Yoan Pablo Hernandez vs. Steve Cunningham – The Rematch
Part of the beauty of boxing is that thousands of people can watch the same fight and still develop different opinions on what they’re witnessing. Both infuriating and satisfying at different times, the subjective nature of the sport can often matter more than what the fighters actually bring to the ring. One needs look no further than the first match-up between Yoan Pablo Hernandez and Steve “U.S.S.” Cunningham for such an example.
Whether or not justice was served in the sixth round stoppage back in October 2011 that cost then-champion Cunningham the IBF Cruiserweight title can be debated. But, that match now potentially becomes but a mere footnote thanks to one of the greatest elements of the sport boxing: the rematch.
In some instances, the first match is so enthralling (and profitable) that the scenario absolutely begs for a return engagement between the two combatants. A rematch is not only good for the fighters but great for the fans and the sport, in the best scenarios. In other situations, however, the rematch may simply be a matter of correcting the inequities—real or perceived—of the past. In Cunningham-Hernandez II, the fans are getting a little bit of both, which should make for a very intriguing fight.
- When: February 4, 2012
- Where: Fraport Arena, Frankfurt, Germany
- Undercard: Co-main event Enad Licina (21-3, 11 KOs) vs. Alexander Alexeev (22-2, 20 KOs) for vacant European Cruiserweight championship; European Light Heavyweight champion Eduard Gutknecht (22-1, 9 KOs) defends against Viacheslav Uzelkov (25-1, 16 KOs)
The Pugs and The Prize
IBF Cruiserweight Champion – Yoan Pablo Hernandez (25-1, 13 KOs)
- Height: 6’4”
- Nationality: Cuban
- Age: 27
- Fighting out of: Halle an der Saale, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany
- Stance: Southpaw
Challenger – Steve “U.S.S.” Cunningham (24-3, 12 KOs)
- Height: 6’3”
- Age: 35
- Nationality: U.S.A.
- Fighting out of: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Stance: Orthodox
—> Take a look at where Cunningham ranks amongst the all-time best cruiserweights in boxing history
On the line will be Hernandez’s IBF Cruiserweight title, as well as the vacant Ring magazine Cruiserweight championship. The latter strap was added following former champion Marco Huck’s move up to the heavyweight ranks and his mandatory relinquishment of the title.
Hernandez vs. Cunningham II Preview
October 1, 2011, Jahnsportforum in Neubrandenburg, Germany: Hernandez won a technical decision when the first fight was stopped in the sixth round. The determination was made jointly by referee Mickey Vann and ringside doctor Walter Wagner that the cuts suffered by Hernandez—attributed to accidental head butts earlier in the bout—posed the potential of bleeding into his eye and dangerously obscuring his vision. At the time, however, it appeared that the cuts had been managed successfully and were not actively impeding Hernandez’s sight. Regardless, the fight was stopped, the referee went to the scorecards and Hernandez walked away as IBF Cruiserweight champion.
Controversy soon arose when Cunningham openly questioned the legitimacy of the decisions of the referee and ringside physician. A semblance of legitimacy was given to Cunningham’s claims when the IBF quickly ordered a rematch only eleven days after the original bout. The determination by the sanctioning body, as conveyed by its president, Darryl Peoples, was that an “improper stoppage of the title fight” occurred.
Hernandez has had his pride insulted and the legitimacy of his title win called into question, which hasn’t settled well with the southpaw. It was a fortuitously placed left hook to the rear quarter of the skull coming out of an inside scrum that fell Cunningham in the first bout, and the champ would be wise to look for similar openings again. Cunningham is going to keep his hands up throughout the fight and force Hernandez to beat him, again, on the cards.
Look for Hernandez to find a way to force Cunningham’s hands down, likely working on the inside and focusing on more bodyshots than the first bout and, perhaps, an errant low blow or two. Hernandez will need to once again get off to a quick start, utilize his hook from the left side and initiate the offense.
At 35, Cunningham is a challenger motivated by both drive to regain a title he believes was stolen from him, as well as the unforgiving nature of time. Still, he doesn’t seem concerned with currying any favor with the IBF, as evidenced by his public criticisms of the officiating and medical staff. Unfazed by how this could impact his chances were the rematch to once again be left in the hands of the officials, Cunningham is simply focused on proving he’s the better fighter and that the first match setback was less about skill than it was a comity of errors.
To those ends, Cunningham will have to temper his approach to this second fight and stick with what got him there in the first place. At times, he was overly patient in the first bout, but that’s very likely attributed to being knocked down early and barely answering the ten-count. Cunningham’s jab will once again be his best punch and the lynchpin of his attack. Look for him to exploit the southpaw’s zealousness from the left side and land a couple of heavy hooks or straight rights to the champ’s chin.
Hernandez vs. Cunningham II Prediction
The sad truth for Cunningham is that the fight probably not only shouldn’t have been stopped the first time around, but a strong argument can be made that he possibly should’ve been ahead on the cards. Recovering from the round one drop, Cunningham was precise and defensive the remainder of the first bout, while Hernandez seemed to be losing steam as the night wore on.
Overall, the rematch should be a very closely contested fight, with both men attacking more from a defensive position of not wanting to make an exposable mistake rather than looking for the knockout. If that’s the case, the bout should play right into Cunningham’s corner. His experience and patience in the ring should allow him to dictate the flow of the fight, assuming he can stay off the canvas early.
Hernandez may not be capable of pacing himself to the point of matching Cunningham’s meticulous nature, and that will cost him in the later rounds. This time, victory will quite literally be in the cards for “U.S.S.”. Look for Cunningham to capture the Ring strap that eluded him in 2008 and regain the IBF belt heading into the mandated defense, and another rematch, against ProBoxing-fans.com’s eighth-ranked Cruiserweight in the world, Troy Ross, later this year.
Prediction: Steve Cunningham via split decision.