“Tommy, anybody who's got two fists and a good heartbeat, they got a chance.”
- Rocky Balboa
These are the very words Rocky Balboa uttered to his pupil Tommy Gunn (played by the late former WBO heavyweight champ Tommy Morrison) in Rocky 5.
What a great line. It truly brings out the hope, the emotion and the entertainment. It makes a great Hollywood movie scene, don’t ya think? But, the questions is this, is it true? After all, movies are fantasy, right?
On Saturday, May 24 we have a light-heavyweight championship fight on Showtime. In one corner it will be WBC title holder Adonis Stevenson aka "Superman". On the other side will be his opponent, the man whose classified in this instance as the “two fists and a good heartbeat,” one Andrzej Fonfara.
Not many boxing experts or hardcore fans are giving the Chicago fighter, by way of Warsaw, Poland, much of a chance. People are already crediting his inevitable loss to Stevenson’s momentum, his size, strength, power an overall natural talent. But, anyone who’s taken the time to watch some of Fonfara's more significant fights may consider giving him a role as the legitimate spoiler rather than the underdog. If history has taught us anything, boxing loves to change the parts that fighters play.
From underdog to spoiler can happen in a split second.
Stevenson allegedly balked at facing fellow power punching world titlist Sergey Kovalev on HBO. Jumping to rival Showtime, he's now inline to fight boxing’s ageless wonder, Bernard Hopkins. If Stevenson manages to lose this fight he can kiss that match good-bye. It happened to Tommy Morrison when he took on Michael Bentt. Not only did he lose to Bentt but he lost his WBO title and an eight million dollar payday against Lennox Lewis. It also happened to Mike Tyson, who was slated to defend his undisputed championship against the undefeated Evander Holyfield before getting knocked out by Buster Douglas. Tyson's loss is still widely considered the biggest upset in boxing history. Even journeyman Willy Salazar managed to derail the eventual showdown between hometown rivals the late Johnny Tapia and Danny Romero for a while.
So, what does Andrzej Fonfara really bring to the table to make us believe he has a real shot at becoming the new WBC light-heavyweight champ?
First off, Fonfara is an orthodox fighter who has decent experience with southpaws like Stevenson. He’s easily a couple of inches taller than the champion. What’s more significant is that he has recent experience against some very capable southpaws. He stopped both Tommy Karpency and Gabriel Campillo, who’s known for being robbed by experts against then world titlist Tavoris Cloud in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Secondly, Fonfara is tough and has shown his mettle in victories against the above mentioned, but as well against fan favorite and former world champion Glen Johnson. And, we all know what “The Road Warrior” is capable of. The 26-year old kid is more than willing to exchange and has no other objective than to win.
Lastly but not least, Fonfara has a secret weapon. His under the radar, sneaky right hand punch. It’s very faint most of the time but he can get it in there to do some serious damage. His right hand wobbled Campillo in the eighth round of their fight. It reappeared the very next round to put him away. Johnson got caught several times with his straight right hand throughout their spirited battle, but it was in the final round when it made its mark. The X-factor is that Stevenson has one loss. He was overconfident going into the second round against Darnell Boone after scoring two knockdowns in the first.
His overconfidence caught up with him in the form of a perfectly placed right hand.
It is likely that Stevenson will find a way to win. But what if he doesn’t? What if he lets his overconfidence get the best of him? After his recent success, specifically being named Fighter of the Year of 2013, why shouldn’t he be? What if he walks in to a perfectly placed right hand? 'The What if' questions are what sells sporting events, because it invokes a natural weakness in human beings, curiosity.
In the world of acting, sometimes the small roles make the biggest impact. Ask the Cannes Film Festival, who created an award based solely on the performance of actor Samuel L. Jackson in Jungle fever. Ask Matthew McConaughey, who’s rattled off box office hit after hit and earned an Oscar, but is still best known for a line he spewed 21 years ago.
Is Fonfara the boxing equivalent of a Samuel L. Jackson or a Matthew McConaughey? Will he go from the role of an underdog to spoiler? No one knows for sure until these two men throwdown. But, stranger things have happened in the surreal world of pugilism.