ROSEMONT, Ill. – Tomasz Adamek and Paul Briggs left the Allstate Arena ring Saturday night looking quite different than when they had entered.
The Australian light heavyweight challenger Briggs’ right cheek swelled as though the slightest pin prick would deflate his entire head. Adamek looked much worse. The World Boxing Council champion’s face had swollen to the point of concealing any signs of joy in defending his perfect 31-0 record and retaining his belt after a year layoff.
“I put my heart and soul into this fight and I really felt like I’d done enough at the end of the day,” said Briggs, who lost by majority decision (114-112, 113-113, 115-111). “Unfortunately the judges didn’t see it that way.”
Briggs has twice entered a boisterous pro-Adamek atmosphere filled with Chicago’s Polish-Americans. Their first meeting overshadowed Lamon Brewster’s World Boxing Organization heavyweight title defense against Andrew Golota, an affair that lasted less than a minute. A third contest between Adamek and Briggs didn’t appear to be in the short-term plans of either fighter.
“I really feel like there’s a bright future out there for me. I’m definitely looking at any other of the champions out there,” Briggs said. “Who knows, maybe me and Tomasz can get it on when I’ve got my own strap.”
This may be the time for Adamek to prove he’s the best of the light heavyweights beyond just an unblemished record. The division is resting on the verge of a shift change. The light heavy kings, Antonio Tarver (37 years old), Bernard Hopkins (41), Roy Jones Jr. (37) and Glen Johnson (37), are in the twilight of their careers. The 29-year-old Adamek is just beginning to reach the prime of his career.
A few of the rankings still don’t give Adamek his due respect. The assumed insult is likely a reaction to Adamek’s yearlong inaction after his first meeting with Briggs. To even change that now, the Polish champion will need the help of his elders: their losing becomes his gain.
Taking out Hopkins is the equivalent of winning the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, Nextel Cup and any other drink-bearing trophy. Offing the Executioner is a free ride to the penthouse – or so I’m assuming.
Along the way, Adamek would have to employ a win over British light heavy Clinton Woods (40-3-1). The Ring’s November issue rated International Boxing Federation champ Woods in the No. 5 spot above No. 6 Adamek. Woods’ third, and successful, title defense picked up steam since it came at the price of a loss on Johnson’s record.
At this point one could tell Adamek to seize the day or strike while the iron is hot. In this case, what the hell are you waiting for, will suffice.
BELOW THE BELT
I’ve never tested the strength of a pen versus that of a sword since medieval cutlery isn’t readily available, but I’ll accept the adage as fact.
The spoken word doesn’t always wield the same power as the aforementioned utensils, but the annoyance it creates can be rather potent.
Ironically, it was the print reporters who had to use their powers of speech to free their pens Saturday at Allstate Arena. HBO had cut off the only route between us, the boxers and the press room for the sake of camera production.
I took an ill-timed run to the restroom before Mike Mollo and Kevin McBride stepped into the ring. I got within eyesight of my chair 11 rows away from the apron when event staff told me I needed to backtrack and enter from the other side of the stadium.
The suggested route was horribly misinformed as the staff member guarding that path said sent me to yet another entry point.
“Hey, I’m only doing what HBO said to do,” he said. “You can’t come this way.”
Guess what, staff member No. 2’s suggested route was the worst and most aggravating of them all. Met by police and security, I was told I should have entered and exited through my original path.
“HBO said we have to keep this clear,” the security agent said.
Major boxing shows are much like the old Roman gladiatorial events. Combat after combat is staged for all to see while even more chaos happens behind the scenes. Reporters must wade through a sea of promoters, trainers, fighters, security, television personnel and random onlookers.
At Allstate Arena, there is only one portal through which reporters can travel. It happened to be the same one HBO had surrounded with police in Kevlar vests, who turned everybody away. When I say everybody, I mean longtime boxing scribes such as the Chicago Tribune’s Mike Hirsley.
We tried to reason with the officers, but they were only doing their jobs. It took going to Don King Productions’ Alan Hopper – he generally makes life easier for the press – to get the ball rolling. After a minor argument with HBO, the lockdown was over.
I’m not one to interfere with the business of others in my field. Television does take some precedent over print since it is transmitted almost instantly to millions of viewers.
In the end, though, we’re all just media outlets trying to put together a product that is no more important than the next. Stopping the written word evokes only the more annoying spoken word, flicking your ears like a 13-year-old boy passing time in after school detention.
And if reason is out of reach, who says we’re above holding our breath and stomping our feet?