Interview - Will Ring Magazine Recognize Steve “USS” Cunningham As Cruiserweight Champion?
By Ken Hissner, Doghouse Boxing (Sept 1, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Steve "USS" Cunningham

Philadelphia’s Steve “USS” Cunningham has defeated the other organizations champions. For some reason the ratings committee of “the Ring Magazine” have the cruiserweight title vacant! This writer is not as big a supporter of the Rings ratings as the ESPN commentators are but justice should be served!

Cunningham (IBF) is their No. 1 contender with Marco Huck of Germany (WBO) No. 2, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk of Poland (WBC) No. 3 and Guillermo Jones of Panama (WBA) No. 9. In 11 of their 17 divisions they have vacancies. This includes Manny Pacquiao who is their No. 1 rated pound for pound boxer. No. 10 is another Philadelphia boxer who happens to now live in DE, Bernard Hopkins the WBC light heavyweight champion. Since Hopkins has talked about someday boxing for the heavyweight title maybe he would have an all “Philadelphia” cruiserweight title fight on “the way” to the heavyweight title.

In April of 2005 Cunningham defe4ated the current WBA champion Jones by split decision in the US. Jones would win his title in 2008 and not fight again for over 2 years yet held his title. He finally made a defense in October of 2010. He has nothing scheduled and his No. 1 contender is Nigerian Lateef Kayode, 17-0 (14), now living in CA.

In November of 2006 Cunningham traveled to Poland challenging the then IBF champion Wlodarczyk. He lost a highly disputed split decision and the only way he forced the champion into a rematch was the champion refused to take a drug test after the fight. It would be 6 months later when Cunningham went back to Poland scoring a 4th round knockdown and taking a majority decision and the IBF title in May of 2007.

Wlodarczyk would challenge for the WBC title in May of 2009 receiving a draw with then champion Giacobbe Fragomeni in Italy. It would be a year almost to the day when Wlodarczyk would win the rematch by stoppage in 8 rounds in Poland. He has nothing scheduled but in his last fight he won a disputed split decision over his still No. 1 contender Francisco Palacios and may be obligated to give a return match.

In December of 2007 Cunningham defended his IBF title scoring a last round stoppage over Huck in Germany. Huck’s promoter Sauerland Event was impressed enough that when Cunningham was finally able to free himself of Don King Promotions they signed him.

Kalle Sauerland stated in February he hoped to stage a Super Six Tournament in the latter part of this year with the 4 organizations champions plus the WBO’s No. 1 contender Denis Lebedev, 22-1 (17), of Russia and Cuban Yoan Hernandez, 24-1 (13), the now WBA interim champion fighting out of Germany having won the portion of the title in February. Lebedev lost to Huck in December of 2010 by split decision in Germany.

In December of 2008 Cunningham lost a disputed split decision to Tomasz Adamek in the US. Coming off the canvas 3 times in 3 different rounds did not help Cunningham’s cause though this writer still had him ahead winning the other 9 rounds. Adamek’s promoters showed no signs of staging a rematch. In 2009 Adamek scored 2 wins over lower ranked contenders and decided to move onto the heavyweight division and is scheduled to fight Vitali Klitschko Sept. 10 in Poland for the WBC title.

With that vacancy Cunningham defeated former WBC champion Wayne Braithwaite in an elimination match and finally got his IBF title back stopping Troy Ross from Guyana, fighting out of Canada in June of 2010. Cunningham came off the canvas in the 4th and stopped Ross the next round on a cut. Ross won “The Contender” championship in February of 2009.

Cunningham was nice enough to answer some questions about the Super Six Tournament and what his future might hold. Always a dedicated gym worker, it’s questionable whether he can put on enough weight to go into the heavyweights. I caught up with him at Shuler’s Gym in West Philadelphia where Buster Custus is the owner.

Ken Hissner: Steve I want to thank you for taking the time to answer some questions. I see you recently sparred with Wladimir Klitschko. I recently interviewed your good friend Chris Byrd and he said it’s a total different world facing the Klitschko’s.

Steve Cunningham: You cannot go into the ring thinking you are going to beat the Klitschko’s. They are so big and strong that you have to out maneuver them and be busy enough to out score them.

KH: Back in February your promoter Kalle Sauerland proposed a Super Six Cruiserweight Tournament. How does that stand at the present time?

SC: It seems it was too difficult getting the other fighters together. Even though they also promote Huck they are willing to have us fight a rematch down the line which would be an enormous fight in Germany.

KH: Let’s get your opinion of the other organizations champs starting with the WBA champ Guillermo Jones of Panama.

SC: He is a good fighter who seems to get better with age.

KH: How about Krzysztof Wlodarczyk the WBC champion whom you split with in 2 fights?

SC: He has a good defense though his offense is lacking. It helps him fighting at home.

KH: Now the WBO champ in Huck?

SC: He is an overrated kick boxer who uses every dirty tactic in a fight.

KH: Did you see Huck fight the Russian Lebedev?

SC: I thought Huck lost 8 out of 12 rounds.

KH: On October 1 you are scheduled to fight the WBA interim champ Yoan Pablo Hernandez, a Cuban, who has fought every one of his fights in Germany where he resides.

SC: He is a great fighter. He is a top cruiserweight and a dangerous southpaw. I have been training with southpaws getting ready for him or anyone else on October 1.

KH: Was there any talk fighting a rematch with Troy Ross who is the IBF’s top rated contender?

SC: We were on the plane and didn’t know until the next day his people put in a protest claiming he was thumbed. We watched the replay and could see where the glove cut him. He ran all over the place and was lucky to score a knockdown which was blown out of proportion. If we fought again I would knock him out. The fight would again be in Germany since it has the second largest market outside of the US. I believe they moved him up in the ratings because of the coverage he got on the Contender show. I had to fight 2 elimination bouts to become a 2-time IBF champion and feel he should have to do the same.

KH: Vitali Klitschko is scheduled to defend his WBC heavyweight title against Tomasz Adamek. How do you see that fight ending?

SC: Vitali should pick him apart. Adamek has a very good chin so he may go the distance.

KH: Who is in your corner? Maybe I should re-phrase that knowing Jesus is always in your corner.

SC: I am always in the corner of Jesus. Brother Nazim Richardson is head trainer while Buddy Osborn is assistant trainer and cut man. My wife Livvy is my manager. John Hornerwer out of Chicago is my lawyer and has represented Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Vladimir Klitschko and Chris Byrd among others.

KH: I see the USBA champ Garrett “The Ultimate Warrior” Wilson your No. 12 contender worked with you in preparation for your last fight. He was scheduled to fight Troy Ross but it fell through. Now he is to defend against Chuck Mussachio November 19th in Atlantic City.

SC: Yes he did work with me. He was also to fight Lateef Kayode the No. 5 contender for the top spot in the rankings until he pulled out. It seems the IBF insists Ross be the top contender. Eddie Chambers (No. 1 IBF heavyweight contender) and Yusaf Mack (USBA light heavyweight champion) also worked with me. We tried to get Wayne Braithwaite being a southpaw who beat Hernandez in for this one but they asked for too much money.

KH: I guess he’d rather sit home doing nothing.

SC: I have fought plenty of southpaws in the amateurs and pro’s.

KH: Can you compare the German fans to the US fans?

SC: The US fans expect a knockout every fight or they are not satisfied. The German fans appreciate boxing much more. It’s almost like it was in the 1980’s in the US there.

KH: I see you and your lovely wife Livvy attending both amateur and professional fights between Philly and Atlantic City. How important do you think it is to the upcoming boxers?

SC: When I was coming up through the amateurs I would love to have seen a champion in the audience.

KH: What are you doing outside the ring today?

SC: There’s a graphic artist who was from the gym who along with myself are working on a comic book and website. I can also draw. It will be something like super heroes. This sport is so political due to sympathy toward some fighters instead of others ranked who deserve a title shot. I had to fight 2 eliminations and that was after I had already been champion. I think this is what Ross should have to do. I am also to get interviewed by Benny Henderson on his Big Top Media show out of TX tonight.

KH: I see where you said you are sending a message to the now IBO champion Antonio Tarver (No. 8 IBF contender).

SC: He doesn’t want to fight me.

KH: Have you done any commercials in Germany?

SC: Yes I have (laughing) in German for their cable network which reaches 5 million homes.

KH: I’d love to see that (laughing). I attend a Calvary Chapel church and I understand you do too. Is that right?

SC: We attend the Antioch of Calvary Chapel at 47th and Chestnut in West Philly. Aaron Campbell is the pastor there and we have been reaching out to a tribe in Alaska. The Bible says we are to reach out to others. I hope to visit there in the future.

Steve Cunningham is 24-2 (12) and one of the most underrated boxers in the game today. To find someone better conditioned you would have to search and search. He has just been named to receive the Briscoe Award as Philly’s Fighter of the Year for 2010 which will happen October 10th from 6pm to 9pm at the VBA Club at 2733 E. Clearfield Street in the Port Richmond section of Philly. Keep the date in mind if you want to come out to see the future Ring Magazine cruiserweight champion!

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