CHICAGO -- In one of arguably the biggest nights in Chicago boxing in decades, the local kid made good.
Andrzej Fonfara, seemingly fading and beginning to slip on the scorecards in a tight battle with Gabriel Campillo, landed a surprise body-shot knockout in the ninth round before an estimated crowd of 8,231 Friday in a light heavyweight title eliminator at U.S. Cellular Field.
Twenty-four-year-old Fonfara (24-2, 14 KOs) -- a Polish-born Chicago resident headlining the first major pro fight at a Chicago ballpark since Sonny Liston knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round at Comiskey Park in 1962 -- was making the biggest step up of his career against Spain's Campillo (22-6-1, 9 KOs), the 34-year-old former light heavyweight titlist.
It was an impressive turnaround for Fonfara, who got off to a strong start by connecting with a sharp jab and bringing the action to Campillo in the first two rounds. Campillo soon began to find his rhythm, though, measuring and countering Fonfara, and even raising a mouse below the hometown fighter's left eye.
The middle rounds were competitive and difficult to score, though it seemed Campillo, a southpaw and the slicker boxer, was outthinking and gradually breaking down the less experienced hometown fighter. By the ninth round, the crowd at the Cell, many of them local Polish Chicagoans there to support Fonfara, seemed to sense their fighter losing steam and began chanting "Andrzej! Andrzej!"
With Campillo taking control of the tempo, Fonfara was noticeably tiring and throwing with decreasing frequency and conviction. But midway through the ninth, Fonfara landed a flush body shot that, although it didn't seem to immediately register, proved to be the decisive blow. Fonfara immediately followed up with a couple of aggressive left-right combinations before Campillo reeled, cringed, dropped to a knee and pitched over. After quickly surveying the damage, referee Genaro Rodriguez waved off the fight at 1:37 of the round.