CHICAGO -- For the first half of the fight, Chicago light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara appeared to be in trouble.
On a night that featured Chicago boxing at a baseball stadium for the first time in 51 years and in front of a spectacular crowd of 8,231, Gabriel Campillo was having his way at the White Sox’s Us Cellular Field. Campillo, 34, relied on his vast experience to outbox Fonfara for most of the fight.
Campillo, 22-6-1 (9), controlled the center of the ring and used near-perfect movement to keep Fonfara, 24-2 (14), at bay. The 34-year old Spaniard was answering any doubts that he was washed up following a third-round loss to Sergey Kovalev in January.
Then the eighth round happened.
As the round was narrowing down, Fonfara connected with a right hand that stunned Campillo. Campillo, who had even been winning the round by a large margin, went back to his corner on wobbly legs.
“I punch him in the eighth round and I counter him, moving right and counter him with a right hand,” Fonfara said. “After the sixth round, I tell myself I must go start and throw harder punch.”
In the ninth round, Fonfara scored the dramatic-come-from-behind knockout he was desperately looking for – capping off a great night of boxing from top to bottom.
“Campillo is a very tough fighter,” Fonfara said. “He’s a lefty and very slick. He has a very good punch. I do my best and I beat Campillo. I know I have my mistakes, but I have a punch. I’m happy I win this fight.”
At the time of the knockout, Campillo was up 77-75 twice on the cards and judge Harry Davis had the fight 77-75 for Fonfara. Maxboxing had the fight 77-75 for Campillo.
Initially, it was Fonfara who established his jab in the first two rounds. Fonfara led with it and it set up his right hand. However, being a master at negating fighters’ best weapons, Campillo started to use lateral movement to take Fonfara’s jab away.
Campillo would then create offense of his own, landing straight left hands that would snap Fonfara’s head back. From the third round on, Campillo picked off Fonfara’s punches and silencing the Polish-heavy crowd in the process.
“It was one of those games with whoever had the other fighter going back seemed to be landing more,” said Dominic Pesoli, Fonfara’s promoter. “As Campillo had him going backwards, he was landing more punches.”
Realizing his fighter needed to make adjustments, Fonfara’s trainer Sam Colonna pleaded for Fonfara to go to the body. “We were both on the same page,” he said.
It was no coincidence that after stunning Campillo in the eighth round, Fonfara targeted the body as the two fighters came out for the ninth round. Fonfara applied pressure and landed a crisp hook to the body that hurt Campillo and sent Campillo to his knees.
Referee Genaro Rodriguez issued a full ten count at 1:37 of round nine.
“I don’t fight because of an injury to my right hand for nine months,” Fonfara said. “But I think so, I looked good today.”
With the knockout, Pesoli was relieved his fighter got the job done. All three televised fights on ESPN 2’s “Friday Night Fights” had tremendous action – making it the most critically acclaimed card of the year, at least based on the responses on twitter and from ESPN – but Pesoli said that if his fighter would have lost, the whole card would have been a failure.
“We’ve come so far with Andrew and he’s right there,” Pesoli said. “I see bigger and better things for him. I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I feel like I’ve paid my dues. I want Andrew to make big money. I just feel like it’s my time as well.”
Now with the burden off his shoulders, Pesoli’s focus turns to finding Fonfara a big money fight. At the post fight press conference, Fonfara and Colonna eyed IBF titlist Bernard Hopkins as a future opponent. The Campillo fight was an IBF eliminator for the #1 ranking, which Fonfara will have to face one other opponent before becoming Hopkins’ mandatory.
But Pesoli said that its unlikely Hopkins will fight Fonfara due to the uncertainty of Hopkins’ future a year from now, when his next mandatory will be due. For now, Pesoli told Maxboxing the plan is to go out to New York to meet with HBO executives to see if they have anything in store for Fonfara. Pesoli mentioned that HBO texted him to congratulate Pesoli for the event as well.
Whatever happens next, Fonfara and Colonna recognize that Fonfara will have to improve if he wants to beat higher level opposition.
“His defense – we need to improve his head movement a little more,” Colonna said. “And, [Fonfara needs] not to look for one punch. He needs to put them together in combinations.”
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