By Gary Purfield
This Saturday from Fraport Arena in Frankfurt, Germany, Steve Cunningham (24-3, 12 KOs) will once again try to regain what he believes is rightfully his. Cunningham, an American Cruiserweight who is forced to fight in Germany because the American boxing public has very little interest in those just south of 200 lbs, will again have to fight his opponent, promoter, judges, and anyone else that could get in the way when you fight in Germany.
On October 1, 2011 Cunningham took his IBF title to Germany for a defense against Cuban Yoan Pablo Hernandez (25-1, 13 KOs). Hernandez lives in Germany and is trained by popular and influential German trainer Uli Wegner. Cunningham was dropped and badly hurt in the opening round but managed to make it to his feet and survive. After fighting through the clouds in round two, the superior boxer Cunningham, took over the fight.
Cunningham began landing with ease on the strong but less skilled Hernandez. Then suddenly after the sixth round the fight was stopped due to two cuts on Hernandez from accidental head-butts. The cuts were barely bleeding and causing no problems to the challenger’s vision but the fight was stopped and, despite the fact that the majority of those who saw the fight believe Cunningham easily swept the final four rounds, Hernandez was awarded a technical decision victory.
“It was a bunch of garbage. They were waiting to see how the fight was gonna go. They see I got knocked down in the first round so they figure he could beat me and they were wrong. So they wanted to wait and see if he could beat me so as the rounds went by they see I was picking up steam and I was winning rounds and winning rounds. Now the cuts were not going into his eye and weren’t bleeding at all. It was a sham.”
Cunningham fought the result and was awarded when the IBF ordered an immediate rematch. But once again he will have to cross the Atlantic and fight in hostile territory to regain the title.
Cunningham has been down this road before. He was on the wrong end of a split decision that most felt he won in his first title opportunity in 2006 against Krzysztof Wlodarczyk. The fight was in Wlodarczyk’s home country of Poland and the rematch was in Poland as well. Despite having to go into his opponent’s backyard, Cunningham won the fight by majority decision to get his first title. And again this weekend he will have to march into enemy territory if he wants to march out with a belt and redemption for last October.
“This has happened to me before. I went to Poland and they robbed me of my undefeated, of my 0. We got the immediate rematch and went back over there and got the title. This is gonna make me go and work even harder and I’ve got so much energy, rage, and anger and fight in me so I’m gonna channel that to my training and the fight.”
Cunningham knows this is serious for his career. He is well aware of how difficult it will be to beat the strong Hernandez and overcome all the factors that go along with fighting in Germany. The normally happy and smiling Cunningham seems to have an edge about this situation. Instead of preparing for the fight at his regular home, Shuler’s Gym, where a large banner of Cunningham hangs from the walls, he has been in seclusion in a solo training camp.
“It’s personal, I take this very personal, they stole something from me. I feel I got robbed. I feel somebody came into my house and stuck me up and took some of my belongings. I know who did it so I gotta go get it.”
Cunningham is clearly on a mission to regain the title he believes was taken from him by factors outside of the ring. While he does not believe he has to get a knockout, he does feel he can break Hernandez down and stop him to guarantee he goes home with the IBF title. Either way Cunningham has stated he is ready for war to get redemption this weekend in Germany.
“This fight coming up here for Hernandez, we already coined it “It’s time for War.” It’s like the scripture says, there is a time for love, there’s a time for peace, and there’s a time for war. This is time for war.”
Also on the card Alexander Alekseev (22-2, 20 KOs) and Enad Licina (21-3, 11 KOs) square off for the vacant EBU (European) Cruiserweight title. Alekseev brings some real power to the ring stopping twenty of his twenty-two opponents he has defeated. His most recent loss came to contender Denis Lebedev by second-round KO in a WBO eliminator in 2010. Alekseev has wins over former Contender show participant Max Alexander and most recently over Daniel Bruwer by eighth-round TKO.
Licina’s two losses have come to the two men that headline the same card. He lost to Cunningham in early 2011 while challenging him for the IBF title and lost to Hernandez in 2009. Both losses were by unanimous decision. Licina’s most noteworthy victory came in 2010 over former Contender show participant Felix Cora. Licina’s last two opponents were young and untested, providing him with some easier comeback wins after losing to Cunningham.
- Quotes from this article were taken from a previous interview from this writer with Steve Cunningham. To read the entire extensive interview with Cunningham about the last fight and his career as a whole visit http://theboxingtribune.com/2011/10/steve-cunningham-gets-his-rematch-and-a-shot-at-vindication-its-time-for-war/
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