Heavyweight contenders Tomasz Adamek and Eddie Chambers have had their championship opportunities. Both crashed and burned when they got them.
First up, Chambers got a mandatory title shot against champion Wladimir Klitschko in March 2010. To say things didn't go well would be a massive understatement. Klitschko beat on Chambers for the entire fight before knocking him out cold with five seconds left in the 12th and final round.
It was a brutal knockout, and Chambers didn't fight again for 11 months, returning in February 2011 to outpoint Derric Rossy (whom he had knocked out in their first meeting in 2007) before going into another long layoff.
Adamek, a former cruiserweight world champion and a former light heavyweight titlist, got his crack at glory in September 2011 as the mandatory challenger for champion Vitali Klitschko, Wladimir's older brother.
Although the fight was held in Adamek's native Poland, the home crowd of some 40,000 was of little help. In the biggest fight in Polish history, Vitali abused Adamek, dropping him in the sixth round, bloodying him and finally stopping him in the 10th round of a fight that was as one-sided as his brother's was against Chambers. Adamek returned on March 24 to score a near-shutout 10-round decision against journeyman Nagy Aguilera.
Now that Chambers and Adamek each have a win under their belts since suffering a knockout loss in a championship bout, both are ready to step into a bigger fight -- against each other.
Rather than stay busy against lesser opponents and rack up wins waiting for another opportunity, they are risking a lot by facing each other in a 10-round bout on Saturday night (9 ET, NBC Sports Net) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
In the scheduled 10-round co-feature, emerging heavyweight prospect Bryant Jennings (13-0, 6 KOs), 27, of Philadelphia, will try to run his streak of impressive performances on the "Fight Night" series to three in a row when he faces Houston's 28-year-old Steve Collins (25-1-1, 18 KOs).
It's rare to see legitimate heavyweight contenders face each other, especially when there is no title at stake, no promise of a mandatory title shot and no pot-of-gold payday, but Adamek and Chambers are willing.
That's what makes Saturday's bout compelling, because Adamek and Chambers each have a ton to lose.
That aspect of the match isn't lost on Main Events chief executive Kathy Duva, whose company has exclusive rights to the "Fight Night" series.
"It's funny," she said. "There's no champion here, there's no challenger. It's a 10-rounder between two guys who are top-five [heavyweight] fighters, and it's sadly become a rarity in the heavyweight division.
"We are really pleased that this fight is going to be that kind of pick 'em fight. If you look on the boxing websites, you see the comments: One guy says, 'I'm picking Chambers;' the next guy says, 'I'm picking Adamek.' Well, that's what makes a great boxing match. This is a fight that both guys are certain they are coming to win."
James Bashir, Chambers' trainer, couldn't agree more.
"It is a breath of fresh air to be working with someone who wants to fight with the best," Bashir said. "You couldn't ask for a better matchup. These are two guys who want it, two different styles clashing and two guys who are not trying to avoid anything in boxing.
"Ziggy [Rozalski, Adamek's advisor] said to me, 'We were surprised that Eddie took this fight,' and I said, 'Hmm, we were surprised that Tomasz took this fight.' Not only does this fight do good for the fans, not only does this fight do good for the heavyweight division, this fight does good for boxing, period. Both guys have met and been defeated by the Klitschko brothers, and where else do you go but right back to the top by fighting the best in the division? So on [Saturday] we are going to match wits to see who is the best guy to go back and meet the champions."
Neither Chambers nor Adamek could deal with the immense size of the Klitschko brothers in their title shots, but by facing each other they get to oppose a similarly sized man.
Chambers (36-2, 18 KOs), a little smaller than Adamek (45-2, 28 KOs), believes his quickness and more refined skills will carry the day.
"Adamek sometimes has a problem with his body movement," said Chambers, 30, of Philadelphia, who left his hometown to train for the fight at the famed Kronk Gym in Detroit. "He can be hit, but he can also pepper you with great, surprising punch combinations. But his biggest strength is his mental strength, unbelievable determination. He's a warrior who never quits. But he was broken by Vitali Klitschko. He could do nothing.
"I know that my only weakness, if you can even call it that, is that I'm smaller than Adamek. But I have better skills, I'm a faster fighter. In a couple of days, I will end Adamek's dreams about competing for a heavyweight title again."
Adamek, 35, isn't as bold as Chambers in his assessment of the bout.
"Whoever will get an upper hand of imposing his will in this fight will not only have some advantage -- this fighter will dominate the fight," he said. "I always said that I never start the fight looking to KO anybody because you cannot do this in the ring. But in this particular fight, I'm convinced that whoever will start to be desperate, changing the game plan, and forgets to have a cool head in the ring, will go down. In this sport, when fighters as accomplished as me and Eddie are fighting, there are no special surprises -- everybody knows everything about the other guy. But the other side of the coin is knowing something in theory and actually doing it in the ring."
Even though Chambers' hometown is only a short drive from Newark, he won't have the crowd on his side Saturday. Adamek lives in Jersey City and has become a major draw in Newark, thanks to the large population of Polish fans in the area who have made him a star.
"I am very excited to come back to Prudential Center," said Adamek, who is returning to his home venue after a two-fight absence. "I want to give a good fight to my fans. I think, for everybody, this is a good situation. It is very close to my home, and all my fans can come to see me."
Chambers, who fought Wladimir in Germany, has no fear of fighting on Adamek's turf.
"I have no problem to fight in front of the thousands of Adamek fans in the Prudential Center," he said. "I'm sure that in the beginning his supporters will be booing me, but even though their hero will lose, in the end, they will applaud my performance with a standing ovation."