Steve Cunningham will tonight get his chance to regain his IBF World Cruiserweight title in a rematch with Cuban Yoan Pablo Hernandez at the Fraport Arena, Frankfurt, Germany.
In one of the upsets of last year, Cunningham lost his title to Hernandez in a fight that was controversial for both fighters.
In the first round, Cunningham was caught with a massive counter-left hook that sent him flying across the ring. However, the count appeared slow and Cunningham was able to continue after an eight-count. Cunningham was clearly on unsteady legs and managed to break dance until the end of the round.
The Hernandez corner angrily complained at the end of the round. Matters boiled over when Cunningham's trainer Naazim Richardson dropped a water bottle in the corner. This took time to dry up and provided Cunningham the extra time needed to clear his head.
From then on, it was all one-way traffic, with Cunningham landing shots on Hernandez at will until an accidental head-butt in the third round resulted in Hernandez being badly cut.
Although the fight continued, the contest was stopped in the sixth round when it was felt that Hernandez could not continue with the injury. After a confusing few minutes, the fight went to the scorecards and Hernandez was declared the winner by split decision (2-1).
A clearly disillusioned Cunningham stormed from the arena, but a rematch was agreed soon after.
In boxing, there is always the chance that a flash knockdown can occur or a loose lucky punch can catch any fighter unaware.
Although Hernandez proved to be an effective fighter, the general consensus was that Cunningham completely underestimated his opponent and paid the price.
If the first fight had completed the full 12 rounds, it is quite likely Cunningham would have won and would be looking for a bigger challenge.
As it is, Cunningham has the chance to learn from his mistakes in the first fight. If the bout continues in the same way it left off after the sixth round, Cunningham will be tested but should reclaim his title.
Hernandez has power and should be aiming to catch Cunningham early and stop him as quickly as possible. If he goes past three rounds, he may tire like before and will be less of a threat as the fight continues.
Prediction—Cunningham wins by TKO in the final three rounds.