Cunningham LOST to Hernandez?

By Robert Ecksel on October 2, 2011
Cunningham LOST to Hernandez?
The ringside physician took a look at Hernandez and didn't seem the least bit concerned

Hernandez rose from his stool and couldn’t believe the ref was stopping it. He wanted to continue fighting. He didn’t want to lose like that…

In a fight at the Jahnsportforum in Neubrandenburg, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, that wasn’t broadcast in the States, Steve “USS” Cunningham (24-3, 12 KOs) “lost” a controversial six-round technical decision to interim champion Yoan Pablo Hernandez (25-1, 13 KOs).

Cunningham, wearing black trunks with gold trim and fighting out of the red corner, and Hernandez, wearing red trunks trimmed in white and fighting out of the blue corner, are both well schooled fighters. But Cunningham is better schooled, and, at age 35, a good deal more seasoned than his 26-year-old challenger.

At the opening bell, both men, after a short feeling out period, start landing. Hernandez connected with a three-punch combination and Cunningham countered with a double-jab. Hernandez’s roundhouse punches were a little wild. Cunningham seemed more disciplined and was using every inch of the ring to his advantage as the round progressed.

With 33 seconds remaining in the competitive opening stanza, Hernandez caught Cunningham with a perfectly timed short left and the IBF titlist went down hard. He rolled around on the canvas, rose on unsteady legs and beat the count. The wily veteran was able to grab Hernandez to buy time, and created distance between himself and his opponent so he could bounce up and down and try to bring some life back into his legs.

That Cunningham was able to stand, survive the round, and stumble to his corner is a testament to his courage and grit. But round one went to Hernandez 10-8.

In the corner during the one-minute rest period, Cunningham’s trainer Naazim Richardson was a soothing voice of reason. He was cool and calm and kept reassuring his fighter, steadying his fighter, and told him more than once, “Don’t panic.”

Cunningham may have been clearing the last of the cobwebs from his head for the first minute of round two, but Hernandez helped by failing to jump on his opponent when he had the chance. Hernandez was tentative, fighting carefully, moving backward not forward, and he let Cunningham back in the fight. One got a sense that Hernandez had shot his wad, his moment of opportunity had passed, and he knew it. Cunningham’s round 10-9.

Round three started with a solid body shot by Cunningham. Hernandez was still backing up, throwing an occasional noncommittal jab in Cunningham’s direction and not much else. At 1:10 into the third the two fighters had an accidental clash of heads and a cut opened up on the side of Hernandez’s left eye. It was bleeding, but it didn’t seem to be bothering Hernandez and didn’t impede his vision. Cunningham dominated the action, drew first blood, and dominated the round.

Hernandez got busier in round four. His cutman had stopped the cut between rounds from bleeding, so that ceased to be an issue. Hernandez landed a solid combination. Cunningham countered with a short right. Hernandez was back in it and landed a combination hook-uppercut. Cunningham was the aggressor, still moving forward, while Hernandez seemed content to counterpunch, and counterpunch effectively, and ended the round with a three-punch combination. Round to Hernandez.

In Cunningham’s corner Richardson told his fighter to “keep making him work. This guy will fade out.” It was prescient advice.

Round five was all Cunningham. He was making Hernandez miss, ducking under punches and returning fire of his own. Hernandez was, as Richardson had said, “fading out.” He was breathing through his mouth and dropping his hands. Cunningham continued to land rights to the head followed by shots to the body, weakening Hernandez even more. The round went to Cunningham 10-9.

One could see Hernandez’s discouragement in the slope of his shoulders and the way he fought in round six. He had abandoned throwing combinations and would shoot out halfhearted single punches, most of which Cunningham avoided. Another clash of heads occurred, causing a cut above Hernandez’s right eye, but it was bleeding even less than the earlier cut. Hernandez sulked to his corner where his cutman went to work.

The ringside physician took a look at Hernandez, daubed at his cuts, and didn’t seem overly concerned. Referee Mickey Vann announced that they were “both accidental cuts”—then explicably waved his hands and stopped the fight.

Hernandez rose from his stool and couldn’t believe the ref was stopping it. He wanted to continue fighting. He didn’t want to lose like that.

In the opposite corner, Cunningham was scowling as though he knew something was up.

When the judges’ scorecards were announced—Howard John Foster had it 57-56 for Cunningham, and Dave Parris and Pawel Kardyni scored it 58-55 and 59-54 respectively for Hernandez—the crowd erupted in a chorus of boos. Hernandez had his hands to his temples as though he couldn’t believe it. When he composed himself, he flashed a V for victory sign.

Cunningham gave a thumbs down gesture, and the crowd booed even louder.


Yoan Pablo Hernandez’s trainer Ulli Wegner believes Hernandez’s victory over Steve Cunningham should have been a first round KO.

“The referee saved Cunningham from a flash KO,” said Wegner, who insists the count lasted at least 14 seconds. “He gave Cunningham too much time to recover. And then his corner extended the recovery time between the first and the second round by staying in the ring after the bell sounded to start the second round. That helped Cunningham to get back into the fight.

“But nevertheless I am proud of Hernandez. He fought a great fight and he was clearly leading on points when the fight was stopped later.”


Steve Cunningham has accused his promoter Sauerland Event and German ring doctor Walter Wagner of corruption. He also accused Ulli Wegner, Hernandez’s trainer, of blowing smoke to divert attention away from referee Mickey Vann’s questionable stoppage.

“As soon as I read what Wegner was saying,” Cunningham stated, “I knew what it was. They want to take the focus off the way the fight was stopped.”

According to the AP, Dr. Wagner said that he recommended that the Cunningham-Hernandez bout be stopped even though “the cuts weren’t dangerous.”

Cunningham isn’t buying it: “Everyone knows that the referee is the one to make those calls. I am not a dirty fighter, never have been. When an orthodox and a southpaw fight, head butts are likely to happen, and with that cuts are likely also, but if the cuts were not causing a problem, the fight should have continued.”

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Steve Cunningham vs. Yoan Pablo Hernandez (1/2)

Steve Cunningham vs. Yoan Pablo Hernandez (2/2)

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