Light heavyweight contender Andrzej Fonfara made a name for himself in 2014 when he survived an early onslaught from world champion Adonis Stevenson to drop him and push him to the limit.
Even though Fonfara lost a unanimous decision he had established himself as a bona fide contender and two fights later Fonfara made Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. quit on his stool after the ninth round. In his next fight, Fonfara outslugged former titleholder Nathan Cleverly in a tremendous battle and won a unanimous decision.
Fonfara appeared on his way to another title opportunity when he was given what was supposed to be an easy showcase fight on NBC in primetime in June against the unknown Joe Smith Jr. A victory would perhaps have set Fonfara up for a rematch with Stevenson.
But instead of taking Smith out, as most expected he would do, it was Fonfara who was on the painful end of a first-round knockout loss. It was one of the upsets of the year and left Fonfara looking for answers.
That was nine months ago and now Fonfara (28-4, 16 KOs), 29, a Poland native fighting out of Chicago, is looking to rebound and get back on track when he takes on former light heavyweight world champion Chad Dawson, his own career in tatters, in a crossroads fight on the Keith Thurman-Danny Garcia undercard on Saturday night (CBS, 9 ET) at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Although Fonfara-Dawson is not slated for the telecast, it is still a vitally important fight for both guys. It is also a chance for Fonfara to see how he is clicking with new trainer Virgil Hunter, brought in after the loss to Smith.
"Virgil Hunter and I had a great final few days of training camp,” Fonfara said, this week. “All the sparring and training is finalized and now we are focused on making weight. My body feels rejuvenated and I'll be at my best going into this fight.
"I felt it was a good thing to take some time off after my fight with Joe Smith. I was able to reflect on my performance, and make the move to start training with Virgil Hunter. My mental focus is sharp. Everyone will see the improvement in my performance."
Dawson (34-4, 19 KOs), a 34-year-old southpaw from New Haven, Connecticut, has seen his career in tailspin since he dropped down to super middleweight to challenge then-champion Andre Ward and got smoked in a one-sided 11th-round knockout loss in 2012. Including that fight, Dawson is 3-3 in his last six and has not looked good. Among the defeats was a first-round knockout to Stevenson in which he lost his title, though Dawson has won two low-level bouts in a row. Fonfara is a bit wary of Dawson, who will be coming off an 11-month layoff.
“Chad Dawson is a very skilled fighter who has won at the elite level,” Fonfara said. “He's a former world champion who's been in the ring with the best fighters in the division. I know he will be a difficult challenge, but I'm confident I'll be victorious."