Interview With IBF
Cruiserweight Champion Steve “USS” Cunningham – Part One
By Tim Donaldson
On January 22, Steve “USS” Cunningham will be defending his
title against Serbian born fighter Enad Licina. The fight,
which will be held in Germany, will be aired on German
television but unfortunately will not be carried in the
United States. Before leaving for Germany, Steve took the
time to talk with me about everything from family and faith
to his life in the ring.
TD. Has the addition of your son Cruz to the family
added motivation for your career?
SC. Yeah of course. If you look at it as having
another mouth to feed, you want to win big and make as much
money so you can provide and put food on the table. But I
mean the motivation is there with or without kids. It just
helps it. You can see the motivation in their eyes. This is
why I get up early in the morning to go run, so they can
have a better school to go to or some of things I didn’t
have when I grew up.
TD. Has having a newborn in the house affected your
SC. No. My wife has been doing a very good job managing the
career and managing the family. I’ve been training at home
for this fight because I didn’t want to miss the birth of my
son. I was present for the births of all three of my kids. I
was right there. I was helping actually. And, I didn’t want
to miss this one. We wanted to go to Big Bear this time, but
we thought my wife was going to give birth and also Naazim
Richardson had the Bernard Hopkins fight in Canada. So we
decided to stay in Philly and train here. I’ve been getting
some great work and some great sparring. It’s a little
different having a newborn in the house again after five
years. But we’re back in the swing of things.
TD. Are you getting up in the middle of the night?
SC. A couple times he’s cried and woke us up. My wife
handles him. I stay up late anyway and get up early. That’s
the type of person I am. So I get my rest during the day and
still work out hard. It’s just another day in the life of
being a father, a parent, and a professional boxer.
TD. Your wife Livvy is also your manager. What do you see as
SC. We chose to make my wife manager for the advantages. The
advantages being she loves me. She’s got my best interest at
heart. No doubt, because they [career decisions] also affect
her. We are a couple. We’re joined together in holy
matrimony. We got kids. So everything that affects me
affects her and the children. Our decisions are team and
joint. We also incorporate our trainer Naazim Richardson and
assistant trainer Buddy Osborne. We’re like a team. We
didn’t just choose my wife just because she is my wife. My
wife also has a marketing degree from Boston University, so
she’s got experience in marketing. She’s been doing a good
job marketing me. We signed with Sauerland Events. We’re
trying to make our names known in Germany. That’s our next
goal. To see what we can do beyond boxing.
TD. Beyond boxing?
SC. There’s a big market in Germany. Just as big as in
America. Sponsorships, commercials, anything that we can get
into over there, we’re going to try. In Germany, we’re on
television every time we fight. In five million homes. And
here in America, I was fighting on undercards and nobody saw
me. There’s a big fan base for me over there. We’re just
trying to capitalize on everything we can while we are
champion and still boxing.
TD. How would you describe the European fans?
SC. Do you remember the way boxing was for us in the 80’s
and the 90’s? That’s the way I see the European fans looking
at boxing now. The major sport they have is soccer or
football. Boxer’s have been becoming big over there through
the amateur programs and the pros. Europe has had their
share of good and great and solid champions. Now they have
the two best heavyweights in the world. They really pack a
stadium. It reminds me of the old school boxing. The way
America used to do it. The promoters over there are
promoting the fights. They’re promoting the fighters. That’s
one thing we’re missing here in America. There’s only a
certain amount of fighters being promoted here and not
boxing. Then there’s certain promoters, HBO and Showtime,
who only promote a certain amount of boxers. Boxing in
America is really getting neglected because you only see the
same handful of fighters on those channels but over in
Europe they’ll put the whole card on. They treat fighters
like they’re doing something different than everyone else,
which is getting in the ring. Everyone else isn’t doing it.
And it’s great.
TD. If you had the opportunity would you still like to fight
in the United States?
SC. Yes indeed. I’m American. I’m United States all the way.
I served in my country’s military for four years. I would
love to build a fan base here in America, but as it stands
now I had to go where the money was, where the attention
was, and where the opportunity was. That was Europe. That
was Sauerland Events. They have the cruiserweight champion
Marco Huck. Poland’s got another cruiserweight champion who
I beat. Cruiserweights are very big in Europe, but in
America the cruiserweights are looked at as step children of
boxing. So I had to go where the getting was good. Lord
willing, we’re going to do some things in this division to
make the networks say let’s put Cunningham on.
TD. Being from Philadelphia, would you like to fight in
Atlantic City or even Philadelphia?
SC. Don [King -- Steve’s
former promoter] doesn’t have a good relationship with the
networks. Atlantic City basically kicked him out. That cut
my chances for fighting in Atlantic City, but I did fight in
Philadelphia once in front of a hometown crowd on the
Bernard Hopkins undercard. I fought Demetrius Jenkins. I
beat him in front of the hometown crowd. Other than that,
I’ve been traveling the world. I fought in South Africa,
fought in Poland twice, Germany. I was being sent to
wherever Don had a show or needed a fill in.
TD. Do you feel accepted by the European fans?
SC. I get a lot of feedback through Facebook, through my
website, through emails. The feedback I get over there is
very good. We were out before my last fight against Troy
Ross in Berlin shopping in the mall. There were some people,
Oh that’s Steve Cunningham. I was like wow. I don’t get that
at home. We got swarmed at the airport after the Huck
victory. They had to escort us to the gate because we almost
missed our flight from signing so many autographs and that
was awesome. Don’t get me wrong. I am not in this for the
fame. I do this to bring glory to my God, to make money for
me and to have a better life for my family. But it is good
to be recognized for what you do.
TD. You are very outspoken with your beliefs. How does your
faith help you with the boxing or even other struggles in
SC. I believe in Jesus Christ. He’s my Lord and Savior. I’ve
been born again in Christ Jesus since 2000, and that’s what
pulled me through my career and my life. You know my
daughter was born with half a heart. My daughter Kennedy,
she’s five right now. She had to have three surgeries. She’s
got one more to go. She’s doing great. My faith pulled me
through that. Knowing what the Bible says about me and how I
am supposed to think in these situations has totally helped
me. And it tells me I can do all things through Christ which
strengthens me. That strengthens me. My faith is key.
TD. I know you have said that you want to fight the other
cruiserweight champs. How important is it to you to unite
SC. It’s the number one goal for me in boxing right now.
That is my goal. That is what I am fighting for. That is
what I am pushing towards. That’s it right there. You got
Guillermo Jones of the WBA, Kryzysztof Wlodarczyk WBC, Marco
Huck WBO, and those three guys I beat. And you got me with
the IBF and Danny Green with the IBO. You got all these
cruiserweight champions, with a piece of the cruiserweight
championship. But The Ring Championship is the linear
championship that says you are the man in the division and
that’s what I’m fighting for. That’s what I want. And we’re
working hard to get it. The only way to get it is through a
unification bout. So let’s do it.
Part two: More on Steve’s goal to unite the belts, on
working with Brother Naazim Richardson, the Troy Ross fight,
the upcoming Licina fight, and his thoughts on a rematch
with Tomasz Adamek.