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Steve 'USS' Cunningham's Next Opponent is...

By Gianluca Di Caro - 17th January 2009

PugilistMatch.com

Photo: Gianluca Di Caro

 

The announcement by Tomasz Adamek's camp that his first defense of the IBF title will be against Johnathon Banks in February 2008 has left former champ, Steve 'USS' Cunningham with a major dilemma. He and his team have been campaigning for a quick rematch of the December classic and as such doesn't have an alternative fight lined up for the near future.

Cunningham, who has been stating "My top priority is the rematch with Adamek, that's what I have been focusing on. I want my title back more than anything else", is aware though that if he is to fight by April, as he had said is his intention, he now needs to look to other opponents. But what are his current options?

Below are the ten fighters rated closest to Cunningham, the current world number 1 rated cruiserweight, and Tomasz Adamek, the current undisputed champion, based on Ring Magazine and Boxrec ratings.

 

Krzysztof Wlodarczyk, Poland - Current IBC Champion, Former IBF cruiserweight champion

Won 41 (KO31) Lost 2

Former IBF cruiserweight champion and current IBC cruiserweight champion, Wlodarczyk is due to fight Giacobbe Fragomeni, the current WBC cruiserweight champion, in Milan on the 27th March 2009.

'USS' Cunningham fought Wlodarczyk twice, both times in Poland. The first was in November 2006 for the vacant IBF cruiserweight title. Wlodarczyk won the fight to become the first Polish world champion by a very dubious split decision. The IBF ordered an immediate rematch which took place in May 2007. In victory Cunningham was vindicated and rightly declared the IBF cruiserweight champion of the world.

Since losing his title to Cunningham, Wlodarczyk has fought four times. The first, in October 2007, against Dominique Alexander for the vacant International Boxing Council cruiserweight title, was over in just 2 minutes and 13 seconds of the first round as Wlodarczyk knocked out Alexander. The following three fights were all non-championship matches which Wlodarczyk won convincingly, two by TKO and the final one against Gabor Gyuris by knockout in just 1 minute and 56 seconds of the first round.

 

Guillermo Jones, Panama - Current WBA cruiserweight champion

Won 36 (KO 28) Lost 3 (KO1) Draw 2

Since winning the WBA cruiserweight title by a 10th round TKO stoppage of Firat Arslan in September 2008, Jones has not fought.

Cunningham and Jones had met previously in April 2004 when they fought a non-championship match. Cunningham won by split decision.

Since the Cunningham fight Jones has fought five times. The most memorable being when Jones took on Wayne Braithwaite in a WBA Cruiserweight Title Eliminator bout. Jones won by TKO in the fourth round earning him the right to face Firat Arslan and a shot at the world title.

 

O'Neil Bell, Jamaica - Former WBC, WBA & IBF cruiserweight champion

Won 26 (KO 24) Lost 3 (KO 2) Draw 1

A champion's champion. Bell has held most of the main titles in his illustrious ten year career.

Bell was due to relaunch his career this month as a heavyweight against Domonic Jenkins but unexpectedly pulled out of the bout without giving any reason.

Bell previously held the International Boxing Federation (IBF) cruiserweight title after defeating Canada's Dale Brown on points in May 2005.

He went on to become undisputed champion when he defeated Jean-Marc Mormeck in January 2006, but lost a controversial rematch with the Frenchman in March 2007.

In April 2008 he lost the IBF cruiserweight title eliminator, against Tomasz Adamek, when he chose not to continue after the eighth round.

 

Firat Arslan, Germany - Former WBA champion

Won 29 (KO 18) Lost 4 (KO 1) Draw 1

In November 2007 Arslan became WBA cruiserweight champion when he beat Virgil Hill. He defended his crown twice. The first in May 2008 against Darnell Wilson. Arslan won this fight convincingly with all judges scoring the fight 117-111 in his favour.

In September 2008 Aslan defended his title against Guillermo Jones in Hamburg, Germany. Jones won this bout by stopping Arslan in the tenth round.

 

Enzo Maccarinelli, Wales - Former WBU & WBO champion

Won 29 (KO 22) Lost 2 (KO 2)

Great Britain's number one cruiserweight boxer since David Haye moved to heavyweight in November 2008. Maccarinelli was due to fight Johnathon Banks at the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester for the vacant WBO title in March 2009. However it was recently announced that Banks is to fight Tomasz Adamek in February for the IBF title instead.

Maccarinelli won the WBU in June 2003 when he stopped Bruce Scott in the fourth round. He successfully defended the title seven times in three years.

In July 2006 Maccarinelli beat Marcelo Fabian Dominguez to become interim WBO cruiserweight champion. Three months later in October 2006 he beat Mark Hobson to become WBO cruiserweight champion.

He defended his WBO crown four times, three times successfully against Bobby Gunn in April 2007, Wayne Braithwaite in July 2007 and Mohamed Azzaoui in November 2007.

In March 2008 Maccarinelli took on world number one David Haye, in a unification title battle for the WBA, WBC & WBO cruiserweight titles, at the O2 Arena in London. The fight didn't last long at all, Haye became the undisputed cruiserweight champion by stopping Maccarinelli in the second round and promptly announced he was to fight as heavyweight claiming he had beat everyone that was anyone in cruiserweight.

IBF champion, Steve 'USS' Cunningham, was less than pleased with Haye's comments as he hadn't fought him, in fact Haye had avoided a fight with the then number two ranked cruiserweight 'USS' Cunningham more than once.

Maccarinelli was due to fight Johnathon Banks for the vacant WBO title in December 2008 but Banks pulled out with an ankle injury. Maccarinelli instead fought heavyweight Mathew Ellis. Maccarinelli stopped Ellis in 1 minute and 28 seconds of the second round.

 

Marco Huck, Yugoslavia - IBF Inter-continental & EBU European champion

Won 23 (KO 18) Lost 1 (KO 1)

Huck defends his EBU European cruiserweight title against Geoffrey Batello from Belgium on the 24th January 2009.

Huck was Cunningham's first title challenger when they met in December 2007. A thrilling all action battle ensued, in front of a partisan German crowd, which saw Cunningham retaining his crown by stopping Huck in the final minute of the twelth round.

Since losing to Cunningham, Huck has gone on to win five fights, all by TKO. In May 2008 Huck beat Frantisek Kasanic to win the vacant IBF inter-continental title. In September 2008 went on to claim the EBU European cruiserweight title by beating Jean Marc Monrose. Just one month later in October 2008 Huck successfully defended his EBU title against Fabio Tuiach.

 

Vadim Tokarev, Russia - Former IBF Inter-continental champion

Won 26 (KO 19) Lost 1 (KO 0) Draw 1

The hard punching former IBF Inter-continental cruiserweight champion's only loss came against Marco Huck in May 2007 when they fought in Germany for the IBF Cruiserweight Title Eliminator for the right to face Steve 'USS' Cunningham.

Since that single loss Tokarev has won all three of his fights, against Marlon Hayes, Chris Thomas and Manu Ntoh, by TKO.

 

Giacobbe Fragomeni, Italy - Current WBC Cruiserweight champion

Won 26 (KO 10) Lost 1 (KO 1)

Current WBC champion, Fragomeni defends his title against former IBF and current IBC cruiserweight champion, Krzysztof Wlodarczyk of Poland, on the 27th March 2009 in Milan, Italy.

Fragomeni's only loss came at the hands of the former undisputed cruiserweight champion, David Haye, in November 2006 when they fought for the EBU European cruiserweight title. The title went to Haye with a 9th round TKO.

Since that loss Fragomeni has fought five times. The first a non-championship fight lasted just 4 rounds as Fragomeni knocked out Adrian Rajkai.

Fragomeni's next fought in July 2007 for the vacant EBU European Union title against Vincenzo Rossitto which he won by unanimous decision. His first defense of the title was in December 2007 against Rachid El Hadak, Fragomeni won by majority decision. He was victorious in his second defense against Konstantin Semerdjiev in April 2008.

In October 2008 Fragomeni competed for the vacant WBC cruiserweight world title against Rudolf Kraj. The fight was stopped in the 8th round due to a cut over Fragomeni's eye sustained in the previous round from an illegal headbutt. Fragomeni was leading 77-74 on all three judges' cards and was declared the champion.

 

B. J. Flores, America - IBA, NBA & WBF super cruiserweight champion

Won 21 (KO 13) Lost 0 Draw 1

Flores was originally announced as Tomasz Adamek's challenger for his first IBF cruiserweight title defense in February 2009. However Flores announced that he had decided to fight a non-championship bout against Elvin Ayala in January instead.

Unbeaten in twenty two outings, rated by boxrec as USA's number two and the world number five cruiserweight, Flores has amassed various minor titles over the past 2 years.

 

Matt Godfrey, America - NABF cruiserweight champion

Won 18 (KO 10) Lost 1

Rated by boxrec as USA's number three and world number seven cruiserweight. Godfrey, like Flores, has amassed various minor titles over the past few years including NABA, WBC Continental Americas, WBC USNBC and the NABF cruiserweight titles.

However, unlike Flores, Godfrey has stepped up and fought a world cruiserweight title eliminator (WBC) when he faced Rudolf Kraj in March 2008. He lost, but only by a close decision and he was in Kraj's back yard.

 

There are some seriously appealing possibilities listed above but without doubt the most mouth watering, outside the rematch with Adamek, for fans is if Maccarinelli was to face Cunningham on March 14th. This would be a seriously entertaining all-action bout, one that could even surpass the classic that was Cunningham-Adamek. What's more this fight can happen soon as Maccarinelli's promoter, Frank Warren, already has a date and venue but no opponent for his charge.

Sports Network, Warren's promotional company is already working with Don King Productions, Cunningham's promoter, on this event as Amir Khan is to face multi-weight champion Marco Antonio Barrera. It should be fairly easy for them to put a deal together especially as this bout would attract serious additional interest from the television networks and boxing aficionados on both sides of the Atlantic.

If this fight was to be made one thing is clear, the winner would be...

...boxing fans!

 

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