Steve Cunningham twice won world titles in the cruiserweight division before doing what most cruiserweights eventually do, which is move up for greater glory and money at heavyweight.
A heavyweight since making the move in 2012, Cunningham has gone 4-3-1, which is a deceptive record.
In his second heavyweight fight, Cunningham rematched with Tomasz Adamek and lost a split decision that most believed he won. Then Cunningham faced Tyson Fury, who held an enormous size advantage. Even though Cunningham was eventually knocked out in the seventh round, he nearly knocked Fury out in the second round.
Then Cunningham, who is usually in crowd-pleasing fights, reeled off three wins in a row against a lesser group of opponents, although he survived three knockdowns in a slugfest with fringe contender Amir Mansour.
Cunningham then lost a decision to Czar Glazkov in March, one of the worst decisions of the year. Cunningham won and was robbed badly. And in August, Cunningham battled to a draw with former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver in a fight many thought Cunningham won. The result of that bout is now even more in question following the disclosure on Monday that Tarver tested positive for synthetic testosterone, a banned substance.
It can easily be argued that Cunningham’s heavyweight record should be 7-1, with only the loss to Fury being unquestioned.
But Cunningham, who weighed 204 pounds against Tarver and has never been above 210, sees the writing on the wall and has decided to return to the 200-pound cruiserweight division and pursue a third world title.
“I’m probably going to fight in January, and I’m going back down to cruiserweight for the simple reason that I just don’t feel these judges are viewing me as a heavyweight,” Cunningham told ESPN.com on Monday. “Take the Tarver and Glazkov fights. I lost the Glazkov fight and then got the draw against Tarver. I felt I won both of those fights. A lot of people felt I won those fights, so I think maybe the judges just aren’t seeing me as a heavyweight. I’m weighing in at 204, 205 pounds [for heavyweight fights], so I can make weight at cruiserweight.”
The 39-year-old Cunningham (28-7-1, 13 KOs), who is always in superb condition, said he spoke recently to adviser Al Haymon and his wife, Livvy Cunningham, and they all agreed.
“We said, Let’s go this way, let’s go back to cruiserweight,” he said.
A big reason is that Cunningham, of Philadelphia, believes that with Haymon and the Premier Boxing Champions platform, he can get good fights in the United States rather than do what he did during his cruiserweight heyday, which is fight regularly in Europe, where most of the action was in the weight class.
“We don’t have to go to Europe anymore. That was a reason I came up to heavyweight in the first place, so I didn’t have to keep fighting in Europe,” Cunningham said. “We can make decent money fighting here. We still can make some good money. The heavyweight option is open, though [for the right fight]. I’m a prizefighter, but I do want to win a world title a third time be it, as a cruiserweight or heavyweight.”