BETHLEHEM, Pa. -- Tomasz Adamek, his nose swollen and eyes circled with a little purple, seemed satisfied and relieved after he outpointed Steve Cunningham in a split decision Saturday in their IBF heavyweight title eliminator at the Sands Bethlehem Events Center.
Adamek (48-2) received winning scores of 115-112 from judge Debra Barnes and 116-112 from Dave Greer, while Tom Miller scored it 115-113 for Cunningham (25-5). After six rounds, Miller and Greer had the fight even, and Barnes had Adamek up by two rounds. Greer and Miller gave Adamek three of the last four rounds.
"That was like sparring. Not very many punches were thrown. I feel like I can go back into the ring and fight again," said Adamek, who fought for the 11th time as a heavyweight, after spending most of his career at light heavyweight. "The fight was close, my trainer told me I had to go after him after the eighth round, and I felt he ran against me. It was part of the plan to come on late in the last 20 seconds of each round. In a few rounds, I tried to attack him, and he would run. He ran. I fought. It's why I won."
The fight was a rematch of a 2008 cruiserweight bout that Adamek also won. Cunningham got up from knockdowns three times in the first fight. But that time, Adamek weighed 198 to Cunningham's 197. This time, Adamek weighed in at 223, and Cunningham 203 1/2.
Cunningham outlanded Adamek in total punches, 209-169, and used an effective jab, landing 129 of 349. But Adamek hit Cunningham with more power punches, 120-80.
"It all depends on what you were looking at," said Adamek's trainer, Roger Bloodworth. "If you looked at effective punching, which is what the judges saw, they would have give this to Tomasz. If you liked running and being a stylist, then you wanted Cunningham. I think the more effective puncher won this fight, and that was Tomasz."
Still, Cunningham was baffled.
"I really don't know what more I can do. What can I say? What can I do? Real men cry, real men shed tears," Cunningham said. "You can't knock everyone out. We did our thing in the ring. It saddens me. I can't be getting cheated like this. It's sad, man, it's sad. It's nonsense. What needs to be done in boxing for this not to happen again? This isn't a game. What else do I have to do?"
Adamek advanced to fight contender Kubrat Pulev, with the winner scheduled to take on IBF beltholder and recognized world champion Wladimir Klitschko.