The winner of Hernandez-Cunningham II must face mandatory challenger Troy Ross by May 11, said Tucker. Cunningham rose from a fourth round knockdown to defeat Ross by fifth-round knockout in June of last year.
“I want to rip that belt off of Hernandez’s waist,” said Cunningham. “Him and Ulli Wegner, the trainer, I just want to make those guys feel what I felt. A little bit of what I felt.”
Trained by Naazim Richardson, the same man who works with former undisputed middleweight champ and RING and WBC light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs), Cunningham was considered to be the world’s No. 1 cruiserweight.
The loss to Hernandez ended Cunningham’s winning streak at three, having last tasted defeat previously in December of 2008, when he lost the IBF cruiserweight title to Tomasz Adamek via split-decision.
Before falling to Adamek, Cunningham had won two straight: a majority decision over Krzysztof Wlodarczyk of Poland in May of 2007, and a 12th-round knockout of Marco Huck, who are the current WBC and WBO titleholders, respectively.
By defeating Wlodarczyk, Cunningham dethroned him as IBF beltholder and avenged a split-decision loss from November of 2006. Cunningham also already owns a split-decision victory over current WBA titlist Guillermo Jones from April of 2005.
Hernandez has now won 11 consecutive fights, last losing when he was knocked out in the third round by Wayne Braithwaite in March of 2008.
Hernandez won a battle of southpaws in February when he dropped Steve Herelius twice in the seventh and final round to end the fighter’s seven-bout winning streak.
“I just want to equal and level playing field. That’s all that we ask for. We signed with the European promoter knowing that this is better exposure for me, and that the money was better than we were seeing in the states. And the fights were there. So we did it. We made the move,” said Cunningham.
“Not once did we say that we would get robbed, but knowing that it could happen. You know, stuff happens. But my skill level is so good, and so is my team and my trainer, Naazim Richardson, and my sparring partners. So them dudes can’t beat me even if they cheat.”
Photo by Javiel Centeno, Fightwire Images
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org