Cunningham, Mansour fighting for ‘heavyweight’ relevancy

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Updated: April 3, 2014
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Amir Mansour (20-0, 15 KOs) and Steve Cunningham (26-2, 12 KOs)will headline a NBCSN Fight Night card from the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia, PA on Friday, April 4, 10 PM/ET. The fight is a crossroads battle between Cunningham, a former two-time world cruiserweight champion and Mansour, a former convict who is on a comeback after missing 10 years behind bars. Both men will be figting to remain relevant in a suddenly crowded heavyweight division. Cunningham has been struggling as a heavyweight and is in desperate need of a win, while Mansour is tryign to justify his undefeated record with a solid win against a quality opponent.

Brother Naazim Richardson, Steve Cunningham’s trainer said, “This is a great match-up style-wise, said Cunningham’s trainer Naazim Richardson. “If you know what this man has been through with his daughter none of us know that pain. To face the death of your child that is darkness no one should ever face. Not to say jail is not a dark place but what he and his wife are facing is bigger than boxing. I have watched him persevere and become a two-time world champion. Steve isn’t going to intimidate anyone out of the ring, but when you compare skill he wins hands down. What he has accomplished has been on skill and skill alone.”

Richardson was referring to Cunningham’s daughter Kennedy, who is in desperate need of a heart transplant.  

“I am not going to get into what we are going through,” Cunningham said. “What is the evidence of a thing, not seen, but hoped for? Faith! You could never tell me that I am not going to be a world champion. I have faith. I back down from no man. In actuality who isn’t from the streets? Who isn’t hard out here? We are all hard when we need to be. A smart man knows how to survive, when to fight and when not to fight. We all have the rough tough story. No man on this earth scares me especially within a four-corner ring with rules. I am getting in this ring to win. We are going to get it on Friday.” He added, “My main advantage is experience. This is boxing. We sign up to fight. I never worry about anyone’s power. I have been facing these types of situations since day one.”

Cunningham is an accomplished fighter. He won two IBF cruiserweight championships, but instead of fighting for a third reign, he opted to move-up to heavyweight in search of a world heavyweight title chance.

After defeating Jason Gavern in September 2012, he dropped a controversial decision loss to Tomasz Adamek in their second fight from their dramatic December 2008 thriller at the Prudential Center. Cunningham, nearly pulled-off a tremendous upset after dropping 6’ 8,” 260-pound Tyson Fury on his back with a single hook. But Cunningham was easily beaten in the fifth round.

Having lost 4 of his last 6, Cunningham, 37, Philadelphia, PA, is on his last limbs. Cunningham is in a must-win situation and Mansour, hungry, desperate, and anxious for his moment to become a recognizable heavyweight contender, is looking to take the fight to Cunningham – hardcore!  

“I am not trying to scare him or act like some sort of gangster or street thug,” Mansour said. “I despise the streets. I despise anyone who carries themselves like a thug or a gangster. I don’t brag about being incarcerated. I am ashamed of being incarcerated. I am disappointed in myself. I am not using prison to be a pedestal for my toughness. I don’t deny who I am as a person. I don’t deny my history, my present or my future. My future is to be successful in this game right here. I have never seen a skill set that can out-match mine and I have never had to use all my skill sets.”

Mansour, a 41-year-old southpaw, punches with plenty of power and his knockouts are highlight-reel material. They are catch and will grab your attention. Not too many people are noticing Mansour, but they will be watching on Friday when he fights Cunningham. Should Mansour find a way to defeat the more experienced Cunningham, a lot of people in the boxing inner-circle will increase their interest in Mansour.

“Sometimes I need to utilize strength instead of skill,” Mansour added. “I don’t have a padded record. I didn’t have the luxury of fighting a bunch of bums. I have a very talented skill set of boxing. I can box. I can out-box you. You can’t beat me in boxing. I am not letting anyone take my title. I am coming to get you. You are not going to beat me with no jab. You are going to have to come and get this work. We all go through problems with our friends and family but you are not going to take my title. You are going to have to come and get this work. He was a great cruiserweight champion but this is the heavyweight division and that was a few years ago.”

In addition to Cunningham vs. Mansour, Curtis “Showtime” Stevens and Tureano Johnson will meet in a 10-round middleweight fight. Plus, former WBO junior welterweight champion Edner Cherry will be on the show. Tickets are on sale now at the Liacouras Center Box Office and www.ComcastTix.com.

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