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  Interview With IBF Cruiserweight Champion Steve ďUSSĒ Cunningham Ė Part Two

By Tim Donaldson

Part two of the interview picks up with Steve discussing those he will have to fight to unite the belts and become undisputed champion in the Cruiserweight division.

TD. Do you think some of the title holders are trying to avoid you?

SC. How can you avoid trying to be the best? Take a guy like Huck, for example, I beat him. I stopped him in the twelfth. Heís very prideful. Heís very young. He wears his heart on his shoulder in his interviews. I think heís a little delusional with some of the things he says. But you take a guy like that who has a fan base out of this world in Germany. Heís probably the second most popular dude in Sauerland Events. He gets a lot of television, so a guy like him wanting a unification bout, I donít see that so much. Heís getting his fame. Heís getting his money. Heís getting his attention. But of course he wants another shot at me to attempt to beat me. But I wouldnít say that anyone is ducking me. I think these guys would love a rematch because they know itís money. And thatís the cruiserweight division. And any of them to get the Ring belt, they have to go through me.

TD. Is the partnership between you and your trainer Brother Naazim still a close one?

SC. Oh yeah. Iíve known Brother Naazim since about í98. When I was an amateur fighting through the United States Navy, I was stationed in Virginia, and I would make it to these national tournaments. Iíd see the Philadelphia team or the team from Pennsylvania, and Iíd hook up with them. And I met Rock and Tiger, his sons, and Yusaf Mack and a few other Philly guys that were fighting at the time. You see something special in Naazim and his guys from the beginning. Thereís just a discipline there and the skill level is there. So when I moved back to Philly in 2000, I called Naazim to have him train me. He told me he had Bernard at the time. He had his hands full. He didnít want to put me through that yet. So I was like ok cool, and I moved on. But I am just thanking the Lord that I was able to hook up with Naazim. My only regret is that I wish I had Naazim for the Adamek fight. It would have been a little bit different. And thatís all it needed to be, just a little bit different. Naazim is like a father figure, a big brother, a fighter, a trainer. Heís everything mixed in one. We have so much fun in camp. We learn. We learn from each other. I feel Iíve gotten so much better under his tutelage, and Iím ready to show the world Steve ďUSSĒ Cunningham.

TD. In what ways has Brother Naazim made you a better fighter?

SC. On one major level, mentally. He sees in me things that I didnít know were there. He says you can do this, you can do that. And I am like are you sure. And we do it. And itís like wow. And weíve been doing it consistently. Heís made me a better fighter just off of confidence alone. And then strength, endurance, and intelligence in the ring. Thereís just so much more. Like I said, I donít think the world has seen the best Steve Cunningham yet.

TD. In a couple weeks you will be fighting Licina. In his last fight, he had little trouble with Felix Cora Jr. Do you anticipate a tough fight?

SC. Well, at this level, you better anticipate a tough fight every time. Because Iím the champion and this might be this guyís only shot. This is his [Licinaís] first world title shot. And if you were fighting for a world title, youíd train harder than youíve ever trained before in order to get that. Thatís how Iím looking at it. Iím looking at it as this guy is coming in the best shape he can. Iím putting it in my mind that Iím fighting the best cruiserweight in the world, and I got to beat this guy. I have to prepare for that. I believe we are doing that. Weíve done it. And itís going well.

TD. Do you feel that there is anything that gives you the advantage in your upcoming fight with Licina?

SC. The one thing that I learned from the Adamek fight is your advantages can make you prideful. What you think are your advantages can make you prideful, and you can get knocked down three times. Going into the Adamek fight everyone had me picked to out box him and beat him. I knew he couldnít out box me, and he didnít. We set out to try to stop him. We saw Chad Dawson out box him. I can box like Dawson also; Iím a good boxer. So we knew we were going to out box him. Also that was my first big fight in America, so I wanted to be impressive. We were trying to get some big shots on him, maybe we can KO him because we saw Adamek go down with Briggs and get wobbled. So my advantages were my boxing ability, and I am a natural cruiserweight. I went in there expecting to win a little more than usual. Iím going to beat this guy. I worked hard. I can do this. And you see what happened. It became a real close fight. Some may argue that I won, but he got the nod, the official nod, so he won. Looking at Licina, any of my advantages, Iím not harping on them. Iím looking at whatís the weakness, and I built that up. So he might get beat with a weakness, and that might look like the advantage. Who knows? God knows. I know I am going to bring my best and work hard and retain my title.

TD. The press seemed divided on the outcome of your fight with Troy Ross. Were you happy with your performance in the fight?

SC. I was totally happy with my performance, except for the knockdown. He scored a nice shot. The shot caught me as I was going back, and it caught me on my collarbone and chin because my chin was tucked. Very good shot. We all know that Troy Ross is a very skilled fighter. Heís got some power and speed. So we were expecting a war. We expected a tough fight. We also were expecting to utilize our game plan and our game plan was to do what we did. We controlled the early rounds. We didnít expect him to move as he did. He utilized the ring a lot. He was keeping his distance. He changed it up from his last fights. He moved a lot, and I was able to catch him with some good shots. I caught him with a very big left hook in the first round that wobbled him. Caught him with another shot in the second round. I felt I was controlling. Then the knockdown occurred. I was like alright. This is part of the job. This can happen. I wasnít hurt. I wasnít stunned. I got back up. I expected him to jump on me thinking I was hurt. I threw a looping right hand that missed. Then I threw a straight right to the body. Then he came jumping in and I threw a right to his head. He got cut. Now, one thing that people donít realize is that I didnít know that he was cut from part of the glove of the thumb until we got off the plane in America. We heard that he was protesting. In the fight, I threw the punch. I threw a straight right hand, and he comes up cut. And we mix it up. Iím trying to make the cut bleed a little more. I land a couple more right hands on it on the inside. Then the ref stops the fight, so according to boxing rules, if a guy gets cut and he canít continue, TKO. Thatís boxing rules. It happened to Lennox Lewis in the Klitschko fight. Whereís the beef about that? And Lennox retired after that. There should have been way more flack for that than what I got for Ross.

TD. Why do you think you took so much heat for that cut?

SC. I understand my position. You got Troy Ross who fought on the Contender series, which went into millions of homes every week. He got the sympathy of the masses because people got to know him. We understood that after the fight. Here it is Iím just doing my job. I threw a punch. I didnít stick my thumb out and put it in his eye. You show me any fighter that can do that, that trains to do that and does it. We did get a lot of flack for it, but we did our game plan. And any boxer can tell you we train to do that. Why do you think we train to push that punch over? So it can cut. Stop the fight early. You want to win that fight soon as possible. Like I said, we didnít know it was from the thumb part of the glove hitting his eye. He had the protest, and the IBF ruled that any part of the glove above the wrist is glove as long as the fist is balled. My fist was balled. Iím not disappointed about that fight. The only thing Iím disappointed in was getting knocked down. Thatís what put in a lot of peopleís mind Troy Ross wouldda, couldda, shouldda. Well, we could all wouldda, couldda, shouldda until Jesus comes back. To my credit, you saw me go down in the Adamek fight three times and get back up, so that shouldnít be your mindset. You should say wow there is about to be a war. So there you have it. I have no problem giving this guy a rematch. I told him become the number one contender for the first time. Then, he was number four and number three, and he got a shot. So fight the eliminator then I have to fight you. Right now, there are other fish to fry. I got plans. I canít just divert my plans because of what you want. Adamek didnít do that for me, so move on. Fight your way back up.

TD. Would you still like to have a rematch with Adamek?

SC. Oh yes. I truly would. I would, just to avenge a loss. I believe I would beat him. I believe I would do much better than the first time. My defense is better. Everything is different, so everything is better. Who knows, maybe in the future I may go up to heavyweight. Weíll see. We may be able to rematch there. But if I went up to heavyweight, it wouldnít be to chase Tomasz Adamek. Heís got his career, and I have mine. Heís not chasing Chad Dawson. He didnít stay at light heavyweight. Heís moved on. Iíve moved on. But if we meet in the future that would be great. It would be great for the fans, but it would be awesome for me. I did what I needed to do to solidify the rematch at cruiserweight, and he vacated the title and moved to heavyweight. Weíll see. Who knows what the future holds but God.

TD. Did you feel cheated when he moved up to heavyweight?

SC. We kind of knew that was going to happen because as Tomasz said heíd do the rematch but he wanted to get paid. And what champion doesnít want to get paid. Youíre champion now thatís when you make your money. As he said, if HBO was interested, heíd take the fight. And you wouldnít want to take a hard fight that you could possibly lose and not get paid for it. Who wants that? What champion wants that? Who wants to go into a tough rematch where they almost didnít win the first time, even with knocking the other guy down three times, making a $150,000? Nobody. Truthfully, I would have fought Adamek for $25,000. I am that confident. But it wasnít about money. It was just about beating him and getting my titles back. But itís a business. This is how we make our living.

TD. Steve, I would like to give you the last word.

SC. Iím out at the gym as usual, working hard with Brother Naazim. Iím learning more stuff. Iím still learning which means you still have a lot more to see from Steve ďUSSĒ Cunningham. And in Jesus name I want to be a long reigning cruiserweight champion and represent the United States, no matter where I fight, in America or Europe. Thank you.


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