So, I'd only previously seen Cunningham's two fights with Yoan Hernandez. When Cunningham tweeted that he was moving up to Heavyweight for his next fight, I thought 'Awesome! A 6'3" muscular Cruiserweight with amazing boxing skills moving up to Heavyweight!' So, I tweeted Cunningham back, saying 'I think you've got what it takes to be the next Great American Heavyweight. Good luck. :)' to which he re-tweeted and thanked me. Kinda made my day.
But, I saw comments on other forums.. saying 'Cunningham has no chin,' 'Cunningham has no defense,' 'Cunningham has no power,' and so on. So, I thought I'd watch all his fights. I heard some of his losses were close decisions - could've gone either way. He clearly has a great resume on paper. Fought all the current Cruiserweight champions. Only loss was to Adamek.
FYI, in the Hernandez fights, I scored both of them as losses for Cunningham.. with the first one being a loss due to the single knockdown. The second fight I scored a loss due to the two knockdowns.
Here we go!
vs Guillermo Jones: [Cunningham by 10 round decision]
Cunningham with wild shots, a good counter, getting hit by jabs. Bad defense, keeps dropping his hands. Guillermo Jones has a long jab, as you'd expect. Cunningham has way faster hands. After the first round, Cunningham has pretty much figured out that the only thing that Guillermo is going to throw is that jab. Cunningham has awkward but effective bodywork. It's like he steps forward into an uppercut, but it works. Cunningham tagged constantly by Guillermo just because his hands are down. I had Cunningham winning it 6 rounds to Guillermo's 4 rounds. I could've also seen it a draw or Guillermo winning by 2. It was a really close fight. Cunningham had speed, combinations, no power, and no defense. Guillermo had nothing but long arms and a little more weight behind his punches.
vs Krzysztof Wlodarczyk 1: [Wlodarczyk by 12 round decision]
Well, Wlodarczyk's strategy was to come inside and land good hooks and uppers, as well as overhand rights. And it almost looked like Steve's strategy was to jab, throw 1-2-1 combos, and circle. But he didn't circle. He just backed straight up, backed into the ropes, and clinched, and then when Tony Week's wouldn't split them up, he pushed. And uh, pretty much repeat this for 12 rounds. It was infuriating/sickening how much Cunningham would clinch and push, and Tony Weeks really never even warned him. He DID however warn Wlodarczyk twice for spitting out his mouthpiece, and said if he did it again he'd take a point. I really think Weeks should've taken a point, probably as early as round 3-4. Having said that, Cunningham did win nearly every round. He'd jab, 1-2, throw hooks, a rare bodyshot, and just pile up hard shots on Wlodarczyk. And then Wlodarczyk would close in, and Cunningham would hold, grapple, push, and resume. In a few rounds, Wlodarczyk basically said 'screw this' and just pummeled him and refused to be clinched. And in one or two rounds, Cunningham actually tried to trade inside. I almost thought it was a fight. Then it went back to grappling and pushing. I had Cunningham winning 7 rounds to Wlodarczyk's 5 rounds. I could've also seen a draw and been OK with it. I don't really see a world in which Wlodarczyk won the fight, however. But again, and I can't say this enough, Tony Weeks really needed to warn Cunningham strongly, and take a point. It was ridiculous.
vs Krzysztof Wlodarczyk 2: [Cunningham by 12 round decision]
This fight was really weird, but also, almost a repeat of the first fight. Cunningham easily bossed the first 4 rounds, and looked amazing. His combinations were better, he threw punches in bunches, he combo'ed high-to-low and side-to-side. He had a good double/triple jab, and was just beating the shit out of Wlodarczyk. And then at the end of round 4, Wlodarczyk took a knee, maybe he was off balance? Hard to see what hurt him, I can't believe he got wobbled by a jab. Even more weirdness, in round 5, the round only lasted 2 minutes. Nobody seemed to notice but the announcers. Wlodarczyk looked better in the fifth, so I gave him the round. In round 9, there was actually a 1 minute stanza where they traded on the inside. It was great. In round 12, Wlodarczyk knocks Cunningham down with a hard punch, but it's ruled a slip. No slow-mo replay.
Now, having said all that..... the pushing clinching in this fight was atrocious and disgusting. Cunningham was never warned or deducted a point. But, I kind of counted on this, so kept a running count. The number of clinches or pushes initiated by Cunningham [and he was the only one initiating them] was 130. Any given clinch took 4 seconds to break up. So across 12 rounds, they spent about 45 seconds in any given round grappling and clinching. It was truly terrible. Glen Johnson was a nice addition as an announcer, but his commentary was ridiculous. 'Steve Cunningham is doing the right thing. He is fighting a smart fight. He is doing a wonderful job.' Ugh. I had Wlodarczyk clearly winning 6 rounds, with Cunningham clearly winning 4 rounds. There were two rounds that could've gone either way. There was a knockdown in round 4 by Cunningham that was really weird, and there was a knockdown in round 12 that should've been counted for Wlodarczyk. So if I was scoring as hard as I could for Wlodarczyk, I would have it 8 rounds to 4 with the knockdown canceling each other out.
If I scored it as hard as I could for Cunningham, it would be a 1 point decision in his favor, with the knockdown being the only deciding factor. Really, they should've had a 3rd fight to settle it, but the first two sucked so much ass, I can see why they didn't. At this point, I'm incredibly unimpressed with Steve Cunningham.
vs Marco Huck: [Cunningham by 12th round TKO]
REPRESENT GET KRUNK! Oh god. Cunningham came out to this song in Germany. WTF. LOL. Huck would not stop making his pecs bounce up and down during his intro. Round 1 was slow, but round 2 these boys start throwing BOMBS baby. Huck to the head, Cunningham to the body. German language highlights between rounds are pretty biased - only showing Huck landing power shots. This fight has a ton of pushes and clinches, it's just messy as hell. Huck pushes Cunningham down no less than 7 or 8 times. However, I kept my clinch count going from last fight. 70 clinches in 11 rounds and 2 minutes. I *WILL* however say that Huck initiated or caused 1/3 of them. A counter hook in round 5 from Cunningham almost knocks Huck's block off while he is doing one of his flurries. Huck's ear bleeding like a motherfucker in round 7. It looks busted open, it's just pouring blood down his neck and side. Round 12, Huck takes 10 unanswered power shots in a row, and the ref stops it at the same time the towel is thrown in. Cunningham by TKO. If the fight had gone on 1 more minute, I would've had Cunningham winning 8 rounds to Huck's 4 rounds. This fight was better than the last one.. but a few things became evidently clear..
#1. Cunningham can only work off the jab at mid-range
#2. Cunningham has poor stamina
#3. Cunningham cannot deal with guys who fight on the inside, so he will clinch them every time
vs Tomasz Adamek: [Adamek by 12 round decision]
Nobody lands a punch for the first 45 seconds. Uneventful first round. 2nd round is even, because Cunningham won the round, but Adamek downed him at the last second. I personally feel it was a clubbing shot to the top of the head. Additionally, Cunningham was completely unhurt. Had to watch round 3 a couple of times. Cunningham won it with his jab. Cunningham just ruining Adamek in round 4. And then Adamek drops him out of nowhere. Had Cunningham winning, and then Adamek downed him. Cunningham not hurt again. Or is he? He doesn't do shit in round 5. Announcer says 'Adamek has one-puncher power, Cunningham does not.' lol. Cunningham steals round 5. Cunningham did more in the last 30 seconds than Adamek did in the first 2:30. Cunningham with an amazing triple jab in round 6. Cunningham steals the round with his jab, as Adamek does nothing. Cunningham just drilling Adamek and Adamek just keeps marching forward. Jeez. Cunningham winning round 8, nailing him with bombs, and Adamek drops him with a bomb. Jeez. Another even round! These boys going to war in round 11! A remarkably low count of clinches this fight - only 13. So I had Cunningham winning 9 rounds, with 3 rounds being even - because I had Cunningham winning them before Adamek downed him, making a 9-9 round in my book. If I had to do it on a 10-point-must system, I'd score those rounds 10-9 for Adamek, thus making it a 6-round Cunningham decision instead of a 9-round decision. Cunningham threw more, landed more, and landed with more impact. Even if I scored those 3 rounds 10-8 for Adamek, I don't see an Adamek victory or even a draw.
vs Wayne Braithwaite: [Cunningham by 12 round decision]
This fight was pretty terrible. Braithwaite seemed to give up trying to win after round 2. Braithwaite started slow, but had an impressive flurry in round 1. Braithwaite also won of the earlier rounds by just being incredibly aggressive and forcing action. Braithwaite also suddenly tried to win the 12th round, which he did. Aside from having ridiculously giant pecs, that is where the story ends for the shorter, timid Braithwaite. He couldn't close the distance most of the time, and when he did, he forgot why he got there - didn't punch. The entire fight was just Steve Cunningham working the jab. That's it. I had Cunningham winning it 10 rounds to 2 for Braithwaite. I kept the CompuClinch going, and it was up to 23 clinches by the end of the fight, all initiated by Cunningham.
vs Troy Ross: [Cunningham by 5th round TKO]
Cunningham keeping distance in this fight with his long jab and Ross circling and circling. I had Steve Cunningham winning 2 rounds, with Troy Ross winning one due to better combinations. Also, Ross got a balance knockdown on Cunningham.. but Cunningham was winning the round up until that point, making that round a draw. At the very beginning of the 5th round, Ross got an incredibly minor and un-dangerous cut due to a punch, and the ref jumped right in and stopped it. Total BS. I couldn't even see the cut it was so small. CompuClinch for this fight.. 12 clinches, all from Cunningham.
vs Enad Licina: [Cunningham by 12 round decision]
I was actually pretty impressed with this fight. The Serbian Enad Licina showed up to fight.. he kept doing this odd little glovespin thing with his guard, and kept coming in at awkward angles. From the 2nd round to the 7th round, Licina kept slipping and blocking all of Cunningham's shots. Really impressive. Licina tired out in the 8th however, and let Cunningham steal most of the remaining rounds on points. This was a pretty good fight, which is nice, because his last two fights sucked ass. I had Cunningham winning it by 7 rounds to 5 for Licina. CompuClinch for this fight was at 12 clinches all by Cunningham.
Adding a little bit of fat to his frame, as well as adding some muscle, could help Cunningham's endurance and power issues, but not by leaps-and-bounds. He did pretty much always show up to the ring as skin-and-muscle. His chin strength could, also, theoretically improve slightly - but again, not by leaps and bounds.
However, the one thing that won't improve, is his inability to fight on the inside. The only thing he does is keep fighters at the end of his jab - which is honestly amazing. He has an amazing double and triple jab. And he occasionally drills in a right hand to the face, with some decent body work. But he is completely unable to work on the inside. He just clinches.
Unless he is fighting at his own mid-to-long range, he doesn't know how to fight. Moving up in weight won't help with that, and frankly it is a critical flaw.
I will say that by all appearances, after Cunningham switched trainers to Naazim Richardson, he seemed to clinch less... but I don't have access to the Hernandez fights currently to do a CompuClinch.
So I guess the jury is out. We will have to wait and see how Cunningham does at Heavyweight after he puts on some fat and muscle. Maybe he'll look great. Maybe he'll look the same as he was at Cruiserweight, and get knocked out.
We will have to see. But I'll hope for him. America needs a shining star at heavyweight.