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  Interview With IBF Cruiserweight Champion Steve ďUSSĒ Cunningham Ė Part One

By Tim Donaldson


On January 22, Steve ďUSSĒ 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 didnít have when I grew up.

TD. Has having a newborn in the house affected your training?

SC. No. My wife has been doing a very good job managing the career and managing the family. Iíve been training at home for this fight because I didnít 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 didnít 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. Iíve been getting some great work and some great sparring. Itís a little different having a newborn in the house again after five years. But weíre back in the swing of things.

TD. Are you getting up in the middle of the night?

SC. A couple times heís cried and woke us up. My wife handles him. I stay up late anyway and get up early. Thatís the type of person I am. So I get my rest during the day and still work out hard. Itís 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 the advantages?

SC. We chose to make my wife manager for the advantages. The advantages being she loves me. Sheís got my best interest at heart. No doubt, because they [career decisions] also affect her. We are a couple. Weíre 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. Weíre like a team. We didnít just choose my wife just because she is my wife. My wife also has a marketing degree from Boston University, so sheís got experience in marketing. Sheís been doing a good job marketing me. We signed with Sauerland Events. Weíre trying to make our names known in Germany. Thatís our next goal. To see what we can do beyond boxing.

TD. Beyond boxing?

SC. Thereís a big market in Germany. Just as big as in America. Sponsorships, commercials, anything that we can get into over there, weíre going to try. In Germany, weíre on television every time we fight. In five million homes. And here in America, I was fighting on undercards and nobody saw me. Thereís a big fan base for me over there. Weíre 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 80ís and the 90ís? Thatís the way I see the European fans looking at boxing now. The major sport they have is soccer or football. Boxerís 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. Theyíre promoting the fighters. Thatís one thing weíre missing here in America. Thereís only a certain amount of fighters being promoted here and not boxing. Then thereís 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 theyíll put the whole card on. They treat fighters like theyíre doing something different than everyone else, which is getting in the ring. Everyone else isnít doing it. And itís great.

TD. If you had the opportunity would you still like to fight in the United States?

SC. Yes indeed. Iím American. Iím United States all the way. I served in my countryís 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. Polandís 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, weíre going to do some things in this division to make the networks say letís put Cunningham on.

TD. Being from Philadelphia, would you like to fight in Atlantic City or even Philadelphia?

SC.
Don [King -- Steveís former promoter] doesnít 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, Iíve 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 thatís Steve Cunningham. I was like wow. I donít 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. Donít 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 your life?

SC. I believe in Jesus Christ. Heís my Lord and Savior. Iíve been born again in Christ Jesus since 2000, and thatís what pulled me through my career and my life. You know my daughter was born with half a heart. My daughter Kennedy, sheís five right now. She had to have three surgeries. Sheís got one more to go. Sheís 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 the belts?

SC. Itís 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. Thatís 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 thatís what Iím fighting for. Thatís what I want. And weíre working hard to get it. The only way to get it is through a unification bout. So letís do it.



Part two: More on Steveís 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.



 

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