Yoan Pablo Hernandez (26-1, 13 KOs) defended his IBF Cruiserweight Title with a spectacular points victory over Steve Cunningham (24-4, 12 KOs) in Frankfurt on Saturday night. The pattern was similar to their first meeting last October, with Cunningham fighting back after two knock-downs in the fourth round. After an exciting fight, Hernandez was ahead 116-110, 116-110 and 115-111 on the scorecards.
“This is a big victory for me,” Hernandez said.
“But I take my hat off to Steve, he is a great, great fighter and once again proved his world class. But our strategy worked today and I am very happy about the outcome.”
Hernandez got off to the better start, landing good shots in the first rounds, but Cunningham also connected with fast punches. In the fourth, a big left hook sent Cunningham down. He got back up – only to find himself on the floor straight away. He used all his experience and class to survive the round, which left him with a big cut above his right eye.
“Steve´s courage was impressive,” coach Naazim Richardson praised. “Had I got hit by those shots, I would still be down. Not many fighters can recover from something like that. But Steve got back up, twice, and fought on. His courage is incredible.”
Hernandez tried to follow it up in the fifth round but Cunningham caught him with a big right as a bruising encounter developed. Both men proved their skills in the following in a back-and-forth clash. In the 12th, Hernandez landed some big shots again.
“I congratulate Hernandez for the win tonight,” Cunningham said. “I fought hard and gave it my all. I know I'll will be back stronger than ever. There were two warriors in the ring tonight and this warrior still wants the belt back. Many thanks to my fans and God bless.”
Wilfried Sauerland was full of praise for both fighters.
“This was a fantastic fight, one of the best on German soil in a long time,” he said. “Cunningham proved his class, as did Hernandez. This was a real treat for boxing fans. Hernandez was in the shape of his life, I have never seen him fighting better.”
Coach Ulli Wegner was quick to agree. “I am very pleased with Pablo´s performance,” he stated. “He stuck to our plan. But I want to congratulate Cunningham. He was very impressive. How he recovered from those two knock-downs was amazing. Everybody knows he is a world-class fighter, one of the best out there. I am proud that Pablo defeated him tonight.”
The victory also gave Hernandez the vacant RING cruiserweight championship. Next up is the mandatory defence against Tory Ross (25-2, 16 KOs), who outpointed Lukas Rusiewicz (10-12, 3 KOs) on the undercard.
In the co-featured main event, Alexander Alekseev (23-2, 20 KOs) won the vacant European Cruiserweight Title with a clear points victory over former world-title challenger Enad Licina (21-4, 11 KOs). Eduard Gutknecht (23-1, 9 KOs) defended his European Light Heavyweight Title with a unanimous decision against Vyacheslav Uzelkov (25-2, 16 KOs). Polish cruiserweight star Mateusz Masternak (25-0, 19 KOs) also stopped Michael Simms (22-16, 14 KOs) in the fourth round.