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ONTARIO, Calif. – Tomasz Adamek used every inch of the 400-square-foot ring at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in his heavyweight bout with Chris Arreola on Saturday before a nationally televised audience on HBO.
Given that Arreola outweighed him by 33 1/2 pounds and punches like he has a horseshoe in his glove, it was the only decision he could make.
Arreola, though, was not quite as taken with it. He derisively called the strategy running after Adamek won a majority decision in a compelling match. Judge Tony Crebs scored it a draw, 114-114, but Barry Druxman had it 115-113 and Joseph Pasquale saw it 117-111 for the Polish fighter. Yahoo! Sports also scored it 114-114.
Adamek trainer Roger Bloodworth smirked when he heard Arreola say that Adamek ran.
"That wasn't running; that was boxing," Bloodworth said.
It was a masterful display of boxing for the largely unheralded Adamek, who extended his win streak to 10 and won for the 41st time in 42 career bouts. The only blemish on his record came in 2007, when he dropped a decision in a light heavyweight title bout to Chad Dawson.
Adamek has since won a cruiserweight belt and then moved up to heavyweight, where he's added some depth to a division sorely in need of it.
Saturday's bout was the rare heavyweight match these days that was exciting, and it had the audience into it throughout – which it wouldn't have been if Adamek was running.
Adamek stamped himself a legitimate contender in the division with the win. He's long been one of the sport's most exciting fighters and has been in some memorable slugfests, particularly against Paul Briggs in 2005 and Steve Cunningham in 2008.
In addition to brothers Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, the heavyweight division is finally starting to pick up depth and includes World Boxing Association champion David Haye and top challenger Alexander Povetkin, as well as Adamek and Arreola.
"People want to see the top guys fight each other and that's what has to happen," Adamek co-trainer Ronnie Shields said. "If you get the best guys fighting each other, there are a lot of good fights to be made."
The Adamek-Arreola fight is one of those, and it could happen again. Arreola, whose eyes were so badly swollen that he joked "I look like Shrek," said he'd like a rematch.
Adamek promoter Kathy Duva wouldn't commit to one, but she said if it occurred, it would be in Newark, N.J., where there is a large Polish population and Adamek has a huge fan base.
Many of the Adamek faithful made the trip out West on Saturday to help create a championship-like atmosphere inside the arena. Arreola's fans urged the big man to go for the knockout, while the Polish fans, clad in red and white, many of them wearing scarves, roared as Adamek scored repeatedly.
Adamek landed 197 of 631 punches, according to CompuBox, out-landing Arreola by 70, out-throwing him by 99 and connecting at a much higher percentage (31-24). Most of the punches Adamek landed came in four- and five-punch combinations.
He would dart in, plant his feet, fire off four or five punches, then spin away from Arreola's power. That frustrated Arreola, who several times stopped in the middle of the ring and dropped his arms to his side, urging Adamek to bang with him.
"I love fighting, man, and I want to fight," Arreola said after falling to 28-2. "I want to [stand] there and bang. I wanted to give people a show. I hate [expletive] chasing a guy around the [expletive] ring all night. But if that's what I was supposed to do, then that's what I had to do. He fought the fight he had to fight. If he would have sat there and banged with me, it would have been a short night."
Arreola, though, didn't have the boxing skills to cope with Adamek, who was engaging in the battle. He simply didn't stick his chin out and ask Arreola to hit it.
Adamek worked tirelessly in camp on punching and moving and trying to frustrate Arreola.
"I couldn't stand in front of him because he's a tough puncher and a strong guy," Adamek said. "I had to use my head."
He nearly ran into problems late in the fifth round through an unfortunate break. The sole of Adamek's left shoe split and he stumbled across the ring, and the fire-breathing Arreola stormed after him in pursuit. Making matters worse for Adamek, he entered the fight with blisters on the soles of both of his feet, making his strategy of utilizing the entire ring a painful one.
Despite that, Adamek never so much as buckled his knees despite taking some big shots from Arreola.
"I have a good chin," Adamek said, proudly.
There's a lot to like about Adamek, who came out hard in the 12th round and fought like he felt he needed it to win the fight.
After the 10th round, "Electric" Henry Ramirez, Arreola's trainer, told Arreola he needed to win the final two rounds. But it was Adamek, not Arreola, who came up with the big final round.
"Maybe a lot of people didn't know Tomasz before tonight and are surprised by how good he is," Shields said. "He's a strong fighter with a lot of heart and a lot of smarts. He's right there in the mix now.
"I'm not worried about matching him with any heavyweight in the world. He's a smart, quality fighter."
There haven't been many of those around in the heavyweight division recently.
The good news for boxing is that the division got a little bit stronger Saturday.