Resurgent Fonfara eyes Stevenson return
From Radom to Chicago via Warsaw and from welterweight to light-heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara has found a settled life inside and outside the ring.
The 28-year-old Pole was having some much needed R&R with his fiancée in Hawaii, when Boxing Monthly spoke to him recently over the phone, after that gruelling 12-round contest with Britain’s Nathan Cleverly on 16 October in the ‘Windy City’.
It was a fight that gave fans one of the more memorable and entertaining dust-ups of 2015. One that broke Compubox records for the 175lb division with most combined punches landed (936) and most combined punches thrown (2,524).
“I’m happy,” declared Fonfara. “Nathan was in best performance. He put up a lot of work in the camp and he showed this in this fight. He wanted to win the fight and all the rounds. I think even late in fight he go for broke. His face not so good but he still wanted to go forward and try and punch me.
“It was a good fight and I’m happy we fight a good 12 rounds. If I win in the first two rounds then everyone say, ‘Oh, Cleverly’s not a good fighter anymore, it was an easy fight.’ But I’m happy Cleverly do what he do. We get a great fight, we get records for punches in the light-heavyweight division and it was a good fight for me and him. We say before the fight it will be a war in the ring and the fans got a great fight.”
Cleverly, who suffered a broken nose and damaged ear for his troubles, surprised his opponent early in the fight and, despite such a demanding contest, Fonfara felt fresh not long after and nowhere near the medical treatment (including a hospital visit) that the former WBO light-heavyweight champion required.
“A little bit difficult first round,” he recalled. “I don’t expect Cleverly was fast like that. He was really fast in first two three rounds. He don’t move back, he don’t want to run in the ring he want to fight with me. In the first round, he got speed and momentum but in the later rounds he was too weak and that’s why I win the fight.”
The accumulation of Fonfara’s punches evidently did more damage to Cleverly’s face and Fonfara said he felt more pain after his one-sided win over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr back in April.
“I feel great. I feel more and more painful but was more sore after the Chavez fight. But for this fight right away I feel really great after the fight. Cleverly is good boxer, good technical but no punch and this is why I can take his punch and feel nothing for that.”
With 2015 drawing to a close, Fonfara was ready to get back to business after his vacation with his eyes set on a rematch with WBC champion Adonis Stevenson. Their May 2014 fight in Montreal saw the challenger down for the third time in his professional career in the opening round before being dropped again in the fifth, at a time when Fonfara was beginning to look far too easy to hit and a straightforward third defence for Stevenson.
Fonfara, in his first and only world title challenge to date, rallied in the second half of the fight by standing his ground and having greater success with shots of his own which culminated in the ninth session when the home favourite tasted the canvas after a straight right from Fonfara. The tide was turning but Stevenson would find another gear to earn a unanimous decision victory with body shots in the championship rounds turning the screw.
“I want this fight in 2016,” said Fonfara of a rematch. “It’s a good time for me to do that because Adonis Stevenson is 38-years-old and the light-heavyweight division just now is a lot of good fighters. Everybody wants to fight with Stevenson, to fight with the champion to try and win the fight.
“Stevenson is year after year older. If I don’t fight him right now somebody can fight with him and win the fight because all the top 10 guys in the light-heavyweight division are very good fighters. That’s why I want a rematch with him now and try and win and become world champion. I want another title shot.”
And Fonfara, who would be happy to go back to Canada to face Stevenson, has suggested a neutral venue should the rematch take place. “I got idea. We can do the fight in Vegas,” he suggested. “It’s the mecca of boxing and every big fight is there. Vegas is a good choice but if I must go to Montreal again I go there because after last fight people know me there and I think I’ve got good support there, too.”
Support is something that Fonfara has never been short on throughout his life. His mother, father and brother Max (who also manages Andrzej) were all right behind his decision to box rather than pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer, playing as a goalkeeper for Legia Warsaw – one of Poland’s leading clubs.
“My family always support me. My brother and his wife moved to Chicago because of me then parents move here too. We start to live here because I start to do my career here. That’s why I don’t miss too much in Poland because my family are here and I got a lot of friends here because Chicago has one of the biggest Polish populations in the United States.”
Life has been good to Andrzej Fonfara, something that he freely admits. His father was a company owner and the family income ensured that the Andrzej could attend a private school and focus on his education and sporting activities. Once he decided to swap the goalposts for the ringposts Fonfara’s life became consumed by sleeping, studying and training. Then three became two.
“I would wake up in the morning train then I go to school then afterwards I go to training. If I’m tired I go to sleep but my whole day was school, training, school, training.
“My life looks like that then I moved to Warsaw. When I moved to high school I have training, too, nice school and a lot of camps. Sometimes I didn’t go to school for two to three weeks because I had fights like the national boys’ team or something like that. My life later in Warsaw looks like all boxing.”
At 18-years-old he and eight other Polish fighters including heavyweight Mariusz Wach and cruiserweight Mateusz Masternak decided to try their hand in the United States looking to forge a glittering career after realising that their boxing dream back home might not give them the fights and rewards they desired.
So on June 23, 2006, Fonfara, Wach and Masternak, along with compatriots Mariusz Cendrowski (middleweight), Piotr Wilczewski (super middleweight) and Grzegorz Soszynski (cruiserweight), would fight at The Odeum, Illinois, with only Soszynski failing to pick up a win but instead drawing over six rounds against Mike Word.
It was a night when the near 6ft 3ins Fonfara weighed in at 147lbs, 28 shy off his current fighting weight but an increase of two pounds from the fight before, his professional debut.
“When I came to United States, I was 18 years old and I started to grow,” he recalled. “My brother is big guy, my father is big guy, my mum is tall and then I know one day I grow up. Back then I was more skinny. I know though year after year I grow and be like a man. Year after year, I change weight division and I grow up but my (current) weight is good weight for me.”
Climbing through various weight classes brought its pitfalls including his first and second loss in his fifth and twelfth fights against Eberto Medina (LUD5) and Derrick Findley (LTKO2), both in Illinois.
“Medina was a really good fighter at the time. He was a man and I was a kid who started pro boxing. He got couple tough fights in the U.S. but he got a lot of tougher fights in Colombia and we don’t know that he was good fighter.”
The Findley loss was more damaging. A fight and show that was broadcast on ESPN and back home in his native homeland.
“Oh, Derrick Findlay,” laughed Fonfara. “I win first round but Findlay see I’m not big puncher at the time because I was skinny guy and I didn’t have the right technique. It was an open fight and he got me [with a] couple of good punches. I go down, I try to stand up. I can’t. In my mind I remember now I see everything what happened but that second punch my body was so heavy that I can’t stand up. It was feeling like someone hold you down in the ring. And referee stopped the fight. I lost the fight.
“After this fight, I chose to move to heavier division, light-heavyweight and I know I start training more, weight stuff, eat more and change my division. From this time, I start much better because I was a good technical guy but I didn’t have good punch and powerful punch. Physically, I was not ready for Derrick Findlay.”
If two losses were bad enough, three fights later in 2009 Fonfara would stop Skylar Thompson in the second of their eight-round contest before the fight was overturned to a no contest after testing positive for steroids. A decision that gave Fonfara a six-month ban from the sport and a constant reminder to check what he always takes.
“My grandmother know a doctor from Poland and he sent me a medication from Poland,” he openly explained. “I was sick two weeks before the fight and he send me a medication and those medications had some fucking steroids and those happened. It’s my fault because I don’t check what I take. It’s happened.”
With weight jumps, a steroid ban and three defeats behind him Fonfara is looking forward to a 2016 that he hopes will see him capture a world title and follow in the footsteps of the likes of Dariusz Michalczewski, Tomasz Adamek and reigning WBC cruiserweight belt holder Krzysztof Glowacki.
“I don’t think we have seen the best Andrzej Fonfara. I can show more and I can be a better boxer. I want to fight Stevenson and show him I’m a better boxer than I was two years ago.”