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Bernard Fernandez: Cruisers refreshing in an era of oafish heavyweights

WBA INTERIM heavyweight champion Nikolay Valuev is 7 feet tall and weighs 320 or so pounds, depending on what he had for dinner.

WBA INTERIM heavyweight champion

Nikolay Valuev

is 7 feet tall and weighs 320 or so pounds, depending on what he had for dinner.

While props must be given to the Klitscho brothers, 6-7 1/2, 250-pound Vitali (the WBC champion) and 6-6 1/2, 245-pound Wladimir (the IBF/WBO/IBO titlist), bigger does not always mean better. Valuev, a ponderous Russian whose most notable attribute is an overactive pituitary gland, is proof of that.

Main Events president Kathy Duva is pitching the star attraction of her downsized stable, IBF cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek, of Poland, as a throwback to an era when boxing's big men weren't quite so big.

Adamek (37-1, 25 KOs) defends his title against Bobby Gunn (21-3-1, 18 KOs) on July 11 at the Prudential Center, in Newark, N.J., and Duva said the timing is right for the primary televisers of marquee bouts - premium-cable outlets HBO and Showtime - to remember when guys who tipped the scales at 200 pounds or a bit less were the heavyweight rule rather than the exception.

Adamek claimed the IBF cruiser championship from West Philadelphia's Steve "USS" Cunningham on Dec. 11, but the Pole's rousing, split-decision victory was televised by Versus, whose Nielsen ratings for boxing are microscopic.

Duva has had conversations with HBO and Showtime about giving the heretofore neglected cruiserweight division, and specifically Adamek, more exposure to better serve fight fans tired of watching clinchfests involving oafish heavyweight bears.

"I can make a pretty compelling case for the cruiserweights being what heavyweights of the past used to be," Duva said. "All these huge heavyweights, I think, are 'Exhibit A' for why the division is in the sorry state it's in. Big, lumbering guys who can't get out of their own way are never going to make exciting fights. Let's face it, if you've got a 6-5, 240-pound, athletic guy in the United States, he's probably playing basketball or football.

"Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson . . . those were small heavyweights. They could have gotten down to 200 if they had to. And think about some of the great heavyweights throughout history - Jack Dempsey, Rocky Marciano, even Joe Louis. They'd probably be cruiserweights today."

It remains to be seen whether Adamek has the across-the-board appeal to match the popularity of some of the aforementioned legends. But he already is a smash with the folks back home in Poland, as well as with the tight-knit Polish-American communities in North Jersey and metropolitan New York that have made him a Prudential Center staple.

Interestingly, the same night Adamek takes on Gunn, Cunningham (21-2, 11 KOs) is scheduled to swap punches with former WBC cruiser champ Wayne "Big Truck" Braithwaite (23-3, 19 KOs), in Sunrise, Fla. If Adamek and Cunningham both emerge victorious, they likely would move on to a fall rematch that figures to be much higher grossing than their first act.

"I knew after they fought in December that they would fight again," Duva said of Adamek and Cunningham. "But the next time it'll be for a lot more money."

B-Hop to stop?

If you ask Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins about potential opponents that might pique his interest in continuing his boxing career at age 44, he will respond with a list that is long and varied.

Some of the names on that list are Tomasz Adamek, WBC super middleweight titlist Carl Froch, Felix Trinidad, Roy Jones Jr. and possibly the winner of a proposed light-heavyweight bout between Glen Johnson and Chad Dawson.

The No. 1 target is Adamek because he has a cruiserweight belt. Hopkins, a former middleweight and light-heavyweight champ, is eager to move up to a literally bigger challenge.

"I need chaos. I need an Adamek," Hopkins told me. "I need a guy who's going to come into the ring at 200 pounds while I'm a lean, mean 186. That's a threat to me."

Or maybe he needs no such thing at all. He has been attending piano recitals for his daughter, Latrece, and has arranged a $6,000 birthday bash for her - she turns 10 on June 28 - at the American Girl doll store in Manhattan.

"I missed all these things before," Hopkins said of the domestic tranquility he's enjoying during his perhaps permanent break from boxing as an active fighter. "Jeanette [his wife], Latrece and I were at Hersheypark last week. You know how long it's been since I was at Hersheypark?"

If circumstances dictate that he has had his last twirl around a prize ring, Hopkins indicated he would be OK with that.

"I'm at peace," he said. "I would love to stick around for another fight or two, but if it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen."

Punch lines

Manny Pacquiao will be honored as 2008 Fighter of the Year at the 84th annual Boxing Writers Association of America Awards Dinner Friday in New York . . . The following night, in Madison Square Garden, Miguel Cotto (33-1, 27 KOs) defends his WBO welterweight title against Joshua Clottey (35-2, 20 KOs) . . . On Sunday, three-time heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis tops the list of inductees into the International Boxing Hall of Fame at Canastota, N.Y. . . . Rising welterweight prospect Danny "Swift" Garcia (12-0, 7 KOs), of Philadelphia's Juniata section, takes on Pavel Miranda (16-3, 8 KOs) in a scheduled eight-rounder in San Jose, Calif., that will be televised Friday night by ESPN2 . . . Heavyweight George "Monk" Foreman III, son of former two-time heavyweight titlist George Foreman, made his pro debut Saturday with a one-round knockout of Clyde Weaver (0-2) in Kinder, La. *

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