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
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
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
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
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
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.