Steve Cunningham Loses IBF Cruiserweight Title in Controversial Fight

Martin SaltCorrespondent IOctober 2, 2011

Yoan Pablo Hernandez became the new IBF cruiserweight champion after defeating Steve 'USS' Cunningham on a split technical points decision after six rounds in Neubrandenburg, Germany on Saturday night.

The fight was controversial in more ways than one but was packed with incident from the start.

After a lethargic first two minutes from the usually slick Cunningham in the first round, the Cuban challenger caught the champion cold with a thunderous left hook which sent him to the ground.

It looked like the fight was over with Cunningham struggling to make the count. Cunningham wandered and danced aimlessly for a few seconds. However, controversy reigned when it appeared that the mandatory count of 10 lasted much longer, almost 15 seconds.

Cunningham was declared fit to continue and managed to hang on for the last few seconds and finish the round.

Once in the corner Cunningham was doused with bucketfuls of water. Trainer Naazim Richardson deliberately allowed much of the water to be spilt on the floor. At the end of the rest period, Cunningham was given an extra 15 seconds to recover his senses whilst Richardson dried the water from his corner.

During all of this time Hernandez' corner was screaming at the referee for the amount of time that Cunningham was taking. Cunningham came out for the second round looking reasonably refreshed although still on unsteady legs.

Hernandez failed to finish Cunningham off during the second round and the champion then began to pick up momentum.

During the third round, the two fighters clashed heads causing a huge gash on the side of Hernandez's head. Replays failed to determine whether it was accidental. From then on it was all one way traffic as Cunningham pounded the confused Cuban.

During the sixth round Hernandez was caught with a left by Cunningham causing a new cut to appear above his right eye. At the end of the round this damage was enough to convince the English referee Micky Vann that the fight was over.

At this point everyone was confused as to whether Hernandez has been stopped by technical knockout or whether it had been decided to go to the scorecards. After several minutes of arguments the fight was decided on points.

Although Cunningham had gone down in the first round many observers including this writer had the champion as the winner due to the inactivity of Hernandez.

The judges saw different scoring 58-55, 58-55 and 57-56 in favour of Hernandez.

Cunningham and his corner were understandably upset at the result claiming that he had been set up. In reality Cunningham had only himself to blame after being caught in the first with a flash knockdown.

Cunningham will now have to consider his options for the future as it is unlikely Hernandez will want a rematch, unless he is ordered to by the IBF. Hernandez can now look forward to a potential unification bout with WBO champion Marco Huck. Huck will be more than happy to be facing the Cuban rather than Cunningham.

The cruiserweight division is lacking in notable fighters and maybe it is time for Cunningham to make the move into the heavyweight ranks.


On a stacked undercard former world and European middleweight champion Sebastian Sylvester was beaten by Poland's Grzegorz Proksa in a fight for the vacant European middleweight title.

Sylvester was forced to retire with a large cut to the right eye in the third round after the referee decided that he was in no position to continue.

In the other major fight of the evening Karot Murat drew on points with former IBF light-heavyweight champion Gabriel Campillo in a IBF light-heavyweight title eliminator. The fight was a classic slugfest with the result a fair one for both fighters.