Thursday, 23 February 2012

My interview with Steve Cunningham - February 2012

Steve Cunningham chats with Ring News 24 ahead of his clash with Yoan Pablo Hernandez
Written by Ryan Kinzett Thursday, 02 February 2012 08:04 You fight Yoan Pablo Hernandez again on February 4th. How has preparation for this fight gone?
Steve Cunningham: It’s gone real good. I got the proper sparring, proper gym setting and team. Everything’s going exceptionally well. I been ready for the fight for a while, I don’t get out of shape.
I was very excited to get the rematch so I been working out since then which I didn’t need to because I wasn’t out of shape and actually ran the risk of overtraining. But I feel great. Your loss to Hernandez was very controversial. Does this give you any extra incentive to win the rematch? 

Steve Cunningham: Yeah, it does. From what happened in the last fight, you know I’m still very angry. You got a situation where Hernandez is calling himself the champ and the ratings have him above me. But in my mind I’m still the champion, I didn’t get beat. It’s very infuriating seeing him call himself the champion. That’s much needed, useful energy for me in camp and in the fight for me. You know I seen other fighters get their belts back because of unfair situations. The IBF have acknowledged it was unfair but we still have to consider him World champion which is unfair in my mind. Nobody can deny you are willing to fight anybody as you often fight guys in their own backyard. Do you think more guys should show the same willingness to fight away from home to get fights signed and sealed? 

Steve Cunningham: You know it depends. With my situation, I have to go abroad to fight. When I was a kid when I thought of boxing and boxers and I thought of World champions I thought that is what you did as World champion. I’d get to travel the World, you have to go here and go there. It’s a business. I didn’t understand it was a business until I became a professional boxer and experienced the corruption in this business. It can be unfair to the fighters; everybody else is making big money and having more say than the actual fighters. We’ve seen fighters turn this around to a certain extent like Oscar De La Hoya and Bernard Hopkins, you know guys who become promoters. If we could get fair shakes and we knew we would get fair shakes it would be great to say guys go fight in Germany, go fight in Russia, go fight in Australia, go fight here and there, get the experience, go visit these great countries. I think it’s beautiful. I’ve been to South Africa, I been all over the place and had some very great experience in my travels. But when it comes to my experience of fighting in somebody else’s backyard, look at my first fight in Poland, I was robbed fighting for the title. It was so blatant I got a rematch and had to go back and beat Wlodarczyk and win the title. And when I fought Huck, before I got the KO, one of the judges had him winning which is unbelievable. My advice to guys who are going overseas to fight, you gotta fight like you’re trying to destroy the guy. Is there a particular reason to why you have fought in Germany a number of times instead of the USA which has a bigger boxing scene? 

Steve Cunningham: Because the networks in the USA just aren’t interested in the cruiserweight division for some reason. It’s really ridiculous to me and mind boggling. I have to put food on the table. When was the last time HBO showed any cruiserweights? Lateef Kayode is only being shown on TV because he’s trained by Freddie Roach. In Europe, cruiserweights are still respected and it’s still a proper division. It’s on TV over there, the money is there and so the fights are there. I’d love to fight in the USA, you know. I feel I’m the best cruiserweight in the World. Fighting abroad makes my resume look better. I’m a champion who’s beaten all the other champions and travelled the World doing it. Have you found a good fan base there, and what are the main differences between fighting in Europe and the USA? 

Steve Cunningham: The fan base is there in Europe. In the USA, I just went to the Andre Ward-Carl Froch fight and a lot of people recognised me. But, in Germany, I went to one of Marco Huck’s fights and man I was swarmed! It was awesome. I’d say the difference between US and European fans is in Europe fans can be quieter. It can be quiet until a shot is thrown and then people get excited. In America, everybody’s yelling instructions, you know, your cousin’s mom’s brother is telling you to double jab. Lol. The fever of boxing in Europe is like how it was here in the 1980s. They love boxing. It’s not just about Floyd Mayweather. Boxing is on and they want to watch it. That’s what I really like about fighting in Europe, boxing is boxing and that’s how it should be around the World. Whereas in America I think it’s often about the big names that constantly appear on HBO. It’s like there’s nobody else except those few names. And that hurts boxing. Fans are missing out on great talent which could be future stars if they got the opportunity. The fact that you’ve been an American world Champion who is also a former Military man, with a decent promoter, a good style and a willingness to fight anyone, common sense says you should be huge in the USA. In most countries you would be huge; do you know why you aren’t a major star in the USA?

Steve Cunningham: There could be a few reasons maybe. I was with Don King for 8 years and he promotes himself, not his fighters. In America fans know who I am but I don’t think I’ve been promoted right. I was in the navy so maybe I should be bigger. Race might play a part too. I mean I think networks in America sometimes still think the majority have to be comfortable with you. If you got the wrong background maybe it’s not good to televise you. That’s a possibility. I don’t know what it is because you know I train hard, I work hard, I’m a former World champion, and I was in the military. Maybe they want to see more knockouts. I mean Mike Tyson went in there and kicked butt. I try to get the KO but I go in there and do what I need to do. Also, in some countries the fans follow their fighters everywhere. In Poland, Germany, UK, South America boxers are still big. In America, I think there are other big sports like basketball, football, baseball... My aims are to go in there, get the win, feed my family and give the fans their money’s worth. That’s it basically. What are your future plans at cruiserweight? Do you hope to unify the division? 

Steve Cunningham: When I won the title the second time, we tried to set up a fight with the WBC champion Wlodarczyk. We signed a deal with Huck’s promoter, not just to get a fight with Huck, but because Sauerland Events do a great job. It was an easy decision to join them. But I found out that fight wasn’t going to happen. Huck wasn’t ready to fight me again at the time and was making good money so why put him in with an African-American fighter who doesn’t speak German? Because if I beat Huck, they couldn’t really sell me like they could Huck. I don’t know what happened with the Wlodarczyk fight but that didn’t happen. The cruiserweight tournament fell through. So we then contacted Danny Green’s trainer but they told us that wasn’t a fight they were interested in. I was like how can I unify the division if guys aren’t going to fight me? Antonio Tarver beat Danny Green so I contacted Tarver through Twitter and he’s saying the fight isn’t worth the risk. It’s unbelievable, these guys are champions but don’t want to fight like champions. There are some great fighters at cruiserweight right now. With the success of the Super 6 tournament would you like to see a similar tournament take place at cruiserweight and would you like to take part? 

Steve Cunningham: I was the first to sign up to the proposed cruiserweight super 6 that Sauerland mentioned. I felt it was great for exposing me to more fans and I seen what it’s done for Andre Ward and Andre Dirrell. I’d love to take part but it’s not going to happen now because they couldn’t get everyone signed up. There has been talk of you moving up to heavyweight. What are your views on this? 

Steve Cunningham: It’s a possibility. What cruiserweight wouldn’t want to go up to heavyweight? I’m 6ft3; I walk around at 200lbs. I’d only need to put on another 10-15lbs of muscle. I’d take a crack at it for sure. I’d be confident of going up there, making a lot of noise and even becoming a World champion. I’m not going to just move up to heavyweight to be a heavyweight. At the moment I’m a cruiserweight.  Your fight with Tomasz Adamek was thrilling and brilliant to watch as a fan, do you think you deserved the decision that night? 

Steve Cunningham: I thought it was going to be a draw to be honest. I thought I could have won. People said he knocked me down three times but I didn’t feel as though he won much outside of the knockdown rounds. I thought it would be a draw because I was the champion and I got up each time. I mean even in one of the knockdown rounds I was beating him for 2 minutes. I wasn’t mad at my performance that night because I gave 100%. It was a great fight. I’d love a rematch. Aside from yourself, who would you class as the best cruiserweight out there right now? 

Steve Cunningham: I say Guillermo Jones. A lot of people might say he looks a bit out of shape but he’s very crafty, smart and intelligent. He’s fought a lot of good opponents and he’s still champion. He’s one of those smart minds in boxing. He’s an elite cruiserweight. Why didn’t a bout against David Haye get made while you were both at cruiserweight? And does it bother you that David Haye refers to himself as the former undisputed Cruiserweight Champion of the World even though he didn't fight you for the IBF world title? 

Steve Cunningham: In 2008, I was told a fight with Maccarinelli was being looked into. Then Maccarinelli fought Haye and Haye beats him. I was told by my promoter we would try to fight the winner of that fight. So I was like, great! Haye then said he had cleaned the division. I was like what is he talking about! He hasn’t cleaned it out because I have the IBF title. You know, I wanted to fight him. But everybody was saying Haye was the undisputed champion and it was a smart move. He didn’t have the other two belts but fans can’t be expected to keep up with how many titles there are. Then Haye moved up to heavyweight. You have fought a who's who list of opponents, who would you say has been your toughest fight to date? And which would you say was your biggest win to date? 

Steve Cunningham: My toughest I’d say was Sebasitaan Rothmann in South Africa. The altitude where we fought in Carnival City was off the chart. I think it was something like 9000 ft. I was there for a month and it still affected me during the fight. It was like fighting two people. It was really unbearable and I wouldn’t want to do it again but I came out with the victory. My biggest win I’d say was against Marco Huck. Not just because of who he is today and all of his defences. When I beat him he was undefeated and he’d just beaten Tokarev who was meant to be the next big thing. I had to go to Germany to fight him in even though I was the champion. Behind the scenes there was all the trash talking and I don’t do that. You know I grew up in Philly and where I come from only punks trash talk. I kept my mouth shut and did what I had to do and I got the 12th round TKO. You're now 35. Do you feel as fit as ever before or do you think retirement might not be too far away?

Steve Cunningham: I was in the Wladimir Klitschko camp for the David Haye fight and we’re the same age. We were talking about our age and we both said at the same time: I feel I’m getting younger! We both agreed. People talk about our age but you know I live boxing. I’m always in shape and I don’t feel as though I need to stop anytime soon. I’m not saying I’m going to be fighting when I’m Bernard Hopkins’ age. Physically, I feel I’m getting younger and I’m literally getting better at what I do. I know what my limits are and I’m still learning even now. I’m in the best shape of my career.  I mean it also depends on your situation away from boxing. Are you financially comfortable? Are you happy? Me and my wife are comfortable and secure away from boxing. I got 3 kids, a wife, 2 dogs and a cat! I have to be smart with my money. Do you have any final comments?   

Steve Cunningham: I know UK fans will be watching the fight on Boxnation. So be prepared to see a determined USS Cunningham become 3 times World champion.

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