Kamil Laszczyk was a diminutive featherweight boxer from a city called Wroclan in his native Poland in 2010, when he learned of a Polish businessman that was helping Polish boxers in the United States.
With that, Laszczyk reached out to Mariusz “Mark” Kolodziej, the owner and operator of the successful Hudson Bread Company and Breadman Café in North Bergen, to ask for help.
“I knew of the high class fighters that Mark brought here,” Laszczyk said through an interpreter Peter Garp Tuesday. “I knew that he represented my chance to fulfill my dreams of fighting in the United States. Mark trusted me and allowed me to come here.”
Kolodziej is also the owner and operator of the Global Boxing Gym, which is attached to his bread and restaurant businesses on Tonnelle Avenue. Kolodziej has been influential in helping several Polish boxers get established in the United States, including former heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek.
When Laszczyk wanted to come to the U.S. five years ago, he needed a place to live. Kolodziej provided a room that is also part of the Global Boxing Gym.
Since starting his professional career in 2011, Laszczyk has won 20 fights without a loss. He also maintains a room in the Global Boxing Gym, where he appeared Tuesday at a media workout prior to fighting at the Prudential Center in Newark this weekend.
“This is absolutely my second home,” Laszczyk said. “Everything I need is right here. I get great support from the people here who know me. This is the best for me.”
So when Laszczyk needs to get ready for a fight, like he did in March, when he defeated Jose Araiza via a sixth-round technical knockout in Florida, he spends his entire day in the North Bergen gym. Now, North Bergen is even listed as his hometown on his boxing resume.
“It’s a 24-hour a day job,” Laszczyk said. “I train, I eat, I sleep and I get up and train again. It’s all here. This is my headquarters.”
The 29-year-old Laszczyk, who owns the nickname of “Little Tyson,” was a six-time amateur champion in Poland, accumulating a stellar 110-7 record in the amateur ranks there. He will get his chance at the big time this weekend, facing another undefeated fighter in Oscauris Frias, a native of the Dominican Republic who now resides in Queens.
Laszczyk is part of the Premier Boxing Champions card that will be featured on Spike TV, highlighted by the main event, pitting former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver against former cruiserweight world champ Steve Cunningham.
Tarver, now 46 years old, held five different world titles during his career. He is also a respected boxing analyst, but now climbs back into the ring against the 39-year-old Cunningham, who is no stranger to local boxing fans.
Also on the card will be the cruiserweight world title fight between champion Marco Huck of Italy and another undefeated Polish challenger in Krzyzstof Glowacki.
Also, Polish heavyweight challenger Artur Szpilka, who defeated Adamek, the former Jersey City resident, in Adamek’s last fight last November, will take on Yasmany Consuegra of Miami in the undercard.
It’s the first pro card at “The Rock” in almost a year. Since the Prudential Center opened in 2008, it has been the host of several big fights, including one between Cunningham and the aforementioned Adamek, who will return to the ring in his native Poland in September.
In 2008, Cunningham lost to Adamek in the IBF cruiserweight title fight at the Prudential Center in a split decision, a fight that called by some as the “Fight of the Year” that year, a fight where Cunningham was knocked down three times.
In 2012, the two met again, this time at the Sands Casino Resort in Pennsylvania, with Adamek emerging once again via a 12-round split decision.
At the media workout Tuesday, Cunningham admitted losing the first one.
“I got knocked down three times,” Cunningham said. “You can’t say much about that one.”
But as for the second fight with Adamek, Cunningham thought that the outcome should have been different.
“Everyone knows what it was,” Cunningham said. “Adamek was the local hero and a contender. I understand. It was a controversial fight. It is what it is. I’m cool with it. But I was robbed.”
And Cunningham believes he was also given an unfair decision in his last fight against Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glaskov in Montreal in March.
It was a 12-round unanimous decision in favor of Glaskov, who soundly defeated Adamek in March of 2014 in a fight that was nationally televised by HBO.
“I knew I won that fight,” Cunningham insists. “That one was hard to get over. I didn’t know why his side was celebrating when I knew I won the fight. I was so angry that I got robbed. Nothing was going to change that result. I just have to move on and keep going.”
Cunningham knows that this showdown with Tarver might mark the end of the road.
“He’s a five-time world champ,” Cunningham said. “It’s a big challenge. I love being a heavyweight. I’m bigger and stronger, if not better. I feel good. I’m not looking for any kind of redemption here. I’ve had some controversial fights that I obviously won, but I love the challenge and love to keep going.”
Tarver was supposed to appear at the North Bergen workout, but pulled out at the last minute.
Cunningham served in the United States Navy from 1994 through 1998 and learned how to box as a member of the U.S. Navy. It’s why his boxing nickname is “U.S.S.”
His story of how he needed to box to help his young daughter, Kennedy, undergo a heart transplant became nationally recognized. Kennedy Cunningham, now 9 years old, is healthy and was spotted running around the North Bergen gym Tuesday.
It should be an excellent card filled with undefeated fighters holding on to the dream of becoming a world champion, like the guy who spends many a night sleeping above a gym and bakery in North Bergen.
“It’s a special day, with so many world champions fighting at the Prudential Center,” Laszczyk said. “There are a lot of Polish boxing fans in the area. I just hope I can put on a good show for them.” – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.