EXCLUSIVE: 12 Rounds with cruiserweight Steve Cunningham

Steve Cunningham

📸 Rich Graessle

“I want to fight whoever thinks they are the best in my division” – Steve Cunningham

Steve “USS” Cunningham earned his nickname from his four year stint with the US Navy in the mid 90’s, serving on aircraft carriers USS America and USS Enterprise.

Steve Cunningham is the latest former world champion to participate in the World Boxing News ’12 Rounds’ interview series.

During his early boxing career, Steve won the national Golden Gloves title at 178 lbs in 1998 and amassed over 60 amateur fights before turning professional in 2000.

His first pro fight was a split decision victory over little known Norman Jones at Jarrell’s Gym in Georgia, Jones was also fighting in his debut professional fight and has since gone on the challenge for the US Light-Heavyweight twice. Losing both times.

Steve followed up his debut victory up with another points win over Robert Marsh before embarking on eight fight knockout streak, five of which were first round demolitions.

After extending his unbeaten run to 19-0, including another split decision win, this time over current WBA Cruiserweight Champion Guillermo Jones, Cunningham travelled to Poland in November 2006 to face hometown boy Krzyszof Wlodarczyk for the vacant IBF Cruiserweight Title.

Steve lost the bout on a hotly disputed split decision in which one judge, Charles Dwyer had Cunningham winning the bout 119-109 but the other two had Wlodarczyk just shading the contest, inflicting Steve’s first loss and therefore declared the Pole the IBF Champion.

Following the controversy, it was announced that Steve would be granted a rematch, which would again take place in Wlodarczyk’s native Poland on May 26th 2007.

The Champion took a count in round four as the bout again went to the scorecard’s but this time justice prevailed as Cunningham won a majority decision 114-114, 116-112. 115-112 and took the IBF crown back to the USA.

Even though Steve was the champion and could basically fight where and when he wanted to, he decided to travel to Europe once again and face unbeaten German challenger Marco Huck on his home turf, which is a testament to the man and yet another indication that “USS” will take on all comers.

The move paid off for Steve and he retained his version of the title against the talented and previously unbeaten challenger, grinding the young German down and eventually stopping him in the twelfth round with Huck out on his feet.

It was made even more impressive for Cunningham after Huck went on to claim the WBO version of the title in 2009 and remains a possible future opponent for Steve in a revenge unification rematch.

In December 2008, Steve took on another European challenger and another Pole in Tomasz Adamek, the former WBC Light-Heavyweight Champion who was unbeaten in four cruiserweight contests since moving up after losing his light-heavyweight title to Chad Dawson in February 2007.

The fight took place at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey and in a close contest, Steve lost his title on another split decision, which was remarkable because Steve was knocked down in second, fourth and eighth rounds.

Steve picked himself up after only his second career loss and in July 2009 took on former WBC Cruiserweight Champion Wayne Braithwaite in an eliminator for another shot as his coveted IBF Belt.

Cunningham dominated Braithwaite and came out of the contest a convincing 118-110, 117-111, 119-109 winner to gain himself a rematch with Adamek and another chance to regain his IBF Title.

In August 2009 though, Tomasz Adamek announced he would be moving up to the heavyweight division and decided to vacate the IBF crown rather than face Cunningham in a rematch.

That meant another trip to Europe for Steve and a shot at the now vacated IBF Title against Canadian former Commonwealth Champion Troy Ross on the 5th of June 2010 in Germany.

Despite being knocked down in the fourth round, Steve won on a Technical knockout decision because of a bad cut to “The Boss’” eyelid, which was caused by a right hand from Cunnigham and was detected at the beginning of the fifth, which meant that the fight was called a TKO victory for the now three-time IBF Cruiserweight Champion.

With Cunningham holding the IBF version, Wlodarczyk now holding the WBC belt, Guillermo Jones the WBA and Marco Huck the WBO strap, Steve is the prime position of having beaten all three of the other main champions and surely will be looking at a unification clash next time round.


(ROUND 1) How did you first get into Boxing Steve?

I Started boxing in whilst in the Navy and just carried on from there

(ROUND 2) What was you amateur record?

I don’t really remember, I think I had around 60 bouts and lost 8 or 9 of them.

(ROUND 3) Who influenced you as a young boxer?

No-one really, I wanted to fight and win. That’s all.

(ROUND 4) Toughest opponent you have faced?

Sebastian Rothman (Steve won on a majority decision)<

(ROUND 5) Who do you want to fight in the future?

Whoever thinks they are the best in my division

(ROUND 6) Which fight do people ask you about the most?

The Adamek fight, because it was so close even with the knockdown’s and they ask why there was no rematch but Adamek moved up to Heavyweight.

(ROUND 7) Best fight you have seen?

Derrick Ennis v Gabe Rosado here in Philly, it was a Philly fight and it was crazy!

(ROUND 8) Favourite all-time boxer?

Sugar Ray Leonard

(ROUND 9) Whats your motivation?

Knowing what the bible says I am and can do

(ROUND 10) What would you change in boxing?

A lot, the business side of boxing is crazy and the control the TV networks have over the fight game is madness. Fighters move up the rankings because of who their manager is and not because of who they beat. I could go on and on.

(ROUND 11) Do you think you will move up to Heavyweight Steve?

That’s highly possible Phil, I have some things I want to accomplish at cruiserweight first, then we will see.

(ROUND 12) And Lastly, tell us something we don’t know about Steve Cunningham…

I am currently working on a comic book about myself, making me a super hero travelling the world fighting supervillains. 

I am drawing it mainly myself, I have created the characters and it will be coming soon. Also, I am taking part in a new Super-Six Cruiserweight tournament in which the WBC Champ is in and I know Huck is in, plus Yoan Hernandez also, that’s all I know as of now.