An interview with former IBF Cruiserweight Champion Steve Cunningham
Steve “USS” Cunningham, 21 (11) – 2, has been biding his time since his loss to Tomasz Adamek, waiting for a chance at a rematch. After Adamek quickly lined up Jonathon Banks as his next opponent – and knocked him out – Cunningham now has his next fight scheduled as well. On Saturday, April 18, Cunningham will take on former cruiserweight champion Wayne “Big Truck” Braithwaite.
There have been some rumors, but has your next fight been made official yet?
SC: Yea, as far as we know the contract has been signed by both of us.
Are you already back in training right now? I know you just got back from a run.
SC: Yea I just got back from running. I’m always training. I’m always in shape, it’s my job and I treat it like that.
How do you feel about taking on Big Truck, another former cruiserweight champion like yourself?
SC: It’s a real good fight for me. A fight we can win. Of course, I want to win and I want to look impressive. And man, just win. It’s one of those must win, gotta win fights.
Any predictions, will the fight go the distance?
SC: I don’t really get into predicting. If I see the opening I’m going after it. We’re gonna try to make it go early but if not we’ll be content with the unanimous decision.
Yea well a unanimous decision must sound nice. You’ve only lost twice in your career, and both times have been split decisions. Has that been tough for you, coming up close both times you lost?
SC: Well, the first loss was really a very disputed and controversial loss. Everybody who saw the fight really knows who won, and knows the circumstances with me being overseas and all of that. But that type of stuff doesn’t go next to the loss on your record. When somebody looks at it in the future they’re just gonna see the loss. With this Adamek loss, I totally felt that I won. It should have been nothing less than a draw. Even with the three knock downs, I don’t think he won any rounds outside of those rounds. And even a couple of the knockdown rounds I don’t think he won them. But that’s the kind of thing you have to deal with. With those judges man…
What, not a fan of the judges these days?
SC : I have a few words for those judges man. You have all these crazy, controversial numbers with the Collazo-Berto fight, my fight, a few other fights in the past six months. Something needs to be done about these judges making these outrageous scores. Either they need to be trained better or… well, personally I think you shouldn’t be a judge unless you fought professionally in the ring. That’s what I personally believe.
Not a bad idea. On one hand you’ll get a guy with a knowledgeable perspective on the fight and on the other hand you’ll get another good outlet for retired boxers done with their time in the ring.
SC: I totally believe that and don’t get me wrong, I’ve met and ran into some judges who haven’t fought and they understand boxing. But I think that more boxers should have the opportunity. I think the doors should be open a little more for them to come in and be able to be judges.
So, you were rooting for Adamek against Banks, correct?
SC: Yea of course. I was carrying a little Polish flag there, and I was rooting for him to win.
You want to make sure you’re the one to dethrone him…
SC: Exactly. I totally feel, as have other people who have gotten in contact with me… that he knows what time it is with the rematch. They squeaked by, and they know the rematch is super dangerous, so of course they don’t want to take it. I mean, I wouldn’t take it if I was smart. If I was a manager or a promoter I wouldn’t want my guy to fight Steve Cunningham again after that performance.
U.S. audiences haven’t seen too much of you, but you definitely made a big splash with the last fight. What was it like to be fighting in the states again and have you been receiving more recognition around town?
SC: Yea a lot more recognition. Whenever you fight on television – in America that is – people stop and recognize you and notice you. And I’ve been getting a lot of love at the fights. I go to a lot of fights and we’re going to the fights at the Blue Horizon tomorrow night. A lot of people are running up to me and telling me I had that fight. And that keeps me up and lets me know that I’m not the only crazy one who thought I won.
And even though your last fight was in Newark, a close drive from Philly, it seems like you were in Poland west. What was that atmosphere like?
SC: Truthfully, the fight wasn’t really promoted good down here in Philadelphia for my fan base to even try and materialize at the fight. Most of the people that were there were fans I had from New York and New Jersey, and just a few fans from Philly. A lot of people here in Philly didn’t know about the fight. But the fight was promoted big time in Jersey and New York for the Polish fan base, because you know, the promoters want to fill the seats. With me fighting overseas the last three times in a row a lot of people didn’t know me. But I bet you they know me now.
They definitely do. How important is it for you to get back to Philly and try to get a fight there sometime soon?
SC: Well, what me and my wife have come to realize, and she’s my manager, is that my fan base isn’t going to be in Philadelphia. I was born and raised here in Philly, but I didn’t start boxing in Philadelphia. I started boxing when I joined the Navy, and I just visited my old ship, the USS Enterprise, last month and we were ecstatic. They rolled the red carpet out for me and I had a lot of sailors come up to me and congratulate me, for doing something else and showing people that the Navy is tough and all of that. So we’ve been talking to my promoter about getting a fight down at the Navy base down in Virginia where I originally started boxing, and possibly on the aircraft carrier.
That’d be an event, were you stationed down near Virginia Beach?
SC: I was stationed in Norfolk, Virginia for about three years and then I was stationed with the Navy boxing team in Oxnard, California near Port Hueneme. So my fan base is the United States Navy and the United States military. So we’re really going to try to tap into that fan base and give those guys a show in the coming years.
Well they deserve it. I know you’re still clamoring for it but will the Adamek rematch be next or what’s in store for the rest of the year?
SC: Yea, exactly, that’s the goal. That’s my goal and however God wants it, I have to follow God’s will. And yea that’s what we want, and we’re praying for that. I hear that he and Bernard Hopkins are scheduling a fight, but either way, however it works out, my motto for 2009 is ‘two times in 09.’
Two times in 09, sounds good. Any other closing thoughts Steve?
SC: Yea, two times in 09… and I plan to be world champion again.