Andrzej Fonfara’s next bout is against an opponent who is considerably less formidable and accomplished than the last man he faced in the ring, but that doesn’t mean the Chicago-based light heavyweight prospect is any less motivated to give it his all on fight night.
Fonfara (22-2, 12 knockouts), a Poland native who has developed a strong local following in his adopted hometown, faces Tommy Karpency on Friday at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago. Karpency (21-3-1, 14 KOs) is no world-beater but the former title challenger is solid enough for the IBO to sanction the bout and the card is selling well as evidenced by the $150 ringside seats selling out on Wednesday.
Still, winning the IBO belt won’t add much more to the respect that Fonfara earned in his last bout, a hard-fought unanimous decision over Glen Johnson in July. The former champ, who retired immediately after the ESPN2-televised fight (and then unretired a few weeks later), is clearly past his prime but the 43-year-old veteran is still dangerous enough to be considered a “gate-keeper” for the 175-pound division.
Fonfara certainly thinks so.
“The Glen Johnson fight let me know that I’m improving,” he told RingTV.com. “To me, winning that fight means I’m ready for the experienced veterans and all the contenders who have good records.”
Johnson’s record (51-16-1, 35 KOs) was far from sterling going into the Fonfara fight, yet more than a few observers thought the fight was much closer than the official scorecards – 97-93 (twice) and a ridiculous 99-91 – indicated. Some thought the fight could have been a draw or that the old war horse deserved the nod by a point.
While Fonfara doesn’t agree with that line of thinking, he acknowledges that there was room for improvement on his part.
“I can do better,” he said. “I think I performed at 60-70 percent. I thought I sparred better in camp than I fought that night. I’d never fought 10 rounds before fighting Glen. I was used to going four and six rounds, but I proved to myself that I can fight a hard 10 rounds. I proved that I have a good chin and stamina.
“I felt good in the first round and I felt great in the 10thround. I think I’m a better fighter now.”
There’s no doubt that Fonfara, a tall and rangy boxer with an aggressive, busy style, will carry a new-found confidence into the Karpency fight. He outboxed and outworked a hardnosed borderline hall of famer who has tested ÔÇö and sometimes bested – a who’s who of the 175-pound vision over the past 12 years.
While Johnson can boast victories over former champs, such as Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver, Karpency has never defeated a noteworthy opponent. The fulltime psychiatric nurse from Adah, Penn. , has faced two world-class opponents – RING-rated contender Karo Murat in Germany in 2010 and WBO light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly in Wales this past February.
Karpency, a cagey 26-year-old southpaw, dropped decisive 12-round decisions in both bouts. He was shutout by Cleverly.
Fonfara views Karpency’s resilience and ability to survive as an opportunity to “one-up” Murat and Cleverly, who he would like challenge in 2013.
“I want to show Cleverly and the boxing world that I can knockout someone he could not,” Fonfara said. “It won’t be easy. Karpency is a southpaw. He has a good chin, good skills and good conditioning. Cleverly got him with some hard shots a couple of times but he wouldn’t fall.
“My plan is to make him fall. I want to do better than a world champ.”
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer