Former heavyweight challenger Tomasz Adamek gets back in line
Tomasz Adamek returns to action for the first time since losing to Vitali Klitschko
Adamek, a former cruiserweight champion, fights Nagy Aguilera on Saturday night
The aging Pole is still a big draw and hopes to face Wladimir Klitschko for the title
NEW YORK -- In preparing for his first heavyweight title shot, Tomasz Adamek did everything right. A longtime cruiserweight champion, Adamek moved up the heavyweight ranks slowly, taking on fighters who were either shot (Andrew Golota) or overmatched (Jason Estrada) as he got comfortable with the weight. He won his first significant fight -- a 2010 majority decision over former title challenger Chris Arreola -- before specifically targeting opponents with the same physical stature as 6-foot-6 Wladimir Klitschko or his 6-7 brother, Vitali. He outpointed 6-7 Michael Grant in 2010 and blew out 6-6 Kevin McBride a year later.
Adamek thought he was ready. Right up until he realized that he wasn't. Last September, Adamek challenged Vitali Klitschko for the WBC title. Over 10 lopsided rounds Adamek endured a brutal beating. He absorbed, according to CompuBox, 140 jabs and 90 power punches from the heavy-handed Klitschko. His trainer, Roger Bloodworth, was getting ready to throw in the towel right before referee Massimo Barrovecchio stepped in and stopped it.
"Sometimes you win, sometimes lose," Adamek said. "Last time, I lost. I'm 35 years old, but I'm still hungry fighter. I want to come back and show everyone that I can still win."
In the aftermath of the loss to Klitschko, Adamek (44-2) and Bloodworth went to work on correcting the mistakes. Bloodworth thought Adamek was too stationary against Klitschko and didn't use his speed to his advantage.
"Tomasz had no legs in the fight," Bloodworth said. "He didn't move; he just stood in front and he was squared up. So we've been working on technique, not to be squared up and to use his legs."
Bloodworth also wants Adamek to be bigger. His fighter weighed 216 pounds against Klitschko; Bloodworth would like to see him walk into the ring between 225 and 230.
"I know at that weight he's hitting harder and, to me, he seems quicker," Bloodworth said. "You know the old saying: bigger, stronger, quicker. When he fought Klitschko he was 216 and we'd been there for 10 days and we didn't really do that much. He was eating everything and that tells me that his body hadn't responded yet. I think this rest did his body a lot of good. It allowed his frame to catch up to his weight class."
Both Adamek and Bloodworth acknowledge that changes don't guarantee anything. "It might be the same fight," Bloodworth said. But they are eager for another try. Bloodworth said they hope to lure Wladimir Klitschko into the ring, a matchup he thinks is a better one for Adamek.
"Wladimir has a different style than Vitali," Bloodworth said. "He's more westernized; he moves to his left and uses his jab more like a western-style fighter. And Vitali, in his last fight with Tomasz, controlled the center of the ring. The biggest thing with Tomasz is where he's going to fight."
Adamek won't get another title shot immediately; the loss to Vitali dropped him back in the pack. On Saturday night, he will open the televised undercard of the show headlined by Zab Judah and Vernon Paris against journeyman Nagy Aguilera in Brooklyn, N.Y. (10 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network). If Adamek wins, he will headline an NBC Sports Network show on June 16, possibly against a fringe contender like Kevin Johnson or Eddie Chambers.
"I'm healthy now and want to stay busy," Adamek said. "I can't stay home with nothing to do. I feel better when I'm active."
If Adamek can put together a few wins, he is still an appealing opponent. More than 42,000 fans packed the soccer stadium in Poland to support him against Vitali. While Wladimir has a summer date with mandatory challenger Tony Thompson and is eyeing a fall matchup with Arreola, a fight with Adamek in early 2013 is possible. Adamek could also pursue a matchup with Alexander Povetkin, a paper champion more Adamek's size, but, Bloodworth said, "Povetkin is not the champion, the Klitschkos are."
"We have been working on what he didn't do [against Klitschko] and what he should have been doing," Bloodworth said. "And at this fight we are going to see if he is able to do that. I'm not being flip, [but] he has to show some changes. Tomasz is going to have to be alert, his reflexes and everything are going to have to be there for him to win."