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True Grit: Paweł Wolak

By Przemyslaw Garczarczyk
Photo: David Martin Warr/DKP

There was a time when nobody cared about Paweł Wolak (29-1, 19 KOs). “I was working his fights five, even two years ago, sending stories and pictures but there were no takers, no interest, even in the Polish media. People asked ‘who is this Wolak guy?’ and the conversation was over. Now, after his performance against Yuri Foreman the story is much different,” says Wojtek Kubik, an accomplished New York based photographer and writer who has been following the career of the Polish version of “Raging Bull” for many years.

What happened? What changed in Wolak’s style that now everybody wants to see the almost 30-year-old Pole who works a full time construction job and beats former world champions like Yuri Foreman? Nothing. Paweł had always known only one speed when fighting – fast forward. He simply followed the advice and example of his friend and countryman Tomasz Adamek, who hours before the Foreman fight told Wolak the words he himself lives by.

“Just take his will, take his confidence!”

The only thing that has changed is where he fights. Instead of fighting the small banquet halls and union meeting places around New York, his last fights were in Madison Square Garden, Yankee Stadium and the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas. “When he was fighting, I called them “chandelier fights” – small events in banquet halls – people wanted spectacular KOs and Paweł always delivered, gave 100 percent every time. Many years ago I asked him why he wants to finish his career very quickly, brawling in the ring with his very open and dangerous style, when he gives almost as much as he receives. He said that this is what he loves about boxing the most – when he can hit harder after rival hits him first. ‘It’s just a natural adrenaline that makes me going,'” Kubik remembers Wolak saying.

Wolak never wanted to be and never will be boxing celebrity.

“He was working simple construction jobs full time before the Foreman Las Vegas job, and will do the same after,” he continued. “He understands boxing reality perfectly. There is wife and child he has to provide for, health insurance to have. ‘Wojtek, I know that after one lost fight I’m falling down 10 floors in the boxing scheme of things of my promoter. A real life job gives me the security I need.’ Those were his words before his MSG fight.”

For Wolak, his latest win over a former world champion and $50,000 which comes with it, were as important as the true grit he showed Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum when his fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. was rescheduled not once or twice but three times. The last time in California, only 48 hours before the fight. Wolak arrived after a five hour flight assuming he would fight Chavez Jr, but ended fighting a completely different, unknown to him fighter – Jose Pinzon. “Raging Bull” went down in the second round, but then destroyed the young Mexican fighter with his relentless attacks.

“There’s nothing beautiful in my boxing. It’s just a simple destruction,” said Wolak after the biggest win of his career against Foreman. He knows that the road from here will only be tougher. But you don’t expect a fighter with his style who works nights on construction sites to be afraid, do you?

Photos: Wolak through the years – pictures from his fight in 2006 against Patrick Thompson in Huntington Townhouse; from 2009 MSG fight against Carlos Nascimento and 2010 MSG fight versus Ishmail Arvin by Wojtek Kubik. Pictures of Wolak fighting Yuri Foreman in MGM Grand by David Martin Warr (DKP)

    March 16th, 2011

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