Forgotten Legends: Clarence “Bones” Adams

By: Steve Gallegos

Being a professional fighter is not an easy occupation. For many fighters, the road to the top is not as easily traveled and some have to fight and scratch their way to the mountaintop. Some fighters begin fighting at an early age to make a living and have to work their way from the bottom up. That was the case for former Bantamweight champion ClarenceBonesAdams.

Adams was a blue collar type fighter with good skill and technique to go along with a big heart. Adams grew up in Henderson, KY and took up boxing at age five after his father took him to a boxing gym so he could learn to defend himself. After compiling an outstanding amateur record of 176-4, Adams turned pro in 1990 at the very tender age of 15. For three years he fought most of his bouts in the Midwest and Southern U.S. During this time he compiled a record of 26-0-1 with 15 KO’s. While the wins were over obscure opposition, it was good enough to land him a world title shot.

A very young 18 year old Adams would challenge for his first world title against the very experienced and future hall of famer Orlando Canizales. They met on 03/27/93 at the Casino Royal in Evian, France and it was for the IBF Bantamweight championship. Many looked at this matchup as a case of boy vs man; however “Bones” showed that he was far from a boy. After weathering some early fire from Canizales, Adams was able to take control of the middle rounds with his excellent jab and hand speed. “Bones” also had the support of the crowd, which cheered just about everytime he landed a shot.

The fight was very close and in the 11th round after a hard right hand by Canizales as well as an Adams point deduction for holding behind the head, “Bones’” father and trainer Clarence Sr. unexpectedly stepped on the ring apron, stopping the fight. The cause of the stoppage was a broken jaw. It was a tough loss for “Bones” and it began a string of bad luck in which he dropped his next two fights, both by TKO. In both losses, Adams would dislocate his shoulder. Despite the bad breaks, “Bones” continued to press on and would go on an impressive win streak over the next seven years. He would go 12-0-2 from 1994-1999 and would finally get another crack at a world title, this time against bantamweight champion Nestor Garza.

They met on 03/04/00 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas as part of a stacked Pay Per View card. “Bones” came out boxing beautifully in the first round as he stayed at a distance using his excellent jab and counterpunched very well. In the last minute of the round, Adams would land a solid left hook counter that put Garza down. “Bones” would go in for the kill as he pressed Garza on the ropes; however Garza was a dangerous puncher and would land a few countershots in the onslaught. Adams realized that his opponent wasn’t out; therefore he stepped back and began using his jab to finish the round.

Adams would box well in the second round, doing much of the same. He was jabbing well and keeping the fight at a distance. In the third round, both men would collide heads which caused a nasty cut over Garza’s left eye. Referee Joe Cortez called time and had the doctor inspect the cut. It was in a bad place, pouring blood and the fight was close to being stopped, which would be a no contest. Fortunately, the fight resumed and “Bones” kept the fight at a distance and did his best not to hit Garza where the cut was. He jabbed and went to the body and just tried to get out of the round and make it past the fourth round, so the fight could go to the scorecards if it were to be stopped.

Bones” came out in the fourth and began to open up as he started landing hard, quick combinations to the body and head and really began to take control of the fight. In the fifth, “Bones” put Garza down again with a right-left combination. Adams would continue to box beautifully throughout the fight, not letting Garza into the fight and the end result would be a convincing 12 round unanimous decision. After 10 years, ClarenceBonesAdams was finally a world champion. In the main event, Paulie Ayala would successfully defend his version of the bantamweight championship by decisioning Johnny Bredahl and the buzz about a possible Ayala-Adams fight would begin.

Adams would make his 1st defense five months later in his HBO debut and would score an impressive sixth round TKO over Andres Fernandez. “Bones” woud defend his title once more before deciding to move up to Super Bantamweight. The stage was set for “BonesAdams vs Paulie Ayala. They met on 08/04/01 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for the vacant IBO Super Bantamweight title.

In the first round, “Bones” elected not to box, but stand flat footed and try to land hard shots. Adams felt he was the bigger puncher and wanted to make a statement early. While “Bones” landed some good shots, Ayala took the round as he landed the more flashy punches towards the end of the round. In the second, Ayala landed a hard left hand that wobbled “Bones“. Ayala continued the onslaught and the fight was very close to being stopped. Adams was able to hold on and make it out of the round.

Bones” found his range in the third as he began to use his footwork more and he began landing good combinations, particularly to the body. He was rocked in the second and he turned the tide in the third. Both men would have their moments in round four as Ayala was able to land his left hand and “Bones” would counter back with his uppercut as well as focusing on Ayala’s body. “Bones” would dominate round five with his crisp counterpunching and left uppercuts.

The sixth round was much of the same. “Bones” was landing three punches to Ayala’s one. While both fighters had their moments, it was “BonesAdams‘ round and the fight was pretty even going into the second half of the fight. Adams would dominate most of the seventh round with his harder counterpunching as well as his continued work to the body. As the the seventh round ended, the momentum was clearly in “Bones” favor.

In the eighth, “Bones” slowed down his attack just a bit and while he may have won the round by landing the harder shots, Ayala was starting to come on. The ninth was very similar to the eighth and Ayala appeared to steal it towards the end. Going into the championship rounds, it was anybody’s fight; however prior to the start of the 11th, “Bones” told his corner that his hands were hurting. In the 11th, the two collided heads, causing a bad gash above Adams‘ left eye. It was a very close round in which Ayala appeared to have edged “Bones“.

Adams came out in the 12th and closed the show by landing the harder punches as Ayala retreated. “BonesAdams apppeared to have won the fight close and won the fight on HBO’s unofficial scorecard. When the judges scorecards were read, Judge Duane Ford scored it 114-113 for Adams. Dave Moretti had it scored 114-113 for Ayala and Judge Jerry Roth scored it 115-112 for Ayala, earning him a split decision.

BonesAdams said prior to the fight, that if the fight was close, it would probably go to Ayala. His prediction was right. The difference maker in the fight was the second round in which Ayala had Adams rocked. All three judges scored that round 10-8. It was a great fight that was worthy of a rematch and “Bones” and Ayala met again six months later at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Once again it was an exciting fight; however on this night Paulie Ayala dominated the fight, winning a unanimous decision.

Bones” would then lose his next fight to Guty Espadas Jr and would get a draw in the next fight against Manuel Sepeda before announcing his retirement. He would however make a comeback in 2006, going 3-1-1 from 2006-2010 before calling it a career for good. His record as a professional stands at 44-7-4 with 20 KO’s. He was a scrapper, a true pugilist who never had anything easy in the ring. He truly embraced his underdog role and in the end remains another unsung hero who never truly got the respect or the big paydays that he truly deserved.

Clarence Bones Adams

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