NEW YORK (AP) — Polish boxer Tomasz Adamek is dedicating his fight against Cristobal Arreola this month to those killed in the plane crash in Russia.
The plane carrying Polish President Lech Kaczynski and dozens of political, military and religious leaders went down while trying to land Saturday in dense fog near Smolensk airport in western Russia. All 96 passengers and crew aboard died.
“Fate took friends, people who I always admired,” Adamek told The Associated Press by e-mail late Sunday. “Many people so important for my home country — their families need us. They need compassion as they grieve.”
Adamek was born in Zywiec but now fights primarily out of Jersey City, N.J. The former cruiserweight champion will fight Arreola on April 24 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., in his third fight since moving up to heavyweight.
“There’s not much I can do, but I would like to dedicate my upcoming fight to all of those who perished Saturday morning and all those left grieving,” Adamek said. “Poles living in America and my American friends have been calling me, saying words of sympathy because they know that I’m Polish. Today, in the United States of America, we are all Polish.”
This is the second time this year that a plane crash has affected Adamek. He was friends with Jacek Mazurek, a businessman who owned a plane that broke apart near Wall Township, N.J., in February. Five people were killed in that crash.
Adamek is among Poland’s most famous athletes, along with tennis star Agnieszka Radwanska, race car driver Robert Kubica, Olympic ski jumper Adam Malysz, former Liverpool and current Real Madrid goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek and Oakland Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
Adamek has fought numerous times in his home country, and has an enormous following from the large Polish community in New Jersey. He said he had recently been invited to breakfast at the presidential palace in Warsaw next month, following his fight against Arreola.
“Death has taken from us great people, people making the lives of all Poles much better,” said Adamek’s adviser, Zyggi Rozalski. “They were people you cannot replace, people we will never meet again. My thoughts are with all the mourners in Poland and all over the world.”
The plane was headed to a memorial service in the forest of Katyn, near Smolensk, to mark the 70th anniversary of the killing of thousands of Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret security during World War II.
Russian investigators said there was no technical problem with the Soviet-made plane and that the pilot had been warned of bad weather in Smolensk. The pilot had been advised by air traffic controllers to land elsewhere, which would have delayed the Katyn observances.
Among those killed in the crash were Polish Olympic Committee head Piotr Nurowski, who was to lay a wreath in honor of Poland’s sports people killed in Katyn.
Nurowski was an avid boxing fan and had been working to rebuild Poland’s amateur team, which has won 43 Olympic medals but none since Wojciech Bartnik took bronze in 1992.
“We were particularly saddened to hear that Piotr Nurowski was among the deceased,” said Kathy Duva of promoter Main Events, who met Nurowski while in Lodz, Poland, last fall for Adamek’s knockout victory over former heavyweight contender Andrew Golota.
“So many people have been affected by this tragedy,” Duva said. “All we can do is pray for the victims, their loved ones and for the Polish people who, no doubt, will remain strong and courageous as they deal with their grief.”