By Danny Winterbottom:
When a fight ends in controversial circumstances the best solution to rectify the perceived wrongs is an immediate rematch. That’s exactly what happens on Saturday February 4 at the Fraport Arena in Frankfurt, Germany, when Cuban southpaw Yoan Pablo Hernandez (25-1) defends his IBF cruiserweight title against American veteran Steve Cunningham (24-3). Sauerland events promote and Boxnation televise live in the UK. The Ring Magazine belt is also on the line.
Back in October last year the pair clashed in a contest that saw Cunningham dropped heavily in round one, only to recover and take over the fight before two cuts to the face of Hernandez caused by head butts forced referee Mickey Vann to stop the fight before the start of round seven. To the surprise of most observers Hernandez was awarded a six round technical decision and became the new champion.
“It was the wrong decision to stop the fight” said Cunningham at yesterday’s weigh in. “All I ask for on Saturday is a level playing field, he’s a good fighter but I am better. I will prove I’m the best cruiserweight.”
The 35-year-old Philadelphia native is back in Germany with revenge on his mind. “That’s my belt, it’s coming back to me, you better hug it, I am the real champion. Nobody is going to help him this time”, stated the fired up challenger.
Cunningham, a former two time IBF champion, lost his unbeaten record after a 19 fight winning streak when he faced tough Polish fighter, and current WBC boss, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk in 2006 for the vacant IBF strap, before exacting revenge six months later in the rematch. The first defence of his title saw him stop Marco Huck in the eleventh round, a win that looks more and more impressive, before suffering the only other loss on his resume against world class Tomasz Adamek by split decision.
Bouts of inactivity have plagued the career of Cunningham in recent years, but with only three months separating the first meeting and Saturdays clash, he should be right on the money. Not that the champion seems worried. “His words don’t bother me” explained Hernandez. “He’s American and Americans talk a lot, were used to it”
The 27-year-old Cuban exile and former Olympian now lives and trains in Germany under the guidance of Ulli Wegner, and has only one loss on this record to hard punching Wayne Braithwaite back in 2008. The rest of his resume doesn’t suggest that he can out box a sneaky veteran like Cunningham but he does have power from his southpaw stance that could prove the deciding factor if he lands clean. “Cunningham is a good fighter but I deserved to win the first fight and I will beat him again. If there were any doubts I am the better man those will be erased on Saturday”
The challenger is coming into this fight with the mindset that he was “Jobbed” last time, but that could be a slanted view of what actually occurred on the night. Cunningham was down heavily and badly shaken in round one and could easily have been stopped but he used his experience to recover well and start to implement his boxing skills. That isn’t to say Hernandez wouldn’t have caught up with him again.
I see this fight following a similar pattern to the first with the champion starting strongly before Cunningham finds his range and begins to take over in the middle rounds to take a close but unanimous point’s victory.
The co-featured main event sees Enad Licina (21-3) and Alexander Alekseev (22-2) clash for the vacant European cruiserweight title, whilst European light heavyweight boss Eduard Gutknecht (22-1) defends his title against Vyacheslav Uzelkov (25-1)