Friday night Amir “Hardcore” Mansour, a 41 year old undefeated heavyweight fringe contender, lost for the first time in his professional career against former 200 lb. titlist Steve “USS” Cunningham 27-6 (12) in an early candidate for Fight of the Year. It is hard for any undefeated fighter to experience defeat, especially a 41 year old who lost the majority of his prime athletic years while serving time in prison, however Mansour's performance Friday night did anything but lower his stock in the division.
For 10 rounds Mansour, 20-1 (15), stalked his opponent, firing power punch after power punch with bad intentions. In the 5th round he almost had his moment when he put Cunningham down hard twice. Most observers thought that USS Cunningham was done, but the wily veteran was able to survive and went on to win a unanimous decision in a fight that was closer than the scorecards suggested. A knockdown of Mansour in the 10th saved Cunningham from a majority draw with Dave Braslow and John Poturaj seeing the fight 95-92, while Alan Rubenstein had it 97-90.
Mansour, with his eyes nearly swollen shut and his gas tank nearly empty, kept throwing bombs until the final bell but it was not enough to prevail over a former two-time cruiserweight titlist with an abundance of high level experience. Mansour was game, Mansour was exciting and in the end Mansour was humble in defeat. The question remains, how will this loss effect Mansour's future? From this observer’s eyes, this loss advanced Mansour's future in the division. Fighters lose, it is part of the game. But it is often how a fighter loses that determines his fighting future and Mansour's losing effort might have actually solidified his place as an exciting TV fighter. Promoters will notice his flaws and will be confident in matching their guy up with him and fans will remember his exciting style and tune in to see him fight again. I expect Mansour's team to be inundated with fight offers from the promoters of various prospects and fringe contenders looking to use Mansour as a stepping stone. In the end this is a good result for Mansour, who will only ever be just one punch away from being back in the top 15.
Mansour's attitude also speaks well for his future. In his post fight interview Mansour offered no excuses or blame. He manned up and accepted the loss and surprisingly discerned where he went wrong in the bout. Mansour recognized that he used up his gas tank going for the KO in round 6 and that Cunningham used his experience to trap Mansour and ultimately take control of the fight. Mansour did not blame the judges, his corner or anyone but himself. That in itself indicates that Amir Mansour will learn from Friday night’s bout and will make the changes necessary to his game plan to ensure such a situation does not happen again. It should also be noted that Mansour’s concern for Steve Cunningham's ill daughter displayed what everyone watching the fight already knew: the man has heart.
While Mansour suffered his first loss, he solidified himself as a TV friendly fighter and a class act in defeat. There is little doubt that Mansour ended the night with more fans than he had before the bout and that the new Amir Mansour fans cannot wait to see him in action again.