USS Cunningham Sailing for Unification bout with Hayes
Interview by Ken Hissner (March 17, 2008) Doghouse Boxing  
IBF cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham would like nothing better in his boxing career than unify the 4 title belts with now 3 belt champion David Haye. I had the pleasure to sit next to Cunningham Friday night at the New Alhambra boxing show as we awaited the pro debut of Dennis Hasson, of the Rock Gym, in the Kensington section of Philadelphia. Buddy Osborn, Cunningham’s co-trainer, cut man and spiritual brother who co-manages Hasson set this up for me. I asked Steve “do you get tired of interviews?” “No I don’t,” said Cunningham.” That’s all that I needed. Remember, this was before Saturdays Haye-Maccarinelli unification bout. Cunningham knowing Haye had once again said he was moving up to the heavyweights and vacating his titles said “I hope Maccranelli wins so I don’t have to chase after the titles.” This writer doesn’t see Haye having anymore of an effect on the heavyweight division than Juan Carlos Gomez has since leaving in 2001. If Haye, continues to throw that right hand like a baseball pitcher, he better stay in the cruiser division. His chin is already suspect. Cunningham would be willing to go to the UK for a unification bout if necessary. Haye and Cunningham have had words recently. Since Haye
changed his mind moving up to accommodate Maccarinelli who is from Wales, then he should do the same for the American.

KH: Steve, I just heard from Benny Henderson from and on the way over here. (His eyes lit up and a big smile)

Great, I will have to give Benny a call.

KH: You turned pro at 24, coming out of the Navy and took the southern route up north. After winning your debut in Savannah, Georgia in October of 2000, you had a follow-up win over Robert Marsh, who is scheduled this week-end to fight former USBA champion Darnell “Ding-A-Ling” Wilson in a return match. You then reeled off 8 consecutive knockouts and another decision win in the states of South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. After 10 months of inactivity you go to Las Vegas under the Don King banner. You beat Joseph Awinongya (10-3-4) who was unbeaten in his previous 8 fights.
What kind of a change was that for you?

That was a big change for me. I looked forward to bigger and better fights.

KH: You win 3 straight 8 round decisions with one being in your only Philadelphia appearance, and again find yourself inactive for 8 months. You get a chance to travel to Carnival City Casino, Gauteng, South Africa to meet the 7th ranked world contender Sebastiaan Rothmann (17-2-2, who had just lost his IBO cruiser title, and you are on the undercard of Virgil Hill vs Jean Mormeck for the WBA cruiserweight title. It was also your first 10 rounder, on top of that. How did that come about?

I was over there as a sparring partner for Mormeck. I was fortunate to get that fight with Rothman and won a majority decision.

KH: You are back in an 8 round fight defeating Forrest Neal (16-4) 5 months later. Was that a let down after your win in South Africa?

It was a big thing for me because I was fighting in Madison Square Garden on the undercard of Trinidad vs Mayorga.

KH: Six months later you win a split decision over top contender Guillermo Jones (31-2-2), of Panama, who had fought a draw with then WBO champion Johnny Nelson. How big of a win was that for your career?

It gave me the confidence that I needed to know I could fight with the best.

KH: In your only other fight in 2005 you win a 12 round decision over the former IBF cruiserweight champion Kelvin Davis (21-3-1) in King’s hometown of Cleveland. Did you expect a title fight in the near future?

I was in top shape for that fight and knew my time would come.

KH: Four months later you are stopping Lloyd Bryan (21-11) in 5 rounds at Madison Square Garden. Was this supposed to be a “keep busy” fight?”

Yes it was, under the Mormeck vs O’Neil Bell unification main event. I knew the fans would be able to see me fight and get the exposure I needed.

KH: You are inactive for 10 months while IBF champion O’Neil Bell refuses to fight you though you are the top contender. He had even defended against Rothmann after you had defeated him. With Bell being stripped of the title you get a vacant title bout with Poland’s Krzysztof Wlodarczyk (36-1). Were you optimistic about going to Poland to fight for the title?

You don’t want to go to the country of your opponent but you do what you have to do. I knew God had a plan for my life.

KH: You lose a disputed split decision. The lone American judge has you ahead by 10 points. What went through your mind when you heard the decision?

We knew they would try to do something to keep us from winning the title. We put in a protest when they changed the two judges at the last minute who later voted against me. Not being IBF officials, they broke the rules.

KH: I understand Wlodarczyk also did not take a urine test after the fight violating IBF rules.

I was angry about that first fight but knew I would get another chance even if it were in Poland. I was going to beat him even more than the first time.

KH: You are head butted in the first round receiving the first cut of your career. Then in the 4th round you score a knockdown which helps you win a majority decision and win the IBF title. How good was that?

By the Grace of God it didn’t bleed again all night. (Cut man Osborn agreed)

KH: How did the Polish people treat you over there?

They showed love and respect toward me. Even if you beat their fighters, they will do that over there. (At the time of the interview the Philly fans were booing the round card girls)

KH: You were mentioned to be on the undercard of Jones vs Trinidad in January. It was no surprise to me that you ended up in December going to Germany over the Christmas holidays to fight the top IBF and WBO contender Marco Huck (19-0), of Germany. How did you once again travel out of the country and this time score a stoppage in the last round?

No matter what, we stuck to the game plan that we had and by the 3rd round I knew he was weakening from the body shots.

KH: I understand there is a title elimination fight between former WBC light heavyweight and current IBO cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek and the former champ, Bell, April 19th in Poland?

I have until September to fight the winner and would like to have one more fight between now and then.

KH: I know we discussed the possibility of your going to Denmark to fight your #14 contender Johnny Jensen or have a fight in the US against one of the American contenders. That would be either new USBA champ BJ Flores who jumped from #11 to #2 or #14 contender, Rob Calloway who is defending his Continental Americas title March 15th at the Day’s Inn, in Allentown.

Maybe I’ll go up to see that fight. I would like to fight in the US.

KH: I know your Christian beliefs have been a mainstay in your life. How has it benefited your boxing career?

To the fullest, for that is where I get my strength. I can do all things through Christ.

KH: I want to wish you and your lovely wife Livvy, (sitting patiently next to him) the best in the future. Remember, as long as you have Buddy Osborn in your corner, you will always have a buddy. (Both laughed)

Note: I was unable to contact Cunningham after the Haye victory over Maccarinelli, but I know he hopes Haye will change his mind again and fight for all the belts.

Ken at:

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