As he nears the apex of the 175-pound division, Fonfara now fighting for more than just himself

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Andrzej Fonfara returns to the ring Saturday a little more than a month in advance of the anticipated arrival of his first child—a life-changing event that has placed an added premium on victory.

Andrzej Fonfara and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Andrzej Fonfara blasts Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. with a sweat-splattering right hand during their fight in April 2015. Fonfara won by ninth-round stoppage, one of 18 victories in his last 19 bouts.

“The due date for my son, Leonard, is July 20,” Fonfara said. “I need to win some more fights, earn more money and build a house so my kid grows up to have a bright future.”

A bright future was something Fonfara was seeking for himself in 2006, when at the age of 20 he left his native Warsaw, Poland, with his parents and put his career in the hands of Chicago-based trainer Sam Colonna. In the decade since, Fonfara has embraced the American dream, rapidly becoming a fan favorite in the Windy City while building himself into one of the top contenders in a deep 175-pound division.

Come Saturday, Andrzej Fonfara (28-3, 16 KOs) will go after his fourth consecutive victory—and his 19th in 20 fights—when he battles Joe Smith Jr. (21-1, 17 KOs) at Chicago’s UIC Pavilion in a scheduled 10-round fight (NBC, 8:30 p.m. ET/5:30 p.m. PT). It will be Fonfara’s 15th fight at UIC Pavilion, where the boxer-puncher is 14-0 with 10 knockouts, including a thrilling unanimous decision over former champion Nathan Cleverly in October.

“Andrzej has got a tremendous following in Chicago, so about 90 percent of the people will be there to see him,” Colonna said. “People even come from Poland. His popularity’s grown to where even fighting in New York or New Jersey, the Polish community has supported him.”

The 6-foot-2½ Fonfara—who splits his time training at the Windy City’s Hyper Fight Fitness Gym, which he owns, and Colonna Boxing, MMA & Fitness—has literally grown into becoming one of the world’s most dangerous 175-pounders. He weighed just 145¼ pounds in his pro debut, a four-round majority decision over Czech boxer Miroslav Kubik in Ostroleka, Poland, in June 2006.

I have proven to have powerful hands, left and right, whether it’s uppercuts, hooks, straight right hands or jabs. I’m a better boxer, fight after fight. 175-pound title contender Andrzej Fonfara

From there, Fonfara steadily put on weight and moved up the divisional ranks, eventually making his 175-pound debut in October 2010, when he defeated Adan Leal by fourth-round TKO at UIC Pavilion. That’s one of 18 victories Fonfara has registered in his last 19 contests, the only blemish being a loss by unanimous decision to 175-pound champion Adonis Stevenson in May 2014.

In that defeat—his lone loss in six fights against current or former world champs—Fonfara dropped Stevenson in the ninth round after twice hitting the deck himself. 

It was an action-packed fight, but one that paled in comparison to his most recent bout against Cleverly, an epic brawl in which the two fighters set 175-pound records for most combined punches thrown (2,524) and landed (936). By himself, Fonfara established division marks for most individual punches (1,413) and most landed punches (474), while Cleverly’s 462 shots that connected ranks second all time.

Halfway through the contest, Fonfara actually trailed 58-56 on two cards, with the third having it 57-57, but he swept the final six rounds on one card and five of the final six on the other two judges' cards. During the pivotal seventh round that flipped the fight in his favor, Fonfara unleashed a 34-second, 42-punch barrage of unanswered blows, highlighted by an explosive uppercut that shattered and bloodied Cleverly’s nose.

The victory over Cleverly occurred six months after Fonfara upset Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who entered the fight 48-1-1 but was dropped and stopped in the ninth round by a left cross that Fonfara threw from a southpaw stance.

The sustained power and versatility Fonfara displayed in the wins over Chavez and Cleverly are indications that the 28-year-old is hitting his stride right in the prime of his career.

“I have proven to have powerful hands, left and right, whether it’s uppercuts, hooks, straight right hands or jabs. I’m a better boxer, fight after fight,” he said.

“I will show again [Saturday] that I’m a complete fighter who is unpredictable, and open the door for a rematch with Adonis Stevenson. And then my son can be the next world champion after me.”

For full coverage of Fonfara vs Smith, head on over to our fight page.

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