Born in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania, on July 15, 1976
Height: 6' 3" Weight: 194
(Cruiserweight) Record: 21-1, 11 KOs
Steve "USS" Cunningham was born and
raised in Philadelphia and started boxing
when he joined the Navy straight out of
high school in 1994.
While fueling jets and helicopters on
Navy aircraft carriers in the Navy [until
1998], Steve tried out for the All-Navy
Boxing Team. In his first amateur fight,
he defeated the All-Navy Light Heavyweight
Champion, a harbinger of great things to
come. After successfully representing the
Navy in numerous boxing tournaments,
Cunningham was at the end of his
enlistment and decided to attempt to earn
a berth on the Men's U.S. Olympic Team.
After losing a controversial bout in the
2000 USA National Boxing Championship
quarterfinals opposing the reigning light
heavyweight world champion Michael Simms
Jr., Cunningham decided to become a
Steve started his pro career in October
2000 and subsequently ripped through 11
opponents in just 11 months, scoring eight
stoppages including an imposing run of
four consecutive first-round knockouts.
Longtime champion trainer Richie
Giachetti, who was in Virginia training
former world heavyweight champion Oliver
"The Atomic Bull" McCall, saw Cunningham
in the gym in 2002. "I liked what I saw in
Steve," Giachetti said. "He's tall, has a
long reach, and doesn't mind taking
direction because he was a sailor."
Not only did Giachetti immediately
begin training Cunningham, but he later
bought out Cunningham's contract to become
his manager as well. "Steve was a kid that
had talent-he reminds me a lot of the
young Larry Holmes-but he was confused
about how to move to the next level. He
was at a crossroads. He needed direction
and somebody to believe in him. I decided
it would be me."
One of Giacheti's first moves was to
have Don King become Cunningham's
promoter. "Don and I both knew the best
path to take with a fighter like Steve. In
fact, we used a similar plan to the one
that made Larry Holmes world champion:
Fighting good opponents, working hard in
the gym, and forging a close bond between
me and Steve. A fight fighter needs that
On March 29, 2003, Steve realized a
boyhood dream when he won a unanimous
decision over Demetrious Jenkins (21-8-1)
in his hometown of Philadelphia in a bout
that took place at the world-famous
On May 22, 2004, The "USS" rolled into
Brakpan, South Africa, where he won a
majority decision over world-rated
Sebastian Rothmann (17-2-2) on Rothmann's
Steve made the biggest appearance of
his career to date on the undercard of
Felix "Tito" Trinidad vs. Ricardo "El
Matador" Mayorga at Madison Square Garden
on Oct. 2, 2004. He took on the very
capable Forrest Neal (16-4) and disposed
of him by knockout in round four.
Still undefeated, Cunningham continued
his winning ways in 2005, notching his
most impressive victories yet. On April 2
he showed his boxing skills and
versatility by winning a split decision
over the legendary tough Panamanian
Guillermo "El Felino" Jones (31-2-2) in
A rising star, Cunningham proved his
mettle again on Sept. 3, 2005, in a
dominating performance against former
International Boxing Federation champion
Kelvin "Konkrete" Davis (21-3-1) for the
IBF No. 1 ranking. Cunningham put on a
boxing clinic that frustrated the former
champion, causing Davis to resort to
throwing bombs in vain attempts to catch
the quick-boxing and elusive Cunningham.
Davis was clearly outmatched, ending up on
the losing side of a unanimous 12-round
decision with one judge scoring the match
118-110 and the two remaining judges at
The next goal for Cunningham was to
stay undefeated and to win a world title.
He eyed the competition on the same card
where IBF champion O'Neil "Supernova" Bell
defeated World Boxing Association and
World Boxing Council unified cruiserweight
world champion Jean-Marc Mormeck at the
Theater at Madison Square Garden on Jan.
7, 2006, becoming the first undisputed
world cruiserweight champion since Evander
"The Real Deal" Holyfield held that
distinction in 1988. Cunningham dominated
slick veteran Lloyd "Jabba" Bryan and
scored a technical knockout in round five.
Cunningham called out Bell after his
match at the post-fight press conference.
Bell said he was willing to take on all
comers, but he didn't fight for 14 months
and was stripped of the IBF crown. The IBF
subsequently ordered the No. 1 -ranked
Cunningham to take on the leading
available contender Krzysztof Wlodarczyk
(36-1, 27 KOs), from Poland.
Wlodarczyk's promoter, Warriors Boxing,
won a purse bid and promoted the
first-ever world championship match in
Poland at Warsaw's Torwar Sports Hall on
Nov. 25, 2006.
Several irregularities emerged during
fight week, the most prominent of which
were the assignment of officials for the
match. A German, an Italian and an
American were supposed to judge the fight.
The Polish commission said they wanted to
have a Pole judge the fight.
The German judge was supposed to step
aside in favor of the Pole until it was
discovered that the Italian judge shared
the same last name as Cunningham's
trainer, Giachetti, even though there was
no relation. The German judge was
re-instated in place of the Italian judge
and a Pole, who had never judged a world
championship fight, Wlodzimierz Kromka,
was given the assignment even though he
was never approved by the IBF.
Cunningham boxed strongly for 12 rounds
in a tough fight that the American judge
Charles Dwyer saw as a landslide win for
Cunningham at 119-109. The German judge
Wallfried Rollert favored the Wlodarczyk
116-112 as did Kromka at 115-113.
The split-decision win for Wlodarczyk
outraged Cunningham and his camp. "This is
my livelihood," Cunningham said after the
fight. "This is how I put food on my
table. Despite all the factors working
against me, I won the fight.
"I demand an immediate rematch. This
time let's do in the States. He may have
gotten the decision and maybe he has that
belt but I know I am the champion."
Cunningham won the right to an
immediate rematch after it was revealed
the mandatory anti-doping tests were not
administered after the fight according to
the rules of the IBF. Cunningham also
decided to part amicably with Giachetti
and Anthony Chase, who has worked with
Cunningham in Philadelphia since he was an
amateur, took over as trainer. The rematch
with Wlodarczyk took place on May 26 in
Cunningham, as he did in the first
fight, came out strong. Throwing even more
punches than he did in their first fight
while the Pole's output dropped to mostly
single punches, Cunningham dropped
Wlodarczyk in the fourth round. In the
end, Cunningham did more than his rival
and won a majority decision by scores of
116-112, 115-112 and 114-114 to become the
I BF cruiserweight champion. "I had fun in
there today," Cunningham said after the
fight. "I knew he didn't have what it
takes to beat me. Today just solidified
what we have been saying all along, that I
was the better man in the first fight.
"This has been a long hard road and we
stuck to the game plan and proved to some
naysayers that said we had to knock him
out to win this belt."
Undaunted by the possibility of
inequities when fighting outside America
and wanting to be a true world champion,
Cunningham agreed to face undefeated Marco
"Captain" Huck, who had just scored a
majority-decision victory over
then-undefeated Vadim Tokarev in an IBF
elimination bout to determine the No. 1
-ranked mandatory challenger.
To make matters worse, the fight was
staged in Huck's adopted hometown of
Bielefeld, Germany on Dec. 29. The
hometown and German advantages led to the
champion Cunningham being a four-to-one
betting underdog leading up to the fight.
"I have fought outside America before, so
it's not like I don't know what I'm
getting into," Cunningham said. "I know
what I have to do to win and I will."
Huck, 23, knew he was in with a strong
boxer in Cunningham, so he came out early
looking for an opening to land his big
right hand. Huck landed some strong
punches, but Cunningham took them and gave
as well as he got. "Some people thought
Huck was giving me problems, but I didn't
really have trouble with him at the
start," Cunningham said. "I was just
Cunningham may have dropped some early
rounds, but his jab was always effective,
and he used his experience and defensive
skills to keep his aggressor at bay.
Cunningham stepped up the pressure in the
seventh round, delivering strong
combinations that included telling
uppercuts and body punches that produced
bleeding from Huck's left ear. Both
fighters emptied their arsenals in the 11
th round with power punches being thrown
at will. At the end of the round,
Cunningham flurried with a barrage of
blows punctuated by a staggering uppercut
that sent Huck reeling. Both fighters
threw caution to the wind in the 12 th and
final round and went for the knockout. In
the middle of the round, Cunningham began
to land unanswered combinations against an
exhausted but still-standing Huck, whose
corner wasn't as brave as the fighter.
Trainer Ulli Wegner wisely threw in the
towel at the 1:56 mark.
"He hit me a couple of times but as a
world champion you have to be able to take
a few punches," Cunningham said after the
fight. "I knew I was stronger mentally and
physically and I have trained really hard.
Huck has no reason to be embarrassed of
himself. He fought a great fight, but
there is no stopping me."
OUTSIDE THE RING... Steve is a
successful model as he has been featured
in ad campaigns for Target and is
represented by Renegade Model
Management... Steve has been featured on
The Travel Channel program "24 Hours In
Philadelphia"... Steve enjoys Paintball,
Xbox/video games and movies...
Steve has been married for four years
to his wife Elizabeth and has two
children, [Little] Steve Jr., 4, and
Kennedy, 1 1/2.
In November 2007, Cunningham and his
wife took over a popular West Philadelphia
eatery and named it USS Cunningham Pizza.
"This is a great opportunity to invest
in the community," Cunningham said.
"Everyone knows I love Philadelphia and
this is a way I can show my roots run
deep. This is where I want to be now and
after my boxing career ends."
Cunningham's daughter Kennedy was born
with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and
endured two surgeries just after birth. In
HLHS, the left side of the heart-including
the aorta, aortic valve, left ventricle
and mitral valve-is underdeveloped. She
spent the first year of her life in the
hospital with a tube in her throat and had
a third surgery. The Cunninghams were told
originally that she would have surgery and
come home in a month, but there were
complications. It was a difficult time for
the young family.
Kennedy finally came home in September
2006 and is expected long term to live a
normal life, although she still has one
more surgery to undergo at the age of
three. Steve, a deeply religious man, is
grateful to have kept his family together
during and after this long ordeal.
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