By Rick Reeno
BoxingScene.com has been advised that Steve Cunningham vs. Matt Godfrey is once again in jeopardy of being off, and this time the fight will be off for good. The two cruiserweights are scheduled to fight for the vacant IBF title on March 26 at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, Illinois. ESPN is going to televise the fight. Considering the whirlwind of drama in the last two weeks, Mayweather-Pacquiao seems like an easier fight to make.
The fight was originally scheduled to take place at the Treasure Island Casino in Las Vegas on a show being promoted by Don King. This past Wednesday, BoxingScene had multiple reports detailing the contractual dispute between King and ESPN, which led to the fight falling apart. King was unable to reach a deal with ESPN on the contract terms outlining the rights.
King won the Cunningham-Godfrey purse bid on December 18 with a figure of $65,200. Because he defaulted on making the fight within 90-days, the second highest bidder, who was Main Events [$53,200], were able to step in. Main Events president Kathy Duva reached a deal with Chicago promoter Dominic Pesoli to place the fight on his existing show. ESPN agreed with Duva to pick it back up.
This time the problem has nothing to do with King, or Main Events, or ESPN. There appears to have been some miscommunication between Godfrey and his promoter Jimmy Burchfield.
According to Godfrey's trainer, John Scully, their promoter failed to inform them the fight was moving forward. Scully claims Burchfield told them the fight "was off" on Wednesday and the fighter immediately stopped training. Godfrey and his trainer found out the fight was moving forward while they were watching last night's edition of ESPN's Friday Night Fights. Shocked with the televised announcement, they quickly began making phone calls and found out the fight was back on, in Chicago, and they were making a few thousand less [since Main Events put in a lower bid].
"On Wednesday we were told the fight was off. Not postponed, but off. Matt spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday thinking the biggest fight of his life was off. He lost three days of training, three days of focus. Steve was in camp at Big Bear and apparently he was under the impression the fight was salvageable," Scully told BoxingScene.com.
"We didn't get the same info apparently because we were told the fight was off. The mental and emotional let down of that is incredible. Then on Friday night the TV is telling us the fight is back on. That was the first I heard of it. I make some calls and find out they want to do it the following week in Chicago. OK, fine. But we lost three very important days of training. You just put the fighter through a huge emotional letdown. And on top of that you are telling him that he will receive several thousand dollars less of a purse on top of it."
"I know there are people who will say Matt should go through with the fight anyway but any fighter will tell you how difficult that actually is. You don't have to be a fighter to know boxing, but this aspect is something that only a fighter can actually get a grasp on. Nothing in this is the fault of Matt Godfrey. Absolutely nothing."
BoxingScene spoke with Main Events president Kathy Duva, who heard the chatter about Godfrey's unwillingness to move forward, but has yet to receive official confirmation from his promoter. If Godfrey withdraws, he will lose the title opportunity. Duva would then put together an alternate plan to forward at a later date, possibly in June or July, with Cunningham facing the next highest available contender.
"We did everything we needed to do. We sent letters to everyone, including Burchfield and the IBF. The IBF spoke with Burchfield a few days ago. I know Main Events is ready to go forward. I know ESPN is ready to go forward and I know Steve Cunningham is ready to go forward," Duva said.