Boxing: Steve Cunningham

Cunningham rallies to outlast Mansour

April, 5, 2014
4/05/14
1:20
AM ET
Steve CunninghamRich Graessle/Main EventsSteve Cunningham rebounded from a pair of knockdowns in Round 5 to outpoint Amir Mansour.
With his family in need and his heavyweight future hanging in the balance on Friday, veteran Steve Cunningham was forced to dig deep against unbeaten brawler Amir Mansour.

Then, with the fight hanging in the balance entering the 10th and final round, the 37-year-old reached back for even more.

Cunningham, who was lucky to survive a pair of brutal knockdowns in Round 5, rallied to score one of his own in Round 10 to secure an exciting, unanimous-decision win over Mansour at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia.

Fighting in front of his home fans for just the second time in his career -- and first since 2003 -- Cunningham (27-6, 12 KOs) needed every bit of support to earn the victory, by scores of 97-90 and 95-92 (twice). ESPN.com also had it 95-92 for Cunningham.

The win was extra sweet considering the two-time cruiserweight titlist was fighting for money to help pay the medical bills of his 8-year-old daughter Kennedy, who was born with a congenital heart defect.

"I've got faith, it's all I have," Cunningham said. "I don't have strength, I don't have speed. I have faith in my God."

Fighting against big-name competition for the first time in his career, Mansour, 41, utilized his raw and aggressive style to land a series of wild left hands to take control of the early rounds. Mansour (20-1, 15 KOs) wobbled Cunningham in Round 2 and cut him on the bridge of his nose.

But it was Round 5 when Mansour appeared ready to end the fight. He floored Cunningham on a hard right hook to the chin and later added a second knockdown in the closing seconds following a flurry of right hands.

Referee Steve Smoger gave Cunningham every opportunity to beat the 10 count, and he was lucky to make it out of the round.

"I was all right. I've been down before and got up and won," Cunningham said. "I got lackadaisical because I was really doing my thing. I won't make that mistake again."

Fighting on wobbly legs in Round 6, Cunningham courageously began to bank rounds behind his boxing ability as he made an increasingly wild Mansour miss repeatedly before countering with his right hand.

But with Mansour's eyes badly swollen and his balance and technique gone by Round 10, Cunningham sealed his comeback by dropping his exhausted opponent with a flush overhand right.

"I was getting in there and talking to him and using mind tricks," said Cunningham, who outlanded Mansour 117 to 110, according to CompuBox. "He wasn't built for 'USS' Cunningham."

Stevens stops Johnson in final round



Trailing on all three scorecards, hard-hitting Curtis Stevens entered the final round against unbeaten Tureano Johnson in need of something dramatic.

He got it.

[+] EnlargeCurtis Stevens
Larry Levanti/Main EventsCurtis Stevens rescued victory from the jaws of defeat with a 10th-round TKO.
In a stay-busy fight that had quickly turned into a nightmare, Stevens provided a dramatic finish to a sure-fire fight of the year candidate by rallying to score a TKO over Johnson at 2:09 of Round 10.

Both fighters had repeatedly traded heavy punches at close range for nine grueling rounds. But Stevens (27-4, 20 KOs) was finally able to break a determined Johnson by badly hurting him with a left hook in the final round.

Stevens responded with a flurry of punches, including a hard right hand as Johnson was pinned against the ropes, causing referee Gary Rosato to jump in and wave off the fight. The stoppage elicited a series of boos from the Philadelphia crowd, which felt it was too early.

Johnson (14-1, 10 KOs), 30, who forced Stevens to fight at a breakneck pace from the opening bell by smothering him and attacking to the body, was ahead by scores of 87-84 and 89-82 (twice) at the time of the stoppage.

"I was looking for the knockout so much I never set it up the way I was supposed to," Stevens said. "But it came, better late than never. He smothered me a lot. He did what he was supposed to.

"But I got the knockout late and did what I was supposed to do."

Stevens hurt Johnson with a series of heavy right hands in Round 5 but was unable to take over the fight at any point. Johnson, who set the tone in Round 1 by attacking and turning the fight into a brawl, showed a tremendous chin by trading toe-to-toe with Stevens throughout and simply outworking his opponent.

Fury comes up big against Cunningham

April, 20, 2013
4/20/13
6:58
PM ET
video
NEW YORK -- Heavyweight Tyson Fury promised to call it quits if he failed to look impressive Saturday against Steve Cunningham in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Fury can continue fighting. He knocked out a game, but much smaller, Cunningham in the seventh round to improve to 21-0 as a professional.

But Fury might want to tone down the volume on his trash talk. Though the win will look impressive on paper, there were several moments during the fight when he was anything but.

Cunningham exposed a flaw in Fury’s game during the second round: His chin is suspect. A right hand to the jaw did the damage. That punch did more than just put the 6-foot-9, 250-pound slugger on the seat of his pants; it momentarily halted his swagger.

Gone was the smirk that Fury wore on his face throughout the buildup to this title eliminator. He was extremely confident going into this fight, even suggesting that it was disrespectful to put Cunningham in the same ring with him.

But for a brief period, Fury probably wished he could take back that promise of retirement.

After returning to his feet, Fury remained a bit woozy. His balance was a little off, his punches lacked the sharpness of the first round, and he was holding on tightly for his professional boxing life.

Fury regained his confidence after a solid fifth, even attempting to entertain the fans in attendance with a dance before the start of the sixth round. Most in the crowd, however, did not approve of his dancing skills, booing loudly.

Though his confidence was back in full force, and his punches were again finding their intended target, the damage to Fury’s reputation had been done. That didn’t prevent Fury from still regarding himself as the best fighter worldwide.

“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Fury told ESPN.com when asked if he is still the best fighter. “Nothing went according to the game plan. My entire game plan went out the window.

“And I turned it into a dogfight. The fighter in me came out tonight.”

But Fury isn’t nearly the fighter he thinks he is. And it’s time he put that silliness to rest.

While on the subject of best fighter in the world, Fury might consider putting an end to the talk of taking on UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.

That fight isn’t going to happen, and it no longer deserves media attention each time Fury mentions it. For now, Fury needs to focus on becoming the best boxer in the heavyweight division.

As far as Cunningham (25-6) is concerned, Fury isn’t close to being the best heavyweight boxer at this time.

“He’s a good fighter,” Cunningham told ESPN.com. “His size is his advantage. He did what he is supposed to do, which is be the big man.

“But he is not the best man in the world. That’s my opinion. I mean, I’m 6-foot-3, 208 pounds. If he didn’t do a little damage to me, then he should do like he said and retire.”

There is no need for Fury to retire. He won this fight by knockout, though not nearly as impressively as he promised.

But based on the holes exposed in his game by Cunningham, a former cruiserweight champion who isn’t a power puncher, Fury might want to tighten his defense and never utter the word "retirement" before a fight again.

Fury is a good talker, but that won’t earn him best-fighter accolades. He has to accomplish that feat in the ring.

Tyson Fury: Mixed martial arts is rubbish

April, 18, 2013
4/18/13
1:47
PM ET
Tyson FuryAP Photo/Seth WenigTyson Fury hasn't won a major title, but he proclaims himself as the best fighter in the world.
NEW YORK -- It's not a debatable issue: heavyweight contender Tyson Fury is extremely confident. He's also arrogant, saying whatever comes to mind at any given moment, not caring whom it offends.

When it involves fighting, Fury has a lot to say.

Though he is undefeated in 20 professional bouts, with 14 knockouts, Fury doesn't hold a major title belt. So what? That hasn't prevented him from proclaiming to be the world's best fighter.

"The belts don't mean [anything] to me," Fury told ESPN.com on Wednesday. "I'm the best fighter in the world."

This statement is far-reaching. When Fury speaks of being the best fighter alive, his remarks aren't limited to boxers. Fury directs his comments to all combatants. And yes, mixed martial artists are in the equation.

UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez has been squarely in Fury's crosshairs for a while. He has been targeting Velasquez for several months, but Fury's taunts have yet to ruffle the champion's feathers.

A bout agreement has yet to materialize, but that hasn't stopped Fury from continuing his verbal assault.

"Absolutely, one hundred-million percent," the 24-year-old Fury said of his desire to fight Velasquez. "I've challenged Cain Velasquez to a fight three times. He's a little boy who doesn't want to fight. He said no, live on TV."

Fury participates in a title eliminator bout Saturday (NBC, 4 p.m. ET) in The Theater at Madison Square Garden against former cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham. The victor fills one sanctioning body's vacant No. 2-contender spot.

If Fury continues winning (he's favored in Saturday's fight), it will be good for boxing in the short term, and possibly the entire fight game down the road. You see, Fury will never be satisfied until he is universally recognized as the best fighter on this planet -- including mixed martial artists.

When Fury talks of being the best fighter today, he wants it made clear that Velasquez is part of that mix. There is no merit to proclaiming yourself the best fighter when you haven't fought all the best fighters.

Fury is well aware of this fact. It's why just the mention of Velasquez raises his blood pressure.

There is no doubt in Fury's mind that he would destroy Velasquez in a fight -- whether it's under boxing or mixed martial arts rules doesn't matter to him. The 6-foot-9, 250-pound Fury simply wants a chance to prove his point.

"I would take Cain Velasquez out," Fury said. "MMA, to me, is bulls---. It's for people who can't box and like wrestling on the floor. It's rubbish.

"I'm going to show on Saturday what I'm all about, why I'm this confident and why I'm here to fight."

Fury never minces words, and he isn't one to take shortcuts. Calling out Velasquez, or any MMA heavyweight, will keep him on the hot seat for a long time.
But he couldn't care less. Fury always raises the ante.

"I'm going to finish this here and now," he said. "If this man gives me a good fight, I swear on Jesus' name I'm going to retire after the fight. Because I ain't going to be nothing like I say I'm going to be if I can't do a job on this man. I'll retire if I don't stop him.

"If I don't impress with a good performance against this man, I will retire. I'm not going to fight. Game over. I will retire on live TV.

"I mean it. I'm not here to play games."

That last line isn't directed solely to Cunningham or professional boxers. It's also intended for mixed martial artists, especially Velasquez.

Fury is always willing to put up, because he won't shut up until he's considered the best, bar none.

Hopefully Fury will get his chance to face Velasquez. If he continues beating the best boxers, maybe his opportunity to compete in UFC will come sooner rather than later.

Cunningham unfazed by all Fury's sound

April, 17, 2013
4/17/13
8:01
PM ET

NEW YORK -- If arrogance was the sole measure of greatness, then heavyweight Tyson Fury would be considered for induction to the International Boxing Hall of Fame right now.

The fast-rising contender has 20 professional fights under his belt, all victories -- 14 by knockout. Those figures alone generate curiosity in the 24-year-old, but they're even more enticing in a 6-foot-9, 250-pound power puncher.

Fury, though, is looking for much more than a casual look from boxing enthusiasts. He wants full recognition as the best fighter in the world. And when Fury perceives that he isn't being acknowledged in such fashion, he lashes out.

So on Wednesday, during a press conference to generate interest in his elimination bout with Steve Cunningham, a former cruiserweight titleholder, Fury took his arrogance to new heights.

He looked at Cunningham with disdain and commented about him in the most disrespectful manner. Fury is furious that he has to share the ring with Cunningham on Saturday [4 p.m. ET, NBC] in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

And that was before he became aware that Cunningham's promoter, Kathy Duva, intended to toss a coin to determine which fighter would walk into the ring first and be introduced second. That's when Fury let it all hang out: He believes he deserves to be the last man in the ring and last to be introduced.

"There is only one star, and it's not Steve Cunningham," said Fury, of the U.K. "This is the Tyson Fury road show, and we are bringing it to New York.

"Steve Cunningham is the opponent here. He's not the champion. He's not the man. He is not undefeated. This is all about me. Me! Me! Me!

"I'm the man to beat," Fury continued. "I'm the best heavyweight on the planet. Steve Cunningham is an opponent, a stepping stone."

Caught off guard, Duva could muster only a nervous chuckle. Fury's immediate rejection of her attempt at fairness -- Cunningham is 25-5 (12 KOs) and likely to attract a large contingent of followers from his hometown of Philadelphia -- left Duva no choice but to place that coin in her purse.

But like it or not, Fury -- fighting for the first time in the United States -- does have a strong case. Cunningham, 36, is fortunate to be fighting in an eliminator after coming up short in three of his four most recent outings.

Yet here he is, just two wins from landing a title shot -- not bad for a guy who has a 1-1 record at heavyweight. The winner of Saturday's showdown moves into the No. 2 contender slot of one of the alphabet organizations, and is then expected to face current top-ranked contender Kubrat Pulev.

Heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko likely will defend the belt against whichever fighter is standing when the smoke clears. Cunningham, of course, believes he'll be that man, despite the tough talk from Fury.

"He can't match my speed," Cunningham told ESPN.com. "He can't match the wisdom that I've acquired over the years. I've been fighting for 12 years, a pro for almost 13."

Fury is bigger, stronger and longer than Cunningham. He can get away with a mistake here and there; his massive bulk will easily allow him to absorb most of Cunningham's punches -- especially early. The diminutive Cunningham -- 6-foot-3 and a shade over 200 pounds -- doesn't possess the same luxury.

"He beats me in size, height and weight," Cunningham said. "But we all know from the story of David and Goliath that size means nothing. It's about your knowledge, how you use what you have.

"Size doesn't matter. And I'm here to prove that."

Cunningham is partly correct. Fury's size won't matter Saturday if he fails to check his arrogance and take the man standing across the ring from him seriously. Then Cunningham might pull off an upset.

If not, expect Fury to win by unanimous decision.

Adamek-Cunningham II: Sweet, then sour

December, 22, 2012
12/22/12
8:05
PM ET
Steve Cunningham got robbed on Saturday.

There, I said it. And I won't be convinced otherwise.

Why? Because the decision of the judges to award Saturday's heavyweight bout in Bethlehem, Pa., to Tomasz Adamek was, simply, wrong. Was it as egregious as the theft some say was dealt to Manny Pacquiao at the hands of Timothy Bradley Jr.? Perhaps not. But it was a decision that was shared by a small minority -- a minority of two, namely the judges who tabulated their confusing numbers and awarded Adamek a bewildering split decision.

For Cunningham, there was nothing but tears after his fistic mistrial, while for Adamek this must have been the most unexpected of gifts for the holiday season.

But it's a result that is likely to leave more than just a bitter taste in the mouths of those who watched it. Instead, the residue of this fight will be a plethora of questions with little hope of any forthcoming answers.

For the second network-televised fight in as many weeks -- the first in more than a decade -- any person who tuned in would undoubtedly have been thrilled and entertained. Amid the ritual and seemingly endless hullabaloo surrounding boxing's questionable officiating, one thing must not be forgotten: This was a great fight.

Adamek is routinely half of a great scrap whenever he climbs through the ropes, while Cunningham played a perfect matador to Adamek's aged bull in a rematch of a dazzling 2008 battle. But when the fight was over, any fan who let out a "Wow!" at the final bell must have uttered another word when the final scores were announced: "Why?"

Seriously. Why?

Why was the fight awarded to the fighter who consumed jabs all evening in the most gluttonous of fashions? Why is the winner the man whose defense deteriorated from being merely negligent to nonexistent as the rounds wore on? Why is the loser the fighter who gradually was able to time his opponent's jab like a bejeweled Swiss watch? Why does boxing always find a way to trip over itself, even when presented with the golden opportunity of strutting down a red carpet rolled out so lovingly by network television for the first time in epochs?

Saturday night is unlikely to have deterred the dedicated fans of the bittersweet science in any way. After all, they've seen worse. How sad.

But to the casual fans who enjoyed feasting on the passionate and physical encounter put on by Adamek and Cunningham, both of whom are blameless in this situation, how could they not be turned off by the result? Well done, NBC, for giving boxing a shot. Credit to Adamek and Cunningham for delivering on the promise of thrills. But last -- and not least -- credit (if that's what it can be called) must go to the judges for ruining all of these things for the rest of us.

Saturday's result reaffirmed one thing: Boxing can be the most delicious of apples. But too often, you devour it only to find a worm burrowing inside. And the trouble is, you'll always remember the worm.

SPONSORED HEADLINES