STEVE CUNNINGHAM: A HEAVYWEIGHT HOPEFUL

By By Francis Walker BASN Boxing writer
Updated: August 29, 2012

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Can Cunningham be a heavyweight success?

Can Cunningham be a heavyweight success?

NEW YORK, NY (BASN)When Steve “USS” Cunningham last fought at the Prudential Center in 2008, he lost the IBF cruiserweight title to Tomasz Adamek in what was perhaps the biggest fight of their careers.

Afterward, Adamek used his cruiserweight title reign as momentum to launch what has been a successful three-year run as a heavyweight title contender.

Cunningham is optimistic that Main Events will do for him exactly what they did for Adamek. That is to lead Cunningham through the heavyweight ranks toward a world heavyweight championship fight.

Cunningham (24-4, 12 KOs), fighting for the first time as a heavyweight, battles Jason Gavern (21-10-4, 10 KOs) on the Tomasz Adamek vs.

Travis Walker undercard on Saturday, September 8, at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Also on the card, rapidly rising heavyweight contender Brynat Jennings (14-0, 6 KOs) will meet Chris Koval (25-9, 18 KOs).

Cunningham, a two-time IBF cruiserweight titlist, has an well-muscled 6′ 3,” physique and will probably weight around 208 for his heavyweight debut.

“I’m probably looking to do my first fight at 208 (pounds),” Cunningham said recently. “And probably max out at 215 (for future fights). I’m not interested in getting up to 225.”

Cunninhgam will have a solid test in Gavern. Cunningham may tower over Gavern, but Cunningham will come in giving up 20 pounds against Gavern.

The heavyweight division hasn’t always been the land of the giants. Evander Holyfield and David Haye were both unified cruiserweight champions that moved up to win heavyweight titles. Michael Spinks and Roy Jones, Jr. were world light-heavyweight champions that moved up to win heavyweight titles. Chris Byrd, a former Olympic silver medalist in the middleweight division, is a former IBF heavyweight champion.

Also, Adamek, Jean-Marc Mormeck, and James Toney moved up from cruiserweight to at least fight for a heavyweight championship.

Cunningham will contend with Virginia-born Gavern, who now fights out of Orlando, FL. Gavern is an inch shorter than Cunningham, but will likely have at least a 20-pound weight advantage in the fight.

Cunningham is expected to perform well on September 8.

Hopefully, Cunningham would get his rematch with Adamek which may lead to a showdown with unified IBF/WBA/WBO and IBO/Ring Magazine heavyweight champion and icon, Wladimir Klitschko.

The road toward both Adamek and Klitschko isn’t guaranteed. Cunningham is coming off two consecutive losses to Yuan Pablo Hernandez . In 2011, an accidental clash of heads led to a controversial technical decision win for Hernandez. Earlier this year, Cunningham performed terrible dropping a widespread 12-round unanimous decision in the rematch.

Often we’ve seen examples of fighters losing important fights and having the courage to bounce back and win. Some fighters have actually abandoned their weight division to move-up another weight-division to win another world title and dominate.

I’m not saying Cunningham will move up to the heavyweight division, win the title, and dominate. But I will say, Cunningham will have the opportunity to recover very nicely in a division that has bigger names and better competition than at cruiserweight.

Cunningham even said that is makes no sense to remain at cruiserweight to become a three-time cruiserweight champion when the bigger fights are at heavyweight. Cunningham is hoping that Main Events can guide him the way they guided Adamek.

Main Events successfully boosted Adamek’s profile without the backing of HBO or SHOWTIME. Main Events found the right balance of competition to lead Adamek to a heavyweight title fight. Big victories against Eddie Chambers, Michael Grant, Vinny Maddalone, Jason Estrada, and Chris Arreola generated interest and prompted people to monitor Adamek’s progress.

The result was successful. Adamek lured Vitali Klitschko into a world heavyweight title match in front of 50,000 of Adamek’s supporters in a soccer stadium and Poland. Adamek lured a heavyweight champion into his hometown to fight him.

That’s big business. Maybe Cunningham and Adamek can do some business after September 8.