[Video] Cunningham v Mansour – Full Recap
By: Ryan Bivins, Contributing Writer
Philadelphia, PA (April 4, 2014) – It’s hardly a sure thing that a card’s main event and co-feature are the two best fights of the night, but it was the case on this night. Television viewers that showed up after 10 PM basically got as much entertainment value as those watching on from The Liacouras since 6:45. The undercard didn’t really produce compelling fights, save the sole upset, but we’ll get to that later. For now we’ll focus on the amazing come-from-behind victories of Steve “USS” Cunningham and “Showtime” Curtis Stevens.
Through 2 rounds it was very nip and tuck between Steve Cunningham and Amir Mansour. A case could be made that either fighter won both rounds or none, reflected by the official cards of judges Dave Braslow (20-18 Mansour) and Alan Rubenstein (20-18 Cunningham). Things didn’t become clear until rounds 3 and 4 when Cunningham became more elusive and outboxed the heavy-handed Mansour. Judges and ringside media agreed that Cunningham was taking control of the fight.
And then came round 5. Cunningham got a little too comfortable and Mansour nearly took him out with a double right hook as Cunningham pulled back with his left hand down. Cunningham was still clearly hurt as he got back to his feet and Mansour followed up with more hooks that sent him down again. Many in attendance thought the fight should have been stopped then and there. But referee Steve Smoger, unsurprisingly, was not one of them. Subsequently Cunningham was saved by the bell. Nonetheless Mansour had just won a round by a 3 point margin, was up on 2 of the 3 judges’ scorecards, and was generally expected to be on his way to a KO victory.
But that’s not what happened. Cunningham recovered surprisingly well and won round 6 on all 3 judges’ scorecards. However, it was clearly a swing round regardless. Many in the media disagreed with the score and Compubox reported an edge for Mansour. Be that as it may, probability will tell you that Cunningham was overdo to have good fortune if you’re acquainted with the rest of his career. Round 7 was also close, a draw according to Compubox, but it was without much dispute that Cunningham earned it on his cleaner work.
Round 8 was a different story. Many that observed from ringside, including BC, and one official judge (John Poturaj) thought Mansour had done enough to take it. Mansour even celebrated after the bell, probably feeling he snatched a much needed round (Mansour went to the hospital after the fight and was unavailable for comment). Compubox had a clear edge for Mansour who landed the more eye-catching punches. Yet, it was still very close. And close rounds were rarely going to Mansour on this night.
Fortunately the final 2 rounds were clear for Cunningham and the sport was spared talk of another robbery. Mansour was spent in round 9 and Cunningham landed at will. Then both fighters were spent in the final round but Cunningham managed a knockdown to secure the victory. Lead right hands worked for Cunningham all night.
When all was said and done Cunningham returned to Philadelphia for his first fight since 2003 and notched another unanimous decision victory (previously against Demetrius Jenkins). Judges Braslow and Poturaj had Cunningham winning by 3 points while Rubenstein had him winning by 7. Many claim Rubenstein’s scorecard was ridiculous but he simply gave Cunningham every swing round. Ironically, had those rounds been scored for Mansour, he would have won the fight by 1 point. Such is the nature of the 10-point must system. A fight with a difference of 7 total punches landed according to Compubox (117 Cunningham – 110 Mansour) can legitimately produce an 8 point swing on scorecards. BC had the fight 95-92 for Cunningham like judges Braslow and Poturaj, but they couldn’t agree on rounds 2 or 8. BC scored the fight exactly as Poturaj did.
NBCSN replays showed that the cut Cunningham received in round 2 was due to a clean right hook and not a headbutt like team Cunningham believed. But apart from that no fault could be found in their post-fight comments. Cunningham, a 2-time IBF cruiserweight champion, is now the USBA heavyweight champion and will likely receive a top 10 IBF ranking. The only problem is, Wladimir Klitschko is the IBF heavyweight champion. Klitschko isn’t unbeatable but Cunningham would have to be one of the greatest Philadelphia fighters of all time to beat him. Fortunately Cunningham does have faith. He leaves his future in god’s hands.
Speaking of divine will, it was perhaps most apparent in the night’s co-feature. For 9.67 out of 10 rounds Tureano Johnson clearly bested Curtis Stevens using relentless pressure and volume. Stevens’ power was trumped by Johnson’s strategy and conditioning. Two judges (Pierre Benoist and John Poturaj) only awarded Stevens the 4th round (which was the best of the fight, the entire card, and a candidate for the year). Judge Dave Braslow also gave Stevens rounds 1 and 8 while BC gave him round 5. But no matter whom you asked, Stevens was still losing the fight by at least 1 point going into the final round. Stevens’ corner questioned his heart after the 8th round and he responded by putting it on the line in the following two. It all culminated in a big left hook that had Johnson momentarily out on his feet with a minute to go in round 10. Johnson fell back to the ropes while Stevens flurried until referee Gary Rosato stepped in.
Rosato may have jumped the gun.
Although Johnson was clearly dazed and not defending himself well, Stevens’ flurries were not effective. Johnson was already in the process of regaining his senses when the fight was stopped and immediately protested. An hour later Gary Shaw Productions (Johnson’s promoter) sent out a press release demanding an immediate rematch. And who wouldn’t want to see one? It was a great fight and part of the best U.S. televised card in 2014 (so far). When BC caught up with Main Events’ Kathy Duva later that night, she was receptive to making a rematch if she could secure a lot more money for the fighters (likely beyond NBC’s boxing budget). Don’t expect to see a rematch unless HBO agrees to pick it up, and they recently turned down Curtis Stevens vs Hassan N’Dam in favor of Karim Mayfield vs Thomas Dulorme. Tough luck for Tureano but his stock rose nonetheless. At the very least he’ll be welcomed back in Philadelphia or on NBC Sports any time.
On the subject of Philadelphia, while The Liacouras may have been too big of a venue for Cunningham-Mansour I, it should be just fine for part II. Previously neither fighter had headlined a Philly fight card. Now they additionally may have locked up the Philly Fight of the Year. Despite the large number of empty seats those in attendance were quite animated, mostly pro Cunningham. It was a pretty good reception for a fighter that had to establish himself overseas. Now that he’s established at home, let’s see what Main Events can do for him next. Let’s also see what Peltz Boxing and Joe Hand Promotions can do for the previously unbeaten Mansour. Even in defeat he’s proved himself more than he’s done in any win. The 41 year old ex-convict is no fraud. He exceeded expectations. Cunningham was just the better man.
1. Edner Cherry [134.1 lbs] UD8 Robert Osiobe [134.3 lbs] (77-75, 79-73, 78-74)
Super featherweight contender Cherry (31-6-2) was coming off a 14 month layoff and barely scraped by 36 year old journeyman Osiobe (14-8-4). The difference in the fight was power. Cherry rocked Osiobe multiple times but was otherwise outboxed. Cherry’s jab and timing left a lot to be desired. But he’ll probably perform better over time if Peltz Boxing can keep him active. This was Cherry’s debut fight with J Russell Peltz’s promotional company and the only fight on the card that NBCSN didn’t commentate (although 4 more were untelevised on the night).
2. Sullivan Barrera [176 lbs] UD6 Larry Pryor [176 lbs] (60-53, 60-53, 60-53)
It looked like it might be a short fight after Barrera (10-0) dropped Pryor (7-7) in the opening round but Pryor survived the full 6 round distance. Regardless, it remained a mismatch throughout. Pryor couldn’t compete with Barrera’s athleticism or skills. The 32 year old Cuban prospect (285-27 as an amateur) may be a force to reckon with in the light heavyweight division.
3. Lee Campbell [168.4 lbs] MD8 Roberto Acevedo [170 lbs] (76-76, 77-75, 78-74)
This was the upset referred to in the introduction. Campbell (6-0) lived up to his moniker “Silverback” and manhandled Acevedo (8-1). Acevedo, coming off an upset of Ilshat Khusnulgatin (11-0), was the better boxer and had his moments, especially when he threw uppercuts, but could not sustain them apart from rounds 2 and 8. However, he did enough to make rounds 4 and 6 close, making an even scorecard understandable. Still, the audience vehemently booed judge John Poturaj’s 76-76 scorecard and he probably deserved it. Somehow he magically scored round 7 for Acevedo when Roberto was bullied around the ring and bombed by overhand rights. Full disclosure: Poturaj’s scorecard initially had round 7 scored 10-9 Campbell, but it was written over.
4. Mike Lee [179.3 lbs] TKO6 Peter Lewison [180.4 lbs] (1:39)
Lee (11-0), shaking a 19 month layoff, made easy work of Lewison (6-0) and looked better round by round. Sparring with Andre Dirrell and training under Chris Byrd helped shake Lee’s ring rust. However, the official judges apparently saw something more competitive. Although judges Dave Braslow, Pierre Benoist, and Alan Rubenstein all had Lee winning the fight through 5 rounds, at least one of them gave Lewison rounds 1-4. They couldn’t agree that Lee won a round until the 5th when he busted Lewison’s nose. Then Lee wrapped things up by dropping Lewison with a straight right hand in round 6. Lewison beat the count but his corner called it off (although referee Steve Smoger took a while to take notice). The fight ended about 10 seconds later than it should have but fortunately nothing bad happened. Lewison can go back to the Cayman Islands and resume his career of beating up fighters with losing records.
5. Evincii Dixon [141 lbs] TKO2 Edgardo Torres [137.3 lbs] (0:15)
Torres (2-2) was a late replacement for Hasan Young (5-1-1), who announced his retirement from the sport a few days earlier due to religious reasons. Young would have had a tough opponent in Dixon (4-4-1), a better fighter than his record suggests. Dixon was too fast and sharp for Torres to handle. Torres was dropped in both rounds and quit. “Prize Fighter” Dixon made good use of the right hook out of the orthodox stance.
6. Curtis Stevens [162.8 lbs] TKO10 Tureano Johnson [162.2 lbs] (2:09)
As previously discussed, Stevens (26-4) had a tougher than expected time with Johnson (14-0) but miraculously pulled off a final minute TKO. Johnson wants a rematch but Stevens looks forward to a showdown with James Kirkland on HBO or Peter Quillin on Showtime (less likely). Stevens is willing to meet Kirkland at a catchweight of 158 lbs.
7. Steve Cunningham [206 lbs] UD10 Amir Mansour [222.5 lbs] (97-90, 95-92, 95-92)
Mansour (20-0) wanted a referee that wasn’t going to be quick to stop the fight and got what he asked for in Smoger. Cunningham (26-6) survived two knockdowns in round 5 and came back to secure one of his own in round 10. Boxing fans will be hard pressed to witness a better heavyweight fight all year.
Ryan Bivins is the creator of Sweet Boxing Ratings and a member of the voting panel for the Pennsylvania Boxing Hall of Fame. You may email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and listen to him Tuesday nights on The Ruckus, part of the BadCulture Radio Network.