While many boxers from around the world look to come to America and get their big break, one American fighter is doing things a little different. Philadelphia native Steve “USS” Cunningham 24-2(12) realised that after just one Television appearance on American airwaves that he needed to change things, so he did just that, making the unusual move of signing with a foreign promoter in the form of German power house Sauerland Events. Fighting abroad is nothing new for Cunningham 34; he’s fought overseas many times. What makes Cunningham more unusual is the fact that he’s also a world champion; he currently owns the IBF Cruiserweight title. However the Cruiserweight division has little appeal in America, whereas it’s one of the show piece weight classes in Europe where all the other champions reside and that is something that certainly interests the former Navy officer, who wants nothing more than to unify the Cruiserweight division. Maybe then America will take notice.
Hello Steve, welcome to 15rounds.com
Anson Wainwright – Firstly you beat Enad Licina in Germany recently. What are your thoughts on the fight & your performance?
Steve Cunningham – Going into the fight with Licina, he was a defensive fighter; he was a pretty good fighter. He won the eliminator, his entry into top level Boxing fighting for the title. We prepared accordingly. The fight was postponed in January from January 23rd to February 12th so we were in Germany for 10 days before we found out it was postponed, then we came back to America and trained and went back 9 days before the fight. When I got there I kind of caught the flu on the first day I got there. I was in bed the Friday, Saturday & Sunday. But I didn’t want to postpone the fight again. So the fight had to go on. So I chose to suck it up. Going into the fight I felt great for the first 3 rounds but come rounds 4 & 5 I felt drained and weak but I still pushed through. I’m pretty happy with my performance in that state, in that condition. I’ve seen the fight I still look sharp, I look good. But on the inside I was hurting. We did everything we set out to do except get the TKO or KO but a unanimous decision with the flu is great in my book.
Anson Wainwright – When are you looking at fighting next?
Steve Cunningham – We have to talk to Sauerland Events, but we want to unify. I want my next bout to be a unification bout. I know there’s been talk about a Cruiserweight tournament and we’ll see what’s up with that but they’ve talked about that for sometime now. I would like to fight again before the end of June, July.
Anson Wainwright – It was your third fight in Germany, you have also fought in Poland & South Africa. How do you feel about fighting away from home?
Steve Cunningham – My experience of fighting abroad is just work harder than you’ve ever worked, train harder, when you get to the fight, fight harder. You take on a totally different mindset. Truthfully in my whole career amateur and pro I’ve only fought at home in Philadelphia one time. I’m used to fighting in other people’s backyards. I believe I was made for this. It means me fighting overseas is suited to me fighting as a professional.
Anson Wainwright – Can you tell us about your team; who is your manager, trainer & Promoter?
Steve Cunningham – My wife Livvy is my manager, we made the decision in 2006. We made some changes, things weren’t getting done by my other manager and this guy still wanted his percentage! My wife being a Business & Marketing graduate from Boston University and she’s been around Boxing from day one with me and we kinda knew some things and learned some stuff and we’re still learning. I signed a promotional contract with Sauerland Events a German Promoter in May of 2010. That was the best suited deal for me. I have a fan base in Europe and here in America I’ve fought only once on television. So the contract and numbers looked different with a European promoter. We saw how Sauerland do their business, they keep their fighters active, they keep their champions active unlike some promoters in America. I made that decision to go abroad and I’m comfortable with it. Now I have my new trainer Naazim Richardson. He’s been helping me for a few years now; this was the third fight I’ve had with him. We’ve been doing great; he pushes me to to the limits I didn’t think I could go. I feel the world hasn’t seen the best of Steve “USS” Cunningham yet.
Anson Wainwright – It has been mentioned that Sauerland are looking to do a Cruiserweight version of the Super 6. What are your thoughts on that and do you know what’s happening with that?
Steve Cunningham – They’ve just been talking. Everybody had to get their mandatory’s out of the way Krzysztof Wlodarczyk fighting Palacios. I had to fight Enad Licina. I’m ready to go to work and start unifying the division. I don’t know what everybody else wants to do but that’s what I want to do.
Anson Wainwright – Bernard Hopkins is also from Philadelphia and shares the same trainer as you. Can you tell us a bit about the relationship you both share; do you spar & train together?
Steve Cunningham – Our relationship is more we see each other here and there and we talk. Bernard’s always giving advice. He’s in his 40’s and he’s giving the pass the torch speech to me Mike Jones, Eddie Chambers guys like that. It’s a relationship of respect. For me I was in the gym when he was getting ready for Pascal and I was able to see him spar and work out while I work out. It was amazing to see the legend in action, throwing punches, sweating in front of me. I’ve never sparred him but I’ve still learned by watching. I treat him the way I like to be treated. I don’t bother him in the gym. When I go to the gym I go to work and he’s the same type of guy.
Anson Wainwright – Bernard is known as a character, do you have any stories you can share with us?
Steve Cunningham – I have one little story. They had a little presentation at the Blue Horizon and Vernoca Michael was the owner at the time, she had a bunch of Philly fighters there. So they called me in the ring and me and Bernard were up in the ring and he tried to snatch my belt from me playing saying “I’ll take this” that was pretty funny.
Anson Wainwright – You’re in a unique position in that you have defeated all the other Cruiserweight champions WBC Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, WBA Guillermo Jones & WBO Marco Huck what are your thoughts on them as fighters?
Steve Cunningham – Oh man as you say I beat Guillermo Jones, it was a split decision victory for me. That fight was a little tough. But he was a very deceptive fighter, you think you can just go in and do that. That was a tricky fight for me. He’s a very good fighter; he’s a very skilled fighter. I think he’s the best of all the guys I’ve beat. Krzysztof Wlodarczyk is a hard hitter, he picks his spot and tries to rough you up. But he’s fought mainly in Poland, so I look and think with my style being able mix it up, box and punch and I figured we’d go over there and beat him. As you know they cheated me the first fight. That’s one of the loses on my record. Then you have Marco Huck he’s strong, he’s a former kick boxer, he’s rough, aggressive. He wants to knock you out with every punch and that’s a dangerous guy right there. But I’d love to fight all of them again. Unification that’s what fighters want to do, they want to be the champion.
Anson Wainwright – You’re from Philadelphia which has a rich Boxing history, can you tell us how you first became interested in Boxing?
Steve Cunningham – I grew up in Philadelphia. It’s a City where we used to fight before people were shooting each other. I grew up in those years where you could just knuckle up and fight a guy and you wouldn’t have to worry about getting shot. I was the new kid on the block, I moved around a lot so I was picked on here and there so I started standing up for myself and fighting back. I got a bit of a reputation in the neighbourhood. Then I joined the Navy and the base that I trained on was right next to the base where the Navy Boxing team was so I just started working out there. I got my first amateur fight age 19 against the Light Heavy champ of the Navy and I beat him. So I was like man if this is what god wants me to do. This was amazing to me,
Anson Wainwright – Can you tell us about your amateur career and what titles you won? Also what was your final record?
Steve Cunningham – I won the silver medal in the 1998 Armed Forces Tournament, I became regional & state champion of Georgia, Virginia. All this was at Light Heavyweight. National Golden Gloves champion in 1998. I think they’re the main one’s. I only won the National’s once. I had 60 something amateur fights and I think I counted 11 loses. It was my learning process, fighting different styles. I fought Daniel Edouard, I believe Tavoris Cloud, Shaun George, DeAndrey Abron, Michael Simms, Donnell Holmes he’s a Heavyweight, there’s a few in the pro ranks.
Anson Wainwright – You served in the Navy from 1994-1998. Can you tell us about this and how it helped mould you as a fighter?
Steve Cunningham – Oh man that was a real difficult time in my life, going from living with my mom, basically going from a teenager to a man and travelling the world. In the military there are a lot of people telling you what to do. The Navy was great, I liked it at times, I hated it at times but overall if was great for my career, it was great for my life actually. If I had to do it again I’d do it again.
Anson Wainwright – Do you see many good guys coming through from Philadelphia, like the new generation?
Steve Cunningham – We’ve got a lot of talent here in Philadelphia, we have a guy called Emmanuel he fights out of the Rock Ministry gym. Khalib Whitmore he’s actually been my chief sparring partner for the past 3 fights he’s very good, very talented. Umm Bear Richardson, Naazim Richardson’s son. There’s so many amateur’s. There’s one kid we call the future, he’s about 11, he’s so smart in the ring it’s unbelievable. We have Steve Cunningham Jnr he’s going to start competing in tournaments in about a year and a half. Philadelphia’s looking good for the future.
Anson Wainwright – What are your Interests & hobbies away from Boxing that you enjoy doing to relax?
Steve Cunningham – We do things with the church, the school or summer camp. I love going down to the Rock Ministry gym to help the kids out there. I play X-Box a lot a lot, I play Call of Duty, now I’m playing Fight Night. I’m drawing a comic book about my career because I can draw. Making me the Superhero and the guys I’ve fought into Villains, its action packed. Hopefully by the end of the year they’ll be on the stands. I’m not really into other sports, I’ll watch them if it’s a big game like the NBA or Superbowl but I don’t really watch Basketball or Football. I watch soccer when I’m in Europe because that’s mainly what they play. I love Brazil, now I’m going to Germany I try to keep up with German soccer teams. But Brazil is my favourite team. We still own a Pizza shop called One Stop Pizza here in West Philly. We’ve leased it out to another couple because it was a little hectic for me and my wife to run it. We have an apartment above which we’re fixing up, doing something else because Boxing won’t be around forever.
Anson Wainwright – Finally do you have a message for your fans?
Steve Cunningham – Keep in touch with me on my fan page on facebook Steve USS Cunningham. Keep us in your prayers and thank you for the prayers you’ve given us and stay tuned!
Thanks for your time Steve.
Midweek thoughts – The Middleweight king Sergio Martinez looked sensational again. This guy just gets better and better…Have to hand it to Cotto he was the epitome of professional…On the undercard Miguel Vazquez retained his IBF crown, he may not be the most exciting of guys to watch but he gets the job done. He’d be a tough nights work for anyone with his style at 135…Over the weekend I finally got chance to watch Alvarez-Hatton. Canelo won easily enough but I just don’t see the star power in the ring that he undoubtably has outside it where he brings legions of fans everytime he fights. It’s going to be interesting to see how he’s matched in June & September the two dates that have been set aside for him. There are an awful lot of tough fights for him at 154 and he’ll have to grow into the title before he goes after some of the bigger names…Adrien Broner took a lot of stick and much of it was warranted, thankfully I only had to watch “highlights” of his fight with Ponce De Leon. I have a hunch that he’ll of learned a lot from that fight and will improve from here on. None of the 130 champions have the look of Superstars or Hall of Famers, I’d give Broner a good shot at any of them.