Fraport Arena, Frankfurt, Germany – IBF cruiserweight champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez (26-1, 13 KOs) came out the winner by wide margins, but in an extremely close fight with former champion, Steve “U.S.S.” Cunningham (24-4, 12 KOs). The two met in the ring last October, with Hernandez escaping with the title by way of fortuitous 6-round technical decision. In the wake of the controversy surrounding the decision to stop the fight the IBF ordered an immediate rematch.
The fight started with both men feeling the other out. Cunningham worked his jab to the head and body to keep Hernandez guessing, while Hernandez landed good shots to the body. Hernandez began to mix in a left hook to the head to punctuate his flurries to Cunningham’s body in the second round.
In the third round Cunningham began to find his rhythm, but he was lingering in close, allowing Hernandez to catch him on the way out. Hernandez nearly ended the fight in the fourth round when he caught Cunningham with a beautiful left cross at the end of an exchange. The punch sent Cunningham down for an 8-count, and he was in serious trouble when the fight was re-started. Cunningham rushed in to hold on but was caught with another short left hand, dropping him to his knees. Cunningham made it to his feet again and held on for the remaining 30 seconds as Hernandez punched himself out.
The tide turned for Cunningham in the fifth round when he caught Hernandez with a counter right hook that staggered the rangy Cuban southpaw. Hernandez, who was beginning to tire as a result of loading up on his punches, fought back against effective pressure and opened a cut over Cunningham’s right eye.
Cunningham began to control the action in the sixth round, as he got inside behind his jab and worked with an up-and-down attack that sapped Hernandez’s strength. Cunningham’s ability to work inside and roll and turn as he stepped away took away most of the power from the punches actually landed by Hernandez.
Cunningham controlled the pace of the fight through the eleventh round, with Hernandez finding success in spots. His left cross and uppercut occasionally landed and were effective in slowing Cunningham down.
The twelfth round may have been the best of the fight. Hernandez hurt Cunningham with a short left cross and a right hook to the body at the one minute mark, staggering Cunningham and turning him away momentarily. Cunningham came back fifteen seconds later and stopped Hernandez in his tracks with a big right hand after Hernandez punched himself out trying to finish Cunningham. Both men raised their arms in victory at the bell, but the judges’ scorecards would tell a different story, heavily favoring the Cuban national who now calls Germany his home.
The scores were a lopsides 116-110, 116-110, and a slightly understandable 115-111 for Hernandez. The Boxing Tribune scored the fight a draw, 113-113, giving Hernandez the twelfth round to pull him even with Cunningham, who took rounds five through eleven after losing the first four.
European light heavyweight champion Eduard Gutknecht (23-1, 9 KOs) took a unanimous decision over former world title challenger, Vyacheslav Uzelkov (25-2, 16 KOs). Scores were 115-114, 116-112, and 117-111, all in favor of Gutknecht.
Troy Ross (25-2, 16 KOs) took an eight-round unanimous decision victory over Polish club fighter, Lukasz Rusiewicz (10-12, 3 KOs), in his first fight after a long layoff. Scores were 80-72, 80-72, and 79-73.
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