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Fonfara Eyes Larger Fights as He Prepares for Campillo


By Matthew Paras

In the midst of a 13-fight win streak, light heavyweight Andrzej Fonfara has spent the last three years being built as a major attraction in Chicago.
Fonfara, 23-2 (13), has carved out a following of rabid Polish fans for his fights at the UIC Pavilion, creating a soccer stadium-like atmosphere. His last two fights against Tommy Karpency and Glen Johnson drew impressive crowds of 3,947 and 4,224, respectively, among the top-three attendance figures for boxing at the venue.
It wasn’t always that way for the 25-year-old fighter. An embarrassing second-round loss to Derrick Findley at middleweight caused Fonfara to jump up in weight. For years, he was matched slowly on undercards. Fonfara racked up a streak of knockout victories but there were large question marks about who he was as a fighter and who was actually paying attention.

That all changed when Fonfara was surprisingly matched against Johnson. The fight was Fonfara’s coming-out party as he outboxed the former champion, establishing himself as a new contender in the light heavyweight division.
On August 16, his new found popularity will be put to the test as Fonfara faces Gabriel Campillo, 22-5-1 (9), at the home of the Chicago White Sox, U.S. Cellular Field. The venue is scaled for 15,000 people to attend and will be the first Chicago fight at a baseball stadium in 51 years.  It’s an event Fonfara’s promoters, Dominic Pesoli and Frank Mugnolo, have dubbed “The Big Fight 2,” naming it after Floyd Patterson and Sonny Liston’s historic clash at the same venue known as Comiskey Park at the time.
Yet even with the buzz from headlining “The Big Fight 2” and a respectable opponent at hand, Fonfara can’t help but look further into the future.
“I’m ready for [Campillo],” said Fonfara at a press conference. “I want to show I am ready for [IBF titlist Bernard] Hopkins. I hope this is an eliminator fight. I want to be the next world champion.”
Fonfara-Campillo could very well be an eliminator for the IBF’s number one spot. Both Fonfara and Pesoli mentioned that the IBF could recognize the bout as a title eliminator for the sanctioning body’s number one ranking. While Pesoli stressed it wasn’t official yet, the promoter and his boxer seemed optimistic that it was a possibility with Karo Murat becoming Hopkins’ mandatory again. The IBF didn’t reply to an email seeking comment.
Still, it’s rare when a fighter has a fight lined up and mentions future possibilities. Fonfara told Maxboxing that motivation of a potential eliminator inspired him to bring up Hopkins’ name at the press conference.
“If we fight in an eliminator, I’m very happy,” Fonfara said. “This is more motivation for me and motivation for training. If this is an eliminator, I want to beat Campillo first. After, I will beat Hopkins. I’ll be happy to fight him.”
To get to that level, Fonfara has to get past Campillo in the season finale of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.” Campillo is coming off a second-round knockout victory against Ionut Trandafir Ilie in a tune-up bout. Before that, he was knocked out in the third round against Sergey Kovalev.
8 Count Productions’ Pesoli said he expects a much different Campillo than the one against Kovalev, one closer to the fighter who thoroughly outboxed Tavoris Cloud and Beibut Shumenov while losing decisions in both fights.
“[Campillo] flew into the country days before the fight so the time change probably affected him,” Pesoli said. “I also think he’s never going to feel the power that he’s going to feel with Andrew. I feel very confident [Fonfara]’ll be victorious on August 16 by knockout.”
Fonfara isn’t sure how the exactly the fight will play out but realizes this is a must-win situation. Fonfara mentioned his jab and being aggressive will be the keys to victory.
“It should be a very good fight for me and a very good experience,” Fonfara said. “All fights are different. I could knock him out in the first round or the sixth round. I could win a decision. This doesn’t matter. I must beat him.”
Besides a possible title shot in his future, Fonfara could also see his debut on a premium network. Fonfara’s fight against Campillo will be his third appearance on “Friday Night Fights” and the fighter could see himself on either Showtime or HBO soon.
“I already know he’s on the door of HBO and Showtime,” Pesoli said. “After this fight, we’re taking him to New York to meet the HBO executives. All he has to do is come out with the win and look impressive.”
However, if Fonfara wants Hopkins, wouldn’t the fight have to be on Showtime due to boxing’s ongoing “Cold War” between the networks?
“That’s okay,” Pesoli said. “We’ll go on Showtime. We don’t have any contractual obligations to either network. It’s time for him to make some big money. He’s right at the doorstep now to crossover that threshold from being [on] a mid-level network to a big network.”
Bernard Hopkins isn’t the only light heavyweight titlist Fonfara wants to fight. A day after Fonfara fights, Kovalev fights WBO light heavyweight champion Nathan Cleverly on HBO. The winner of that fight is on the radar of both Fonfara and Pesoli.
“Kovalev is obviously making noise. That’s a fight I would love to see happen for the right money,” Pesoli said. “I absolutely [think Fonfara is the bigger puncher]. They’re both big punchers but I think Andrew is more skilled.”
Fonfara, who has called Cleverly out since the former’s win over Johnson, predicted Cleverly would win.
Pesoli and his fellow promoter, Frank Mugnolo, spent just as much time talking about boxing at U.S. Cellular Field as they did about the specific match-ups taking place that night. The promoters waited until the Stanley Cup was over until they started to heavily promote the event, Pesoli said.
“The fight is scaled for 15,000. In my opinion, I think we’ll do 10 to 12,” Pesoli said. “I would love to be wrong. Although right now, the Sox are doing bad. The Cubs are doing bad. Basketball is over. Hockey is over. Football’s not going on. If [Chicago fans] want to get a fill for their sports, come to this fight. It’s going to be a great event.”
“This isn’t just for boxing fans,” Mugnolo said. “This is for baseball fans. Baseball you like when they get a lot of hits? Well, these guys hit with their fists.”
The season finale of “Friday Night Fights” will feature four fights total – including three live fights and a replay of the February heavyweight slugfest that was Arthur Szpilka against Mike Mollo. The replay of Szpilka-Mollo will open up the telecast at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
Following Szpilka-Mollo will be an eight-round bout between welterweight prospects Adrian Granados, 11-2-2 (7),  and Mark Salser, 15-0 (9). This will be Granados’ first fight since a highly questionable draw against Kermit Cintron in which many felt he was the winner.
The co-main event is a 10-round rematch between Mollo and Szpilka. Szpilka won the first fight in the sixth round by knockout after being dropped in rounds one and four.
Fonfara-Campillo will be the main event, scheduled for 12.
Questions and comments can be sent to Matt at You can follow him at

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