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Hernandez-Cunningham Rematch Spotlights The Cruisers

Since David Haye and Tomas Adamek relinquished their titles in order to forge new careers at heavyweight, boxing's best cruiserweight fighters have once again had to get used to life in the shadows.

The sport's most maligned division has for so long been dismissed as a launching pad for fighters with designs on bigger prizes, and the current crop of post-Haye cruiserweights is no exception.

Even Antonio Tarver's stated intention to win a legitimate world cruiserweight crown - he claimed the spurious IBO title in Sydney last July with a stoppage win over Danny Green - has hardly set pulses racing.

But on February 4 in Frankfurt, Cuba's reigning IBF champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez and American former two-time champion Steve Cunningham clash in a rematch which has all the makings of a classic.

Their first meeting last October was surprisingly overlooked in most fight of the year lists, having contained enough excitement and controversy to claim far more column inches had it been a more high-profile fight.

Hernandez headed into the fight with a record 24 wins and a single defeat to former champion Wayne Braithwaite in 2008, and a reputation as an elusive fighter with little punch power of note.

Cunningham was in his second reign as IBF champion and was expected to have too much for his opponent. Instead Hernandez stunned his opponent with a sharp left hand which floored the American heavily towards the end of the first round.

Cunningham appeared extremely fortunate to beat the drawn-out count, but rallied well and controlled the second and third rounds, in the latter of which he landed a headbutt which referee Mickey Vann deemed unintentional.

When Hernandez's cut got worse in the sixth round, Vann and the ringside physician called the contest off and went to the scorecards. Hernandez, leading on two of the three cards, was awarded the bout and the title.

Any kind of repeat would be just what the cruiserweight division needs. Hernandez followed the likes of Odlanier Solis, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Guillermo Rigondeaux in escaping his homeland, but has so far floundered in their shadows.

"It was a great feeling to become world champion but the ending was a bit unfortunate," admitted Hernandez. "But I am the better fighter and I am happy to prove it again to erase any doubts."

Unsurprisingly, Cunningham has other ideas.

"The fight was stopped unfairly and I don't think he should be recognised as the IBF champion right now," he said. "He's a decent fighter but he didn't beat me."

Philadelphian Cunningham knows more than most about the difficulty of earning a living in the cruiserweight division. Despite almost a decade at the top, seven of his last nine fights - including the rematch - have had to take place on the road. Cunningham, who has fought twice in Poland but not in his home city since 2003.

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