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Taking one last shot

McBride can’t give up dream

Kevin McBride has been training at Goody Petronelli’s gym in Brockton for his fight with contender Tomasz Adamek. Kevin McBride has been training at Goody Petronelli’s gym in Brockton for his fight with contender Tomasz Adamek. (File/Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff)
By Bob Hohler
Globe Staff / April 2, 2011

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Dreams die hard for some fighters. Ambition can trump the burdens of aging, and the need for one big payday — one last shot at an unrequited goal — can spur a declining boxer to believe he can summon the audacious powers of his youth.

Kevin McBride is one of those believers.

The former heavyweight champion of Ireland, who has lived in Dorchester for nearly a decade, continues to chase the glory that has eluded him since he knocked the once-mighty Mike Tyson into retirement in 2005.

On April 9, less than a month shy of his 38th birthday, McBride will fight heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek in the featured bout of a Main Events card at the Prudential Center in Newark. The match is Adamek’s final tuneup before he challenges one of the Klitschko brothers, Vitali or Wladimir, in September for a world heavyweight title. (Vitali holds the World Boxing Council belt; Wladimir is champion of the World Boxing Organization, the International Boxing Federation, and the International Boxing Organization.)

Adamek is the world’s third-ranked heavyweight, and oddsmakers have given McBride less chance of beating him — 50 to 1 in some cases — than they gave him against Tyson.

McBride has shrugged them off.

“Anything can happen,’’ the massive Irishman said. “This has all the makings of a Cinderella story.’’

McBride’s dream is inspired by the story of an impoverished Irish-American, James Braddock, who brawled his way to the top and upset Max Baer in 1935 to capture the heavyweight world championship. He became known as “The Cinderella Man.’’

“My goal hasn’t changed,’’ McBride said. “I want to fulfill my dream of becoming the first Irish-born heavyweight champion of the world.’’

Adamek, 34, has plenty of talent and momentum behind him. A former world champion as a light heavyweight and cruiserweight, the native Pole has lost only once in 44 professional fights and has won all five of his heavyweight bouts. His handlers chose McBride for the fight partly because the Irishman — at 6 feet 6 inches and more than 285 pounds — is similar in size to the Klitschkos.

Adamek, who is 6-1 1/2, gives up 5 inches of reach to the Klitschkos and McBride. But McBride is slow afoot and has struggled against smaller, quicker fighters, which enticed Adamek’s handlers to line him up for the tuneup for the title fight. Adamek’s camp hopes McBride represents a big timber for the Pole to topple with little resistance.

For his part, Adamek insists the Irishman poses a serious challenge.

“Fighting Kevin McBride is a good test for me,’’ Adamek told reporters at his training headquarters in Bushkill, Pa. “I do not look past McBride or take him for granted. This is boxing. One punch can change everything.’’

Those are McBride’s thoughts, exactly. He is 35-8-1, with 29 knockouts.

“I have the equalizer, and that’s what I’m counting on,’’ he said of his knockout punch. “Hopefully, I’ll connect.’’

McBride last fought in October, when he was defeated by Matt Skelton in a controversial split decision in the semifinals of the annual Prizefighter tournament in London. He had defeated Franklin Egobi by split decision in the quarterfinals.

Should McBride defeat Adamek, he almost certainly would vault into the world rankings. A native of Clones in County Monaghan, McBride was 19 when he went pro in 1992 after he represented Ireland in the Olympic Games in Barcelona. By ’97, he was champion of Ireland.

When he shocked the boxing world eight years later by scoring a sixth-round technical knockout of Tyson, McBride appeared destined to strike it rich. But the high-paying bouts he envisioned never materialized, and he began to drift, losing his competitive edge.

For the Adamek fight, McBride said, he is training like he did for Tyson. After spending several weeks working out at the Universal Boxing Gym in Ozone Park, N.Y., he is training in Brockton with Goody Petronelli, the legendary corner man who in the 1980s helped Marvelous Marvin Hagler reign as the world’s undisputed middleweight champion.

McBride also has enlisted a strength coach, Radovan Serbula of Brookline, and, for the first time since the Tyson fight, he has tried to gain an edge by visiting Quincy-based hypnotist Patrick Brady.

Should McBride lose to Adamek, the fight could be the last of his career. He said he is dedicating the bout to his daughter, Grainne, 6, and son Caoimhin, 3.

“This is the fight I’ve been looking for,’’ McBride said. “It’s the opportunity of a lifetime.’’

Bob Hohler can be reached at hohler@globe.com.