ONTARIO, Calif. (AP) — Not even 12 rounds of bone-crunching punches from Chris Arreola could knock Tomasz Adamek off his path to a heavyweight title shot.
And along the way, Adamek and Arreola might have punched a little life back into the heavyweight division.
Adamek overcame Arreola's power and size advantage to win his 10th straight fight Saturday night, earning a majority decision in Arreola's backyard.
Although Adamek (41-1, 27 KOs) repeatedly was staggered by Arreola, who weighed 33½ pounds more than the former light heavyweight and cruiserweight, Adamek rallied with smarter strategy and punching flurries that left Arreola's eyes and face swollen and discolored by the final bell. Hundreds of fans from Adamek's native Poland cheered the decision, while Arreola's fans booed — even while Arreola said he agreed with the judges.
"This was for me the toughest fight I ever fought," said Adamek, who reluctantly crossed the nation from New Jersey for this high-risk showdown. "This is why I believe I can be world champion."
Adamek lost his WBC light heavyweight title to Chad Dawson in 2007 before moving to cruiserweight and then to heavyweight, where he hopes to earn a date with one of the Klitschko brothers.
A rematch with Arreola could be an easy sell to the fans who filled Citizens Bank Business Arena with raucous cheers amid flags of Poland and Mexico. Competitive heavyweight bouts have become a rarity, yet these fighters showcased the thrill of an even matchup in boxing's erstwhile glamour division.
Arreola (28-2), from nearby Riverside, appeared to be close to stopping Adamek in the middle rounds, but hurt his left hand twice. Adamek, who scoffed at the notion he was in trouble, was more aggressive and accurate in the final rounds.
Judge Barry Druxman scored the fight 115-113 for Adamek, while Joseph Pasquale favored him 117-111. Judge Tony Crebs and The Associated Press scored it a 114-114 draw.
Adamek threw 99 more punches than Arreola and connected with a larger percentage, also throwing more power shots. Although Arreola's power seemed more damaging, Arreola's swollen face indicated Adamek had done plenty of damage himself.
Despite repeatedly bringing his home fans to their feet, Arreola lost in his second bout since getting stopped by Vitali Klitschko in his first world title shot last September.
"Adamek did what he wanted, and I did what I wanted," Arreola said. "I thought I had him in the fifth round. He head-butted me a lot. I got buzzed by his head butts. He beat me. He did what he wanted to do in the ring. I hurt my hand in the fifth round, but I kept going."
Although Adamek weighed in at 217 next to the 251½-pound Arreola on Thursday, he claimed the size discrepancy would make no difference. He pointed out that if he hopes to win a heavyweight title, he must fight bigger men — even if he has to do it on the other side of the country from Newark, N.J., where he draws thousands of fans to his bouts at the Prudential Center.
Yet Arreola's power clearly impressed Adamek in the first two rounds, and Adamek replied with speed and counterpunching. Arreola kept pressing forward and eventually rocked Adamek with a series of blows in the fifth round, starting with a nasty jab. Arreola hurt Adamek with a big left hand in the sixth, but Arreola also appeared to get cut in a clash of heads.
With both of his eyes swelling, Arreola finally caught up to Adamek in the 10th, repeatedly staggering Adamek backward with combinations. But Arreola got out of trouble and did impressive work in the final two rounds to earn the win.
Although Adamek's camp heard tales of fans stuck in Europe by Iceland's volcanic eruption, several hundred Polish fans followed Adamek to suburban Los Angeles, most dressed in red-and-white shirts and scarves. Arreola's fans booed whenever the Polish fans sang their national anthem or began an organized cheer, and Adamek's supporters responded similarly.
Yet the arena observed a ceremonial 10-count in honor of Polish president Lech Kaczynski, who died along with his wife and 94 others in a plane crash two weeks ago. Adamek had dedicated the fight to their memory.