By Ben Jacobs
Fans who witnessed the Amir Mansour - Steve Cunningham battle in April will likely agree that it was one of the more entertaining heavyweight match-ups of recent times. After the bout, Mansour conceded in an interview with NBC that he thought he may have lost the fight. However, upon review in the weeks after, the Delaware man has changed his opinion. Not only that, Mansour was not happy with the officiating from experienced New Jersey man, Steve Smoger, particularly with regards to the two knock downs suffered by Cunningham in the fifth round. Amir told BoxingScene he was not shocked to see his Philadelphia rival bounce back when it appeared he was on the verge of being stopped.
“I wasn’t surprised, anyone with his experience who gets knocked down in the way that he did and the referee gives you so much time to recuperate, a two time world champion is going to take advantage of that,” he said.
“We timed it several times, he was out more than 10 seconds for both knock downs. I’m exerting a lot of energy going after my guy the way that I was and I’m taking risks and chances, then when I’m successful the referee gives him that kind of time to recuperate. I’ve already been daring and took the chances, it took a lot out of me to get him out of there by five rounds because my plan was to push him fast until I took him out.
“I don’t think any fighter can plan for when a referee allows a guy to recuperate more than 10 seconds. I found out these guys are in the army reserves together, you know? I know Steve Smoger, I thought he was a fan of mine but obviously he was a bigger fan of Steve’s. At the end of the fight he didn’t come and shake my hand or anything, he went and hugged Steve’s wife and Steve, so he made it obvious where his heart was at.
“I can take a loss gracefully, and I did that after feeling maybe I lost. My interview speaks volumes as to the type of athlete I am whereby I can accept a loss. But I had so many people calling me saying I was robbed, so I watched it again and I was blown away by the scoring, it was obvious what the referee was doing throughout the fight.
“At the beginning of the tenth round, I went out once again with the idea to exert my energy and try to knock this guy out. By this point I knew the referee was working his favour. I caught him with a straight left, he went flat on his back and the referee called it a slip. When you look at my knock down, he caught me with a decent shot, I was off balance and my glove touched the ground and he called it a knock down. It hurt me as I thought Steve Smoger was a very professional referee and I didn’t think he’d wear his emotions on his sleeve.”
Mansour is planning to be back in the ring this summer, as such, he has already taken steps to prepare for his next encounter in the ring.
“It’s hard, there are a lot of guys ducking, man,” he insisted.
“We’re looking into a few opportunities, I can’t say much about them, but I’m hoping to fight in July, but I don’t know who it will be against. I told my team I don’t want to fight anyone less than in the top 15, so hopefully we’ll get someone in that calibre.
“I’ll be training with John David Jackson for a while in Florida. I’m not firing my trainer, we didn’t lose the fight. I just feel as though John David Jackson can give me more knowledge about championship fights because he’s been in them himself. Sometimes it’s good to get a different outlook and have a different teacher.”
After such an enthralling fight first time against Cunningham, surely a rematch is inevitable. Amir isn’t convinced it will happen, however.
“He doesn’t want the rematch, we were going to try and sell it to HBO but he doesn’t want it. From a business stand point, you got away with the win, you don’t wanna see the guy that you know in your heart beat you. Maybe he feels there’s a bigger fight out there. But I think people want to see us fight again. He did put a good fight up after the referee bailed him out from getting stopped.”