problems. Why would you
want to get big? Why be big enough for him to figure out what's
going on? I understand the point he makes about 210, but I think
204-206 is perfect. I think that's where we need to be. Now
maybe when he steps up against Dimitrenko or Tyson Fury, then
I'm on board with the 210, or around there. You need a little
more girth on your butt for a big guy, just for the mauling and
brawling. But a guy like Adamek? 204, 205, perfect. 210 is
almost getting too big for him."
The original get together by Adamek and Cunningham
was more than memorable. Adamek took Steve's IBF cruiserweight
crown by thrilling split decision in Newark, NJ. Both fighters
did well, but it was the three knockdowns scored by the popular
Polish fighter that proved to be the difference on the
scorecards. A rematch was warranted, but never happened until
now, four years and eleven days later.
"We wanted the rematch for a long time. It's a fight we feel
good about. We've done it before. We want to do it again."
BROTHER NAAZIM RICHARDSON:
"I always felt bad about the first fight (before Richardson was
Cunningham's trainer). We we're friends, we trained at the same
gym. We used to talk about all of his upcoming fights. But he
was in the gym with me and I said nothing to him (about the
first fight with Adamek). I didn't think
I needed to. I thought, 'this guy is going to box Adamek'. I
always took that for granted. And so I'm up in Big Bear watching
the (first) fight, and I was shocked."
"We've seen that he's gotten better. He's doing different
things, seeing different things. I think he's adapted a
different style. That causes us to adjust some things in
training camp. Then you have to deal with a guy whose chin is
as solid as granite. So like I said, he's a very good
fighter. He's where he is for a reason, but we want to be
there. So we got to beat him."
"I've had rematches in the amateurs. I've had a few rematches in
the pros. It's not different (the second time). Maybe a little more comfortable,
but that's dangerous. I don't want to get comfortable, or think
that I know what he's got. But I do know a little bit of how he
is, but it's like my fight poster says, "Bigger, Better,
Stronger". Both of us have gotten better, and it's going to be a
good fight. It might be a little different, but it's going to
be a good fight."
Finally this match is special because of the
characteristics of both men, and how well those characteristics
mesh in the ring. This was an intriguing fight four years
ago at cruiserweight, and it is even more so in 2012 at
BROTHER NAAZIM RICHARDSON:
"Steve Cunningham is a very intelligent athlete, but he has
that Philly heart in him. And sometimes that Philly heart can
take over a situation. We can't allow that to happen (in this
fight). He has to maintain his intellect for the entire
fight. But one thing I teach every athlete I work with is that
sometimes in a boxing match, a fight breaks out. (For
instance) you can go to a club just looking to have a good time,
and a fight can break out. At any time, a fight can break out.
So of all places, in a boxing match there is a high probability
that maybe a fight breaks out, even if that's not in the
plan. We have to be prepared for that."
"Fight night, fight day, it's really hard for me. I'm 100%
wife. It all goes out the window, which is fine. By then, all
the details are done. It's just the fight. I'm totally the
wife (then). I'm a ball of nerves. I'm praying all day long, just
trying to get through. Sometimes I feel like I need to be
medicated. My nerves are that bad, but I make it through. Thank
"What do I have to do? I have to fight my fight. I have to beat
him at his fight. I got to be better than him. That's basically
the game plan. I have to be better than him. He's a good
fighter, and solid. But I have to be better than him."
"Anything could happen, this is boxing. Especially in heavyweight
boxing, anything can happen. That's why we go to training camp
for 8 weeks; to make sure we steer it our way. Of course he's
doing the same thing. He's a formidable foe, a good champion, a
good dude, a good fighter. We respect that, and there is no
underestimation this time. We're going to get in there and I
believe it will be one of those special things when two guys
make special chemistry. We'll see on December 22nd how special
it is. I know I have to perform at my best, at my peak. So
that's what I'm going to do."
The Cunningham Family: (l to r) Steve Jr., Steve Sr., Kennedy,
Livvy and Cruz