Steve Cunningham: The Philadelphian Pugilist
Interview with undefeated cruiserweight contender Steve Cunningham
Interview by Benny Henderson Jr. (November 2, 2004)
Undefeated cruiserweight contender Steve Cunningham, 16-0 (9), wants the boxing world to know that he is ready, willing and able to be the world champion he has set out to be. The 28-year-old Philadelphian had a stellar amateur career with around fifty-five amateur bouts and was the Regional Champion three years straight and the 1998 National Golden Gloves Champion at 178 lbs. His dream was to fight in the Olympics but he missed the trials due to having to hold down a job to make ends meet. Now his professional career has begun and he is ready to build up to that championship status which he so hungers for. And Cunningham believes that through his faith in God, his extremely fast hands and his unrelenting work ethic, combined with his braintrust and trainer Richie Giachetii along with his promoter Don King, he will be the undisputed cruiserweight champion. Cunningham came out of the darkness and into the light with a win over South African based fighter Sebastian Rothman back in May of this year that placed him in the World Boxing Organization's top ten and he holds spots in the WBC and WBA’s top fifteen. His most recent bout was on the undercard of the Mayorga-Trinidad showdown where Cunningham was supposed to fill in for the injured Jean Marc Mormeck and fight Wayne Braithwaite. But when Team Braithwaite turned down the bout for reasons of their own, Cunningham instead took on and stopped Forrest Neal in the fourth round by the way of TKO. His next bout is on the under card of the Riddick Bowe bout on November 13th against an opponent yet to be announced.
Only time will tell if Cunningham can follow in the footsteps as his boxing heroes Floyd Mayweather Jr., Chris Byrd, Bernard Hopkins, and Oscar De La Hoya, but for the fighter known at 'the Philadelphian Pugilist' it won't be for lack of trying. The fast rising contender stopped by the Doghouse to talk about his future in the ring and what it takes in his mind to accomplish the title of World Champion.
Benny Henderson Jr.: How was it to fight in such a venue as Madison Square Garden on the under card of the Mayorga-Trinidad bout?
Steve Cunningham: I was just thinking about that today, it really hit me. I was thinking like man, that is where everybody wants to fight, that’s where the Nicks play. New York is the capitol of America I don’t care what you say. [Laughs] But it was great, I can’t say that I always dreamed of doing that but, but doing that was just awesome. And to have that on my resume and say that I was able to fight at the Garden is off the hook.
BH: Were you nervous or excited, what were you feelings walking in the ring entrance?
SC: I’m always kind of nervous but it isn’t scary nervous but my body getting ready for battle nervous. I am like ok, I have to do this and be right, that type of nervous, the kind of nervous that will keep you on your toes. If a fighter tells you he isn’t nervous, he is either lying or he has lost it. That nervousness keeps you on the edge and to stay sharp.
BH: You are ranked #9 in the World Boxing Organization, when are you going to step up and start fighting the guys in the top ten and make the run for the title?
SC: I fought in South Africa last May he was a top fighter, that fight got me #7 in Ring magazine beating Sebastian Rothman, that put me in the top thirteen and up across the board. This fight here in Madison Square Garden they actually called me to fight Wayne Braithwaite because Jean Marc Mormeck got injured. Of course we took the fight because we believe we can beat him, but they didn’t accept the fight they didn’t take the fight. So Don said Cunningham stepped up to the plate and Braithwaite didn’t so we are going to put Cunningham on the card also.
BH: You traveled to South Africa and beat the hometown guy. When you fought him did you have to fight the hometown crowd as well?
SC: Well the good thing about it is that the people South Africa are a mixed culture, of course you have you Africans, you have the Asians and Indians there was a bunch of different races there. Actually they really loved us because we were from America, they really liked us and were friendly with us, and actually some of the people were coming over to me asking me to kick the other guys butt. [Laughs] I was fighting the hometown crowd and the judges weren’t in my favor but I like being the underdog and that motivates me. I knew I had to go over there and really look good and put the work in to let them know that there is no way you can rob me if this goes to decision.
BH: You said that you were actually going to take Mormecks place in the Braithwaite fight but they didn’t accept the fight, did they give a reason?
SC: We were told that his people said that they were training to fight Mormeck and not training to fight me and I was 15-0 so why would they fight me for because Braithwaite wanted to unify the title and I’m undefeated. Basically they didn’t want to take a chance, which is a good business move but I think if you are a champion you should step up to the plate to fight whoever steps up to the plate also. He was just looking for a guy to beat up on, and I am like you are the champion, you have a legitimate cruiserweight here that maybe not right now but will be in the next six months in the top three. But you know they have been watching me anyways so I was surprised he didn’t take the fight because they were saying that Wayne thought that he would knock me out. So I am like whatever, knock me out or at least try too. So what is his problem, he thinks his power is going to take him all they way, of course it will take you some of the way but you need to know how to box. This is called boxing not power punching. [Laughing]
BH: What inspired you to box?
SC: Growing up in Philadelphia well when I was growing up it was before the guns and all the drugs and every teenager had a gun that is how we fought. In school we would play games like slap boxing and body punching, that was our pastime games, it was just a lot of boxing. I went to the Navy when I was seventeen and fought on the Navy boxing team and beat the Navy light heavyweight champ in my first amateur bout and it took off from there. Then I become the National Golden Gloves Champion in 1998 and I really just wanted to go to the Olympics.
BH: Whom in the cruiserweight division would you like to step in the ring with?
SC: To tell you the truth there is nobody in particular, it doesn’t matter to me because it is like I don’t care about Wayne Braithwaite or Jean Marc Mormeck or even Kelvin Davis, the only thing I care about is the tiles that they have. If anybody else has those titles then it would be them I would be asking for. So whomever it is whom can help me get to that #1 contender position to fight for those titles, that is whom I want to fight. So any of them above me, I don’t care. This is boxing and I am going to be the undisputed world champion and I believe that I can beat everybody that comes in front of me.
BH: What is your best asset as a boxer?
SC: First off I am a thinker, I like to use my brain, and my movement. Movement destroys a lot of these guy’s styles because they can’t handle a guy whom is in shape and is able to move for ten to twelve rounds. I train to get better as the rounds go on, not to get weak and guys can’t handle that. The movement and the smarts are my man key.
BH: What is your training regime?
SC: When I am at home I try to run as much as I can like three or four times a week. I go to the gym every other day when I am at home, so either I am running or in the gym when I am at home. You have to have that mentality to stay in the gym or on the road. But when I am in camp it is every day expect for Sunday of course. I run long distance three times a week and a couple of day I do sprints, anything to get the heart rate going. My main thing is you got to put in that roadwork, that is what carries you over the top.
BH: There are a lot of guys whom say they will be the next great champion. What separates you from all the other boxers that say that?
SC: What separates me is my faith in God and knowing that I can do anything that I set my mind to do. Number two it is the drive the work ethic. I do things that I know other guys aren’t doing, I’m jumping up hurdles and jumping up hills; I do anything, I put a lot into extra work. I believe that I am doing more than what the average guy is doing and if I feel like I am not then I will do more. My faith in God has brought me this far and it will take me farther. God will put nothing on you that you can’t bare and I believe that every guy I fight I can beat. It is done, I go in the ring with faith and know that I can beat this guy. I will not come out with nothing less than a W.
BH: What can the fight fans expect from you the next year or so?
SC: In the next year or so they can basically expect me on a big scale, the world title. On a smaller scale a smaller title like the USBA or the NABF at the least with in the next year, that is basically it right there.
BH: Anything you want to add to this?
SC: One thing for me now that I am top rated and more people are starting to know me and I am in the limelight now and getting out of the darkness I have to do more work and when I become world champion I will have to keep working hard because there are going to be guys like me trying to come up and take my title. So I have to do more work to get better and stay better.
BH: Anything you want to say to the fans?
SC: The only thing I can say to the fans is keep supporting your favorite boxer just because he might look bad in one fight or lose because a lot of people don’t know what goes on behind the scene with the training and how hard it is. Especially with the ones who have a family and are working other jobs and box. Just keep your eye on boxing and your eyes on your boxers and support them.
I would like to thank Aron Bloom for helping with this interview. I would like to a give shout out to Steve Cunningham for his time and thoughts and his lovely wife Elizabeth for her help. I had a great time and made a good friend. THANKS!
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