Of the five current or former world champions that Andrzej Fonfara has faced, he’s whipped four of them—and the only one who escaped defeat rose from the canvas to do so.
Now Andrzej Fonfara (27-3, 16 KOs) will try to add Nathan Cleverly (29-2, 15 KOs) to his list of vanquished ex-titleholders when the two 175-pound contenders square off Friday in a scheduled 12-rounder at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion (Spike TV, 9 p.m. ET/PT).
A native of Wales in the U.K., Cleverly won a 175-pound title in May 2011 and successfully defended it five times before suffering a fourth-round TKO at the hands of Sergey Kovalev in August 2013.
If Fonfara’s handlers are to be believed, their Polish fighter should have little trouble doing to Cleverly what he did to former champs Byron Mitchell (third-round TKO), Gabriel Campillo (ninth-round KO), Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (ninth-round KO) and Glen Johnson (10-round unanimous decision).
“This could be a technical fight where Andrzej slows Cleverly down with a body shot or a right hand,” says Sam Colonna, Fonfara’s career-long trainer. “Andrzej has the power to do a little bit of everything. He’ll show Cleverly that it’s his time to shine and he’s here to stay.”
Fonfara’s promoter, Dominic Pesoli, is more direct in his prediction: “I think Andrzej makes a statement. I think his pressure will be too much; he breaks down Cleverly and stops him within seven.”
Such confidence is understandable, seeing that the only time Fonfara has failed against a fighter with a championship pedigree was when he dropped a 12-round unanimous decision to current 175-pound titleholder Adonis Stevenson in May 2014. In that contest, Fonfara was knocked down twice early, but he came back and floored the champ late, but lost on points.
“Everything started badly [against] Stevenson,” Fonfara recalls. “But after the sixth round, I fought like a champion and showed I’m a warrior.”
“ Against Chavez, Fonfara took shots, came back with better ones, and when the knockout came, he took it. I think he does the same to beat Cleverly. ” Adonis Stevenson, 175-pound world champion
That’s certainly continued since the Stevenson loss, with Fonfara picking up a pair of victories over Doudou Ngumbu in November and Chavez in April.
Both wins were memorable for different reasons.
When he beat Chavez, Fonfara became the first boxer to knock down and stop the son of the Mexican legend, who failed to answer the bell for the 10th round. According to the post-fight stats, Fonfara outlanded Chavez nearly 2-to-1 in total punches (205-109).
“With Chavez, Fonfara was calm, boxed and took his time,” Stevenson says. “He took shots, came back with better ones, and when the knockout came, he took it. I think he does the same to beat Cleverly.”
As for Fonfara’s unanimous-decision triumph over Ngumbu, it’s notable because it occurred inside the same UIC Pavilion where the 27-year-old will fight Cleverly—a venue in which Fonfara is 13-0.
“Chicago’s my second home. I’ve lived here nearly 10 years, and I’m happy to fight here again,” says the native of Warsaw, Poland, who now owns and often trains out of the Windy City’s Hyper Fight Fitness Gym. “All of Chicago supports me—not just the Polish [community], but Mexicans and Americans. I’m extra motivated to win for my fans.”
For his part, Cleverly—who is coming off a 24-second stoppage of Tomas Man in May—says he’s happy to fight on American soil for just the third time in his career and engage Fonfara in his backyard.
“It's going to be an enjoyable experience,” says the 28-year-old Welshman, who tipped the scales at 174.4 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in, slightly less than Fonfara (174.6). “The pressure is off in a way because he has the expectations of the home crowd.”
And what does Cleverly make of Fonfara’s current 17-1 run that includes 13 knockouts? He’s impressed, but not the least bit intimidated.
“Fonfara is … tall and rangy. He’s a good puncher, he’s strong and he’s fit. He throws correct, solid punches,” Cleverly says. “But I believe I’ll win because I’ve simply got more tools. … I’m sharper with more movement. My combination punching will be too much for him.”
Not so shockingly, Fonfara’s crystal ball reveals an entirely different result.
“Cleverly says he’s too slick for me,” Fonfara says. “If I get the opportunity, I will knock him out.”
For complete coverage of Fonfara vs Cleverly, check out our fight page.