By Keith Idec
When the magnitude of his costly loss to Tomasz Adamek hit him, Steve Cunningham cried during their post-fight press conference Dec. 22.
The former cruiserweight champion from Philadelphia firmly believed he earned a victory over Adamek, who beat Cunningham by split decision for the second time in four years. That defeat denied Cunningham a chance to fight Kubrat Pulev in an IBF elimination match that could’ve earned him a lucrative shot at Wladimir Klitschko.
Oddly, Cunningham has Adamek to thank for getting another opportunity to secure that high-stakes fight against Pulev.
The IBF has decided to sanction Cunningham’s April 20 fight against Tyson Fury as a fight for the vacant No. 2 spot in its heavyweight rankings. The winner will box Bulgaria’s Pulev to become the IBF’s mandatory challenger for Klitschko.
Adamek (48-2, 29 KOs) withdrew from the Pulev fight last week, despite participating in the first round of the IBF’s elimination tournament, because the popular Polish contender didn’t think there was enough money to be made by boxing Pulev (17-0, 9 KOs). Adamek was ranked No. 2 by the IBF at that time, but has since been moved down to No. 11 in its heavyweight rankings.
Pulev (17-0, 9 KOs) is rated No. 1 by the IBF. The 31-year-old southpaw knocked out Russia’s Alexander Ustinov (27-1, 21 KOs) in the 11th round Sept. 29 in Hamburg, Germany, to advance in the IBF’s elimination tournament.
The 36-year-old Cunningham (25-2, 12 KOs) is ranked No. 12 by the IBF. The 6-foot-9 Fury (20-0, 14 KOs), an emerging English contender who’ll make his debut in America when he encounters Cunningham, is the IBF’s ninth-rated heavyweight contender.
The Cunningham-Fury fight will be the main event of NBC’s live broadcast from The Theater at Madison Square Garden, beginning at 4 p.m. ET on April 20.
NBC also televised the Adamek-Cunningham rematch. That telecast reached an audience of roughly 3.9 million viewers on free TV, which made it the most-watched boxing event in the United States in 2012.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing
Tags: Steve Cunningham , Kubrat Pulev , Tyson Fury