Records were broken and noses were broken, but Andrzej Fonfara’s and Nathan Cleverly’s will to win was shatterproof.
The two lay-it-all-on-the-line, 175-pound warriors dueled relentlessly in an instant-classic slugfest where the only head movement came from necks snapping back after absorbing one power shot after the next.
In the end, Fonfara won—and so did boxing fans.
Andrzej Fonfara (27-3-1, 17 KOs) and Nathan Cleverly (29-2, 15 KOs) had plenty to live up to after Kohei Kono and Koki Kameda put on a thrilling display of nonstop action in the co-main event Friday at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, the adopted hometown of the Poland-born Fonfara.
But Fonfara and Cleverly proved more than up to the task as they fired away in one of the best—and most brutal—fight cards of the year. They smashed each other’s faces and a number of CompuBox records for the 175-pound division, setting the new bar for most combined punches thrown (2,524) and most combined punches landed (936), among others.
Doubling and tripling his jab, Cleverly controlled the range in the first few rounds, but it wasn’t enough to keep the hard-charging Fonfara off him for long.
Fonfara began to put his stamp on the fight in Round 4, when he blitzed Cleverly early with a flurry of combos. From there, the action only intensified, as Cleverly and Fonfara stood toe to toe and tirelessly hurled bombs at each other the entire fight.
“Cleverly’s a tough guy, and he throws a lot of combinations, but I know that he doesn’t have a really good punch,” Fonfara said following the fight. “That’s why I could catch his punches in the first couple of rounds, and then throw my harder punches and break him up.
“That happened after five, six, seven rounds. I caught him with good uppercuts. Round after round, I was a better boxer [and] I threw more punches, harder punches.”
That may be true, but Cleverly peppered Fonfara with eight straight punches at one point in Round 9. But ultimately it was Fonfara who scored with the harder shots, busting Cleverly’s nose and rocking him repeatedly with savage left hooks and uppercuts.
Cleverly did plenty of mugging throughout the night, wagging his tongue, throwing bolo punches and exchanging lighthearted words with Fonfara following several rounds.
Ultimately, though, Fonfara got the last laugh over his leering opponent, winning a unanimous decision (115-113, and 116-112 twice) in front of a raucous Polish-heavy crowd. With the win, Fonfara improved his record at the UIC Pavilion to 14-0.
Looking forward, Fonfara said that he’d next like a chance to avenge his most-recent loss, to 175-pound kingpin Adonis Stevenson, whom he dropped a decision to in May 2014—a fight in which both guys hit the canvas.
A confident Fonfara says that he’s refined his skills since then.
“I’m a better boxer right now, and I showed it in this fight,” the 27-year-old said. “Stevenson is a tough guy, but I think I’m ready for him next.”
Asked about all the shots he absorbed in this fight, Fonfara chuckled. “I like to get punched, too, that’s why sometimes I stand there,” he said. “This is boxing. You must get hit with some shots to find some shots. This is the thing people love.
“I feel good. I can go another 12 rounds.”
Maybe so, but after such a breathless brawl, we’re not sure there’d be enough oxygen left in the arena for anyone to see them.
For complete coverage of Fonfara vs Cleverly, visit our fight page.