THE RING’s No. 2-rated cruiserweight Steve Cunningham will be in a title fight in Germany for the fifth time in three years, but this time, he flew to Europe as a loser.
“I’m very comfortable packing up and going to Poland or Germany now that this is, what, my seventh time fighting in one of those countries?” said Cunningham, a 35-year-old Philadelphia native.
“I’ve fought twice in Poland, and this will be my fifth time fighting in Germany, so it’s never a problem doing it. But this time, it’s a little bit different.”
Cunningham (24-3, 12 knockouts) will face THE RING’s No. 1-ranked Yoan Pablo Hernandez (25-1, 13 KOs), of Cuba, in Frankfurt on Saturday with the goal of regaining the IBF title he feels was unfairly taken from him. THE RING’s vacant cruiserweight title will also be on the line.
Hernandez-Cunningham II is an IBF-ordered rematch of an Oct. 1 fight that ended with Hernandez dethroning Cunningham by controversial sixth-round technical decision in Neubrandenburg, Germany.
Hernandez-Cunningham went to the scorecards as a result of a cut over the right eye of Hernandez that had resulted from two, accidental, early-round head clashes with Cunningham.
Judges Pawel Kardyni and Dave Parris scored it for Hernandez 59-54 and 58-55, respectively, while Howard John Foster scored it for Cunningham, 57-56.
“I feel that I won the last time. It’s one of those things where you know you beat him, and you know that you won,” said Cunningham. “So it’s the same situation, but this was just a time where I didn’t come out of there with the belt.”
At issue for the Cunningham and the IBF was the way that the fight was stopped.
It was decided that the cut over Hernandez’s right eye was appearing to widen as the fight progressed. In the sixth round, Hernandez’s trainer, Ulli Wegner, asked for an examination by referee Mickey Vann, who then stopped the bout on the advice of ringside doctor Walter Wagner.
IBF Championships Chairman Lindsay Tucker informed RingTV.com he and IBF President Darryl Peoples reviewed the video of the head collisions and determined that there “was an improper stoppage of the title fight.”
The winner of Hernandez-Cunningham II must face mandatory challenger Troy Ross by May 11. Cunningham rose from a fourth round knockdown to defeat Ross by fifth-round knockout in June of last year.
A resident of Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, Hernandez brings an 11-bout winning streak into the return bout with Cunningham, having last lost by third-round knockout to Wayne Braithwaite in March of 2008.
“Hats off to the IBF, because they did a great job, but I’m still kind of irked, because now, I’ve got to now go back there without a belt,” said Cunningham, who narrowly beat the 10-count after being down in the first round against Hernandez.
“Meanwhile, this guy is being recognized as the champion even though it’s been stated that shady dealings went on with the conclusion of our last fight. I think that it should have been a no-contest, I should have remained champion and we could have had a rematch. But this is what I’ve got to deal with.”
The loss ended Cunningham’s winning streak at three, having last tasted defeat when he lost the IBF title to Tomasz Adamek via split-decision in December of 2008.
Before losing 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.