Polish-born challenger Tomasz Adamek will yield a six-inch advantage in height and possibly more than 30 pounds in weight when he meets WBC heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko on Sept. 10 at Stadion Mejski in Wroclaw, Poland.
But if you ask any cab driver in Wroclaw, Adamek's going to win.
"Anybody who fights Klitschko is going to be the underdog, that's just the way that it is," said Main Events President Kathy Duva, who is promoting the fight. "But if every cab driver in Wroclaw is to be believed, Tomasz is the favorite. The cab drivers are kind of a barometer of the people.
"People in the streets, the hotels and the restaurants, they're already getting excited. It's fun to be here. Everybody here in Poland is picking Tomasz to win. Obviously, we've felt for a very long time that Tomasz was going to surprise people."
Adamek will not have lost in four years and seven months when he steps into the ring against Klitschko. The last man to defeat him was Chad Dawson, who rose from the canvas for a unanimous decision that dethroned Adamek as WBC lightheavyweight beltholder in February 2007.
Adamek claims that he was weakened by extreme weight loss against Dawson. He rebounded with a seventh-round stoppage of cruiserweight Luis Andreas in his very next fight in June 2007.
"I was very weak [against Dawson]. I was [killing myself] trying to make the weight. But now, my natural weight is 218, 220," said Adamek. "Being heavier, I can eat and I can drink. I go into the ring happy. My heart is stronger and everything is good."
Adamek, 34, will be after his 14th consecutive victory and his seventh straight win as a heavyweight when he meets the 40-year-old Klitschko, who is riding a 10-fight winning streak that includes eight stoppages.
"When I go into the ring, I go in to win," said Adamek. "My heart is strong, and my speed is true. I'm not going to go into the ring and go to the ropes because I want to fight, and I want the title. This is my dream.
"To be able to fight in a heavyweight fight in a stadium in Poland for me, I'm very excited that I can come back to Poland for my whole country. I will have a surprise for everybody. To win the heavyweight championship is my dream."
Adamek (43-1, 28 knockouts) must play the role of giant killer in a matchup of David vs. Goliath.
A win by Adamek would rank as the most significant by a former light heavyweight over a heavyweight since Michael Spinks scored consecutive wins by unanimous and spilt decisions, respectively, over Larry Holmes in 1985 and 1986.
While the nearly 6-foot-2 Adamek has not fought at a weight of more than 220½ pounds, the 6-8 Klitschko (42-2, 39 KOs) topped out at a career-high 252 when he stopped 6-4, 251-pound Chris Arreola in the 10th round in September 2009. Adamek weighed 217 and absorbed some heavy blows when he defeated a 250-pound Arreola by majority decision in April of last year — two fights after Arreola's loss to Klitschko.
Adamek has largely outhustled his larger rivals, including decisions over the 6-7 Michael Grant and the 6-6 Mike Tyson-conqueror Kevin McBride, respectively, in August of last year and in April. Adamek won those fights by wide decisions even though he was outweighed 261-217 against Grant and 285-215 against McBride.
Grant brought an eight-bout winning streak that had included five knockouts into the bout since he was stopped in the seventh round by Dominick Guinn in June of 2003. Yet Adamek successfully boxed his way to an early lead against Grant, jumping in and out behind double-jabs that led to big left hooks and right hands.
Adamek did so despite sustaining a cut over his right eye from a seventh-round clash of heads, as well as another laceration over his left eye from an apparent eighth-round punch.
Like he did against Grant, Adamek will stand and trade when necessary against Kltschko. But he may not have to.
"I think Tomasz is definitely quicker than Klitschko," said trainer Roger Bloodworth. "Obviously, he's fighting a very big man, so he can't be in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Adamek is in search of his first majro title since winning the IBF cruiserweight belt by split decision over Steve Cunningham in December 2008 and successfully defending it twice.
Adamek debuted as a heavyweight with a fifth-round knockout of former contender Andrew Golota, who Adamek dropped in the first and fifth rounds despite being outweighed 256-214 in October 2009. In his second heavyweight bout, he earned a 12-roundunanimous decision over former U.S. Olympian Jason Estrada, who outweighed Adamek 237-220½, during their bout in February of last year.
Adamek then earned the wins over Arreola and Grant before stopping New York's 230-pound Vinny Maddalone in the fifth round in December and then defeating McBride.
Adamek said that he never has watched the performance of Spinks, who entered the matchup with a record of 27-0 against Holmes' mark of 48-0. But he would be wise to employ Spinks' in-and-out movement as well as any advantage in timing, speed, agility and athleticism he can muster.
"It's wonderful being the underdog," said Duva. "You don't have the kind of pressure on you that the champion has. Tomasz has been the guy with the pressure on him for a long time, being the favorite in his fights for the past few years.
"As the underdog, [Adamek] back to where he was with Cunningham, where he wasn't expected to win. But that's OK. You have a good fighter who is prepared, and he's not afraid of anything. You want him to be an underdog. That's a nice place to be."
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]