They call Bobby Gunn “The Celtic Warrior.’’ Well, at least he’s Irish.
Saturday night Gunn will face International Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek, who may well be the best cruiserweight in the world. Of that and one other thing we were sure. The other is that Gunn is far from the best of title challengers. After that much about this fight is a mystery.
At least it is until one of the most knowledgeable and understanding men in boxing, Top Rank executive Carl Moretti, is asked to explain how Gunn finds himself in a title fight.
“It’s 2009,’’ Moretti said.
That explanation is simple but painfully true. At a time when there are more champions than ever, there are fewer fighters worthy of challenging them. Despite that, champions and their managers and promoters have to eat, which means they have to fight, which means guys like Bobby Gunn, an earnest man to be sure, get title shots that re-define the meaning of the word “shot.’’
Getting a shot once implied you at least had a chance to win a world title fight if the opportunity came along. Bobby Gunn does not. As one boxing insider sympathetic to his plight said this week, “If Bobby lifts his efforts 10,000 per cent and Adamek slides back the same amount it’s still an uphill battle. That’s just reality.’’
Boxing reality for guys like the 35-year-old Gunn is most always harsh. He is in this situation because he is a familiar face around north Jersey, where the fight will be staged, who was willing to fight a world champion for short money.
He is tough guy who gives it his best but the only time he ever got in with a world class fighter he lost to then WBO champion Enzo Maccainelli in one round. Naturally there were cries the fight was stopped too soon. Actually, it was stopped too late. It never should have happened.
The same, in a sense, is true this time. These are not simply two levels of fighter, they are two fighters several levels removed from each other’s level. Yet Moretti makes a sound point when he said, “If you took out the words ‘title fight’ no one would raise en eyebrow.’’
That’s true and the fact is this only came about after Adamek’s people could not make a fair deal with Bernard Hopkins or come up with an agreement to fight either former light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson or cruiserweight contender Matt Godfrey after SHOWTIME reduced its budget.
Left with no other option, Adamek’s promoter, Main Events, was forced to take his fight off cable television, which meant a miniscule budget and the need for an opponent like Gunn, who has said he views this as “the break I was looking for.’’
That’s not likely unless he had the desire to re-break his nose. Yet Gunn has long been a guy who has tried his best with limited talent to get as far as he can in boxing’s cruel world. Saturday night he will have reached it, it seems.
Unknowingly, Gunn (21-3-1, 18 KO) himself perfectly characterized what seems likely to happen when he said he would “fight like a kamikaze pilot.’’ As approaches go that may not be a good one because by definition the kamikaze pilot is someone who launches himself on a suicide mission.
“Bobby has been around forever,’’ said Moretti about a guy who began his professional career in 1989 but had an 11-year disappearance from March, 1993 to December, 2004 before returning to the ring. “He’s been a sparring partner for a lot of guys. He’s a tough kid who comes right to you.
“I’d be shocked if he wins but I won’t be shocked if he puts a great effort forward. If Adamek doesn’t get it up for it I could see it going a while.’’
What he could not see, what no one who’s honest could see, if any way Gunn leaves the Prudential Center in Newark with a new, garish belt to add to his collection.
That’s not his fault. Maybe it’s not even the promoter’s fault because with no TV money and a need to keep Adamek (37-1, 25 KO) busy an accommodation had to be made. It was because there was no network to refuse Gunn as an opponent and no real reason the IBF would object because Gunn, Main Events and their organization are all based in New Jersey and let’s just go along, get the champion a payday and hope next time someone like Steve Cunningham or Godfrey or Hopkins is available at the same time network cash is available.
“When ShoBox decided not to do Godfrey-Adamek, Godfrey became to expensive,’’ theorized Moretti, who long ago learned how to count in boxing. “Even with what they’re likely to be paying Gunn it will be a tight squeeze to break even.’’
The tighter squeeze will come when Adamek decides to close the show. It is fair to assume Gunn will try his best because he always has, even the night Maccarenelli cut him badly and took him apart in one round. Before the opening bell, he may even have convinced himself that he is what he said he was last week which is “a guy whose got nothing to lose, which is what makes me dangerous.’’
Perhaps so but at some point on Saturday Tomasz Adamek will remind him of who he really is. At some point he’ll know he’s Bobby Gunn and that will be the end of that.