When Andrzej Fonfara arrived in Montreal, Quebec last May to face WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, he figured he had nothing to lose.
His underdog status was well established. Nobody in the boxing community gave him much of a chance against the powerful champion. Stevenson, the hometown hero, entered the match having scored 14 consecutive knockouts.
When a heavy left floored Fonfara in the opening stanza, number 15 seemed only seconds away.
But then something happened. Instead of folding, Fonfara fought back. He started to connect with right hands. Even after being driven to the canvas for a second time in round five, Fonfara refused to quit. His determination surprised Stevenson.
He pursued the champion, absorbing tremendous punishment in the process.
In round nine, he sent Stevenson to the canvas with a straight right. Stevenson managed to survive, and went on to win the fight by a unanimous decision.
The real winner that night was Fonfara. He had lasted the distance and knocked Stevenson down.
Virtually unknown when the bout was announced, Fonfara left the ring earning Stevenson's respect.
“This guy was very good,” said Stevenson after the fight.
Six months later, Fonfara, who resides in Chicago, Ill., is returning to the Windy City to face Doudou Ngumbu (Showtime 9, ET/PT) at the UIC Pavilion on November 1. He considers the Stevenson fight a turning point in his career.
“That was a good fight for me,” he told this writer via email. “I gained something money can’t buy–confidence--and huge experience. I showed that I have heart, and that Stevenson can be beaten.
“That was my first fight for a world title and now I know that I can compete on world class level,” he said. "I learned a lot, how to survive and how to balance stamina, strength, and endurance during a fight. I've learned that even if fight doesn't start the way I want, I still can turn it around and make a comeback. There is some stuff I need to improve, but if I work even harder I know I can beat anyone."
Does Fonfara (25-3, 15 KOs) feel that his fight against Stevenson made him a better boxer?
"I’ve fought almost thirty fights,” said Fonfara. “I know that I can fight on world class level. I fought with a guy who’s the number one light heavyweight.
“I'm better fighter now. I want a rematch with Stevenson. I know I can beat him.”