Advertisement
Advertisement
Boxingscene.com

Hernandez-Cunningham: Another Great Case For Cruisers

By Lyle Fitzsimmons

Someday, it’ll happen.

There’ll be a fighter. He’ll have an adversary. And together they’ll engage in a fight – or a series of fights – that’ll galvanize the boxing public and draw in the casual sports fan.

It might even be lead-story material on SportsCenter.

And the kicker… both the principals will weigh no more than 200 pounds.

See, I had you there until that last part, right?

While the idea of a sport-altering rivalry is hardly transcendent, somehow the idea of it happening in the division between heavyweight and 175 seems as far-fetched as, well, a similar scenario unfolding at 147 between a certain needle-averse Filipino and a certain jail-bound American.

That notwithstanding, German-based Cuban export Yoan Pablo Hernandez and underappreciated U.S. Navy veteran Steve Cunningham are going to give it another try this weekend in Frankfurt for the IBF’s share of the forgotten division’s top honors.

And no… no one in the American mainstream will see it.

But that won’t be because it’s not worth seeing.

When they got together some 420 miles north in Neubrandenburg, Cunningham was making the second defense of his second title reign and taking on a once-beaten ex-Olympian on a 10-fight win streak.

And while tipping in at 199 pounds with requisite bulging arms, trim waist and rippled abs that could double as a relief map of the Rockies, he looked every bit a deserving incumbent champion.

But he was nearly an ex-champion by the end of the first round, when a sweeping left hand from Hernandez dropped him directly to the seat of his pants – and subsequently caused a jelly-legged stumble reminiscent of a Tyson-mauled Trevor Berbick 25 years earlier.

Cunningham was essentially saved from an onrushing foe by the bell and showed remarkable resilience after just 60 or so seconds of respite, actually carrying the fight back to Hernandez in the second before opening a nasty cut on the challenger’s scalp with an accidental butt in the third.

The two continued an entertaining scrap through three more competitive rounds, with Hernandez scoring well with straight lefts while Cunningham continued to press forward with determined work to his towering 6-foot-4 opponent’s lean midsection. 

Another butt in the sixth opened another cut on Hernandez’s eye, prompting referee Mickey Vann to stop the fight on the dubious – and ultimately overruled – advice of ringside doc Walter Wegner, who halted the action before blood from the gashes could impact Hernandez’s vision, not because it had.

The quick end resulted in a split technical decision and a new belt for Hernandez – incidentally, my card had Cunningham up, 57-56 – but the East Orange-based sanctioning body rightly stepped in and ordered an immediate rematch, providing Cunningham a chance at a third time championship charm.

It’s another good fight for fans. It’s another chance at legitimacy for the division.

And it’s another chance to right the record for the Philadelphia native, who greeted the original decision with a sneering thumbs-down and expects to leave no doubt in the second encounter.

“I don’t want to just take the title,” he said. “I want to rip it back. I want to run into his house, snatch the belt off his waist and walk out with him on the floor.”

Tough talk aside, it also equals another long stretch away from home and out of the U.S. spotlight for the Philadelphia native, who’s not fought in his backyard in nearly nine years – since an eight-rounder against Demetrius Jenkins on the Hopkins-Hakkar middleweight title show at the Spectrum.

“I have to go where I can to make a living and get the exposure, and Europe provides that” Cunningham said. “When I was a kid and I watched boxing I always used to think that being world champion meant you fought around the world.”

His post-Philly travel log includes Connecticut, New York (twice), Massachusetts, Ohio, New Jersey and Florida, with international flights to South Africa, Poland (twice) and Germany (four times) – yielding seven title fights, two one-defense reigns and barely a blip of notice from the non-hardcore fan.

That in spite of wins over the most recent consensus No. 1 (WBO champion Marco Huck, TKO 12), as well as the reigning WBC (Krzysztof Wlodarcyzk, MD 12) and WBA (Guillermo Jones, SD 10) claimants.

In fact, if he beats Hernandez in the rematch, he’ll have beaten every current incumbent aside from 43-year-old Antonio Tarver, whose world-class cruiser pedigree consists of exactly one fight.

Win, lose or draw, it’s hard to argue he doesn’t deserve better.

“Hernandez is one of the top cruiserweights and a very strong opponent,” Cunningham said. “But I have defeated all reigning cruiserweights champions and I will clinch another victory on Saturday night. The weapons are oiled and I am ready to go to war.”

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY
IBF cruiserweight title – Frankfurt, Germany

Yoan Pablo Hernandez (champion) vs. Steve Cunningham (No. 4 contender)
Hernandez (25-1, 13 KO): First title defense; Won title from Cunningham in October (TD 6)
Cunningham (24-3, 12 KO): Eighth title fight (4-3, 2 KO); Two IBF title reigns (two defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Third time’s the charm for 200-pound frequent flier.” Cunningham by decision

WBC middleweight title – San Antonio, Texas
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (champion) vs. Marco Antonio Rubio (No. 1 contender)      
Chavez (44-0-1, 31 KO): Second title defense; Eleventh fight in Texas (10-0, 7 KO)
Rubio (53-5-1, 46 KO): Second title fight (0-1, 0 KO); Unbeaten since 2009 (10-0, 9 KO)
Fitzbitz says: “Could be both the fight and upset of the year.” Rubio in 9
 
Vacant WBO junior featherweight title – San Antonio, Texas
Nonito Donaire (No. 1 contender) vs. Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. (No. 3 contender)
Donaire (27-1, 18 KO): Seventh title fight (6-0, 5 KO); Held titles at 112, 118 pounds
Vazquez (21-1-1, 18 KO): Fifth title fight (3-1, 3 KO); Held WBO title in 2010-11 (two defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Vazquez is no gimme but Donaire has too much, even at 122.” Donaire by decision

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.

Last week's picks: None  
Overall picks record: 280-93 (75.0 percent)  

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz. 

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by BostonGuy on 01-31-2012

First fight was fun while it lasted but the anti-climatic and controversial ending left a bad taste in my mouth. Hernandez (and Ulli Wegner) packed it in after Cunningham started to get into his flow and his vicious body attack.…

Comment by Walt Liquor on 01-31-2012

[QUOTE=CubanGuyNYC;11726334]I'm pulling for Hernandez (surprise, surprise). USS has an even chance, though; the fight is a toss up. Yoan started the first fight well; Steve came on strong. It'll be interesting to see who wants it more, who has the…

Comment by CubanGuyNYC on 01-31-2012

[QUOTE=MJ223;11726255]Cunningham- if he stays on his feet he wins Jr- rooting for Rubio but I don't see it happening (won't win a dec, we all know why) unless he can sit that 180+ down and keep him there tall order…

Comment by Walt Liquor on 01-31-2012

[QUOTE=BattlingNelson;11726268]Are you gonna watch it Walt? Good for you. I didnt think yank TV had picked it up. Yeah the ending looked premature and as I recall it, Cunningham was picking up the pace. Anyway I look forward to this…

Comment by BattlingNelson on 01-31-2012

[QUOTE=Walt Liquor;11726257]both guys are great tv. I can't wait, specially cuz USS is one of my favorite fighters. USS was almost out in the first but i think he got jobbed.[/QUOTE] Are you gonna watch it Walt? Good for you.…

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (12)
Top Headlines Frank Warren on Haye-Ringstar TV Deal, Signings in The UK Aloyan Gets WBC Belt in Second Pro Fight, Fedor Chudinov Wins Wilder's Manager Concerned That Stiverne Missed His Drug Test Mayweather: I Can't Move Like I Did Before, I'm Going Toe To Toe! Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson: Roots of a Success Story Jhonny Gonzalez Blasts Rosales in Two, Wants Miguel Berchelt Deontay Wilder's Manager: It Makes Sense To Fight Luis Ortiz! Miguel Berchelt Wants To Fight Again in 2017, Not Rushing Return Jose Pedraza vs. Mickey Bey in Talks For August 22, Las Vegas Gilberto Ramirez: I Won't Let Jesse Hart Run, I Want Him To Fight Malignaggi: McGregor Can Exploit Things, Have His Moments David Allen Drops, Stops Tom Dallas in Three Rounds Gassiev Sees No Reason For Lebedev Rematch After WBSS Refusal Joe Cortez Helping Conor McGregor Prepare For Floyd Mayweather Mayweather: Believe I Can't Read and Spell? I Made $800 Million! Frank Warren: Mayweather, McGregor - Big Talk, Will They Deliver? Garcia: Non-Title Fight Vs. Broner Still Biggest of Our Careers Mairis Briedis vs. Mike Perez on September 30 in Latvia Top Rank VP: Pacquiao-Horn Was Close, 117-111 Created Issue Lomachenko: I'm Ready To Fight Guillermo Rigondeaux Next! Garcia Expects Broner to Be Biggest Puncher He Has Faced Yarde Would Love To Emulate Roy Jones, Win Title at Heavyweight Amanda Serrano-Edina Kiss: Still Worth a Look on Delay Nikki Adler Confident She'll Hand Claressa Shields Her First Loss Erol Ceylan Discusses The Past, Present and Future of EC Boxing Hatton: Pacquiao Got Old Overnight, When Horn Beats You... Malignaggi: McGregor Has Game Plan, It's Not What People Think Robert Guerrero and Knowing When To Say When Isaac Zarate Drops, Shocks Carlos Carlson To Win Decision Antonio Moran Stops Rosales To Win WBO Regional Title Amanda Serrano Stops Kiss: Cintron, Oquendo Win By KO White Smiles: Mayweather's Kink is Southpaws, McGregor is One Broner vs. Garcia Approved By WBC For The "Diamond Title" De La Hoya: McGregor Can Beat Floyd - With Flying Kick To Head! Manager: McGregor Will Be Best Fighter in History With Upset Win Jorge Linares vs. Luke Campbell Ordered By The WBA Duva: Barrera is One of Several Options For Kovalev's Return Ustinov vs. Oquendo For Vacant WBA Title in Play For October 2 Lomachenko: I Was Preparing For Salido, But Ready For Marriaga Muwendo, Esquivias Battle at M3 Anaheim Event Center
Advertisement

Latest Active Forum Threads
Advertisement
Advertisement