Fonfara flips the switch

Photo by German Villasenor

Photo by German Villasenor


After you dial Andrzej Fonfara’s number in the aftermath of his bludgeoning of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last weekend at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., you’ll find you won’t be able to leave a message because his voicemail is full. It seemed all of Chicago and Warsaw, Poland wanted to congratulate the light heavyweight contender.


“Yeah, yeah, my phone, it’s hard now. Everybody called me, sent me a message,” Fonfara told with a chuckle on Tuesday morning from “The Windy City.” “It’s nice because I work hard all the time. It’s nice for me; a lot of people call me saying, ‘Good fight,’ and everything. It’s good.”


Coming into the fight, Fonfara was thought of as the B-side, nothing more than a somewhat recognizable comeback foe for Chavez, who hadn’t fought since March of last year. But it was evident early on that, at a weight limit of 172 pounds, the natural light heavyweight – Fonfara – had his way physically with Junior.


“After the first round, I knew I was stronger and he was weaker. Round after round after round, I felt more comfortable, better,” said Fonfara, who just steadily grinded on Chavez with short, crisp punches on the inside and deft pivots that kept him off-balance for much of the night. It was a severe miscalcuation by Chavez’s new management. A guy who struggled with a career junior middleweight at this same weight (Bryan Vera) wasn’t going to bully Fonfara like he had past opponents.


A fighter who held his own against WBC champion Adonis Stevenson and cut his teeth versus the likes of Glen Johnson and Gabriel Campillo wasn’t going to be intimidated in the least by Chavez, regardless of the setting. Fonfara admits it surprised him that he was tabbed for this assignment. “A little bit, yeah, because [Chavez] always fought in the smaller category but he’s a big guy. I knew one day he’d move to light heavyweight but after a couple of years and I’ve got, like, 15 fights in light heavyweight. I got surprised he chose me for his first fight in the light heavyweight division. If he waited to go to light heavyweight division, he must take two, three weaker guys at light heavyweight, get some experience,” said Fonfara, who knocked Chavez down in the ninth round, then made him quit on his stool before the 10th.


While Chavez was boxing’s version of a trust fund baby, who was bequeathed his standing in the sport, Fonfara is very much a self-made man, one who took early bumps and bruises, such as getting stopped by journeyman Derrick Findley in 2008. At that point, he looked like anything but a world-class prospect.


“After the fight with Findley, I started working harder,” explained Fonfara, who also moved up to 175 pounds shortly after getting stopped in two. “Sometimes you must go down when you want to go on the top. This was like that for me. After Derrick Findley, I started training camps training harder and like everybody says – what doesn’t kill you gets you stronger. And I started training and taking boxing more seriously and I changed my weight category and it helped me a lot.”


Przemek Garczarczyk of the Polsat Sport News has covered Fonfara since he migrated to the United States in 2006 after his pro debut and says of his improvement as a prizefighter, “It’s a different guy; we all knew it. I remember times when I think – and Andrzej will agree or disagree – it’s my opinion that he didn’t even know if he wanted to be a fighter anymore. But I remember conversations with [trainer] Sam Colonna when Sam said, ‘It would be a shame when this kind of talent will vanish.’


“The development is unbelievable. He just decided; like a switch, something happened in his head. He basically dedicated himself to the sport just before he switched to light heavyweight.”


Being Polish and living in Chicago (which has a huge Polish contingent), it’s easy to see Fonfara being the heir to Tomasz Adamek as the most popular fighter from his country, here and abroad. “No doubt about it; he is,” stated Garczarczyk. who says Fonfara’s promoter, Leon Margules, one day hopes to do a fight card featuring both Fonfara and heavyweight Artur Szpilka at Madison Square Garden. “Not now but we are talking down the road.”


Garczarczyk says Fonfara’s favorite soccer team, Legia – a name which which is tattooed on his right bicep – had over 10,000 fans at their stadium on Sunday chanting his name. “The fight was shown on the national television, which everyone can see it. They had some unreal numbers,” said Garczarczyk. “On the internet, it was 1.7 million people watching.”


Moving forward, he wants to go back to the man who defeated him last May.


“After fighting Stevenson, I already said I want a rematch and now I think I’m improved and I think I’m ready for  a rematch,” said the 27-year-old, who has a mark of 27-3 (16), “but we’ll see. We’ll see who’s next. I’ll sit down with my promoter and talk about that.”





The Nielsen ratings are out for this past weekend’s cards on HBO and Showtime and while the Lucas Matthysse-Ruslan Provodnikov main event on HBO averaged 1.2 million viewers and peaked at 1.38 million, the featured fight on Showtime with Fonfara-Chavez averaged just 618,000 viewers and peaked at 836,000.


So it’s clear that, in addition to no longer being a bona fide ticket seller, Chavez is not driving the same viewership as he used to either.





Here’s the latest episode of “The Next Round” with Gabe Montoya and Yours Truly (a full two-hour edition).





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