Boxing


Krzysztof "Diablo" Wlodarczyk and Steve "U.S.S." Cunningham To Fight For IBF Title Saturday

23.11.06 - By Jacqui Snow: This Saturday, November 25th, undefeated cruiserweight contender Steve Cunningham (19-0, 10 KOs) will go after his first title when he travels to Poland to face off against Krzysztof "Diablo" Wlodarczyk (36-1, 27 KOs). At stake is the vacant IBF Cruiserweight belt. Cunningham won his place as contender for the title when he outpointed Kelvin "Koncrete" Davis by a wide margin in an eliminator last September.. This will be the first major title bout to take place in Poland, which is surprising because Polish boxing fans are among the most passionate and rabid in the sport--just ask anyone who attended last's May's fight card at Chicago's United Center, which featured Andrew Golota and Tomasz Adamek.

American fans who were hoping to finally see Cunningham in action are going to be out of luck. Cruiserweights can't seem to get any television coverage here and it's no big surprise that the fight's not being televised in the US. Still, despite the lack of local TV coverage and the fact that he's never taken a shot at a title before, Cunningham is familiar to many local boxing fans.

"Diablo", on the other hand, is pretty much a complete unknown in the United States, but he's the most popular fighter in Poland right now (with the possible exception of Tomasz Adamek). A dangerous fighter with devastating knockout power and a pretty decent chin, his counter-punching defensive style has presented some problems for his opponents and at 6 ft 1, he's also had a significant reach advantage over most of them. The exception is Imamu Mayfield, whom Wlodarczyk beat for the vacant WBC Fecarbox and IBC Cruiserweight titles. Mayfield used his reach advantage to make that fight much closer than the hometown judges' scorecards would indicate. Notably, Cunningham is 6 ft 3, the same height as Mayfield.

Wlodarczyk turned professional at the age of 19, when he signed with Hammer Knockout, Poland's biggest promotional company. His career got off to a running start with his winning eleven in a row—eight by knockout—before traveling to Italy in December 2001 to take on undefeated Italian prospect Vincento Rossito for the vacant IBF Inter-Continental Cruiserweight Title. Wlodarczyk won this minor title by TKO after Rossitto's corner threw in the towel in the tenth. Coming perilously close to losing the title in his second defense against France's Ismail Abdoul—it could have gone either way—Diablo thrilled the fans by landing a massive punch with just seconds remaining in the 12th, causing the referee to wave off the fight. He's recently been working at Chicago's Windy City Gym with trainer Sam Colonna, who's trained both Adamek and Andrew Golota.

This won't be the first time that Steve Cunningham has fought on his opponent's home turf, having travelled to South Africa in May 2004 to beat highly regarded Sebastiaan Rothmann by a razor-thin majority decision. Following that victory, Cunningham was supposed to take on Wayne Braithwaite in October 2004 as a replacement for Jean-Marc Mormeck, who withdrew due to injury. However, Braithwaite, who was´undefeated at the time, turned down that fight and his replacement was a hopelessly outmatched Forrest Neal, whom Cunningham disposed of in the fourth. In his most recent bout, Cunningham knocked out 36-year old journeyman Lloyd Bryant, on the undercard of the Carlos Baldomir/Zab Judah. Dealing with "Diablo", though, may prove to be an entirely more difficult matter altogether, since he's unlikely to knock Wlodarczyk out and he'll need to find favor with the home-town judges should the fight go the distance.

Special thanks to Michal Koper (www.bokser.org)

Article posted on 23.11.2006



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