Yoan Hernandez Retains IBF Cruiser Title via Unanimous Decision over Steven Cunningham

by Pavel Yakovlev: Yoan Hernandez retained his International Boxing Federation (IBF) cruiserweight title by with a hard-fought, unanimous decision over Steve Cunningham (IBF #4, WBO #10) in Frankfurt, Germany. The scores read 116-110, 116-110, and 115-111. Hernandez scored two knockdowns in the fourth, very nearly stopping Cunningham during the round. But Cunningham recovered and seemed to get the better of the action in the sixth through 11th rounds. Both fighters rocked and hurt each other in the 12th round, trading evenly despite being exhausted.

This writer scored the match even at 114-114, awarding Hernandez two extra points for the knockdowns, and favoring Cunningham by a margin of 6-4-2 in rounds. The judges’ scorecards seemed unreasonably wide and failed entirely to reflect the closeness of the match.

After a tentative opening round in which the fighters fought evenly, the southpaw Hernandez took over in the second, scoring with numerous hard, fast lefts to the body. The Cuban continued his assault in the third, and continued to connect with sharp, hurtful body shots in spite of absorbing jabs and several power punches from Cunningham.

Hernandez almost won by knockout in the fourth. Rocked early by Cunningham’s body blows, Hernandez suddenly dropped his foe with a powerful left to the head. Cunningham fell hard, badly hurt, and arose on wobbly legs. Lurching forward in an attempt to clinch, Cunningham then walked into more power punches, and again crashed to the canvas. Despite regaining his feet, Cunningham finished the round dazed and reeling, seemingly hurt beyond recovery.

Early in the fifth, Cunningham – his face now bloodied – looked doomed after absorbing another hurtful left to the head. But amazingly, Cunningham fought his way back into the bout, hurting Hernandez with a powerful right, and keeping the Cuban at bay with sharp jabs. Although Hernandez took the round by connecting with the stronger punches, Cunningham had clearly regained his senses, poise, and strength.

Perhaps too respectful of Cunningham’s power, Hernandez fought cautiously in the sixth, jabbing, keeping his guard high, and retreating before his rejuvenated foe’s crisp combinations. Cunningham won this round with his hard, steady jab. In the seventh, Cunningham increased his margin of superiority by continuing to back up the Cuban, landing several strength sapping body blows in the process. Late in the round, Hernandez was wobbled by a hard right to the head.

Cunningham assumed a dominant edge in the eighth. After being rocked by a strong right early, the American connected with a series of powerful body blows that seemed to drain Hernandez’s strength and willpower. With Hernandez backpedaling and looking increasingly passive, Cunningham continued to press his attack in the ninth, tenth, and 11th rounds, taking all three stanzas by connecting occasionally with jabs and right hands.

In the 12th, both fighters came out swinging hard, apparently sensing that the final round could swing the decision either way. After both boxers’s landed body punches, Hernandez suddenly hurt Cunningham with a left hook to the head. With the American now wobbly, a knockout ending seemed near. But Cunningham turned the tables yet again, fighting back with power punches that hurt Hernandez and weakened his legs in the fight’s closing moments.

The victory moves Hernandez’s record to 26-1 (13 KO’s). The 27 year-old-Cuban, who is now based in Germany, weighed 198 ½ lbs. Cunningham, 35 years-old, is now 24.4 (12), and weighed 197 ½ lbs.

Today’s bout was a rematch of a fight held last October. The first bout was won by Hernandez via sixth round technical decision. In that fight, Hernandez nearly stopped Cunningham in the first round, but was later hurt and forced onto the defensive by his opponent’s powerful body attack. The bout was stopped after the sixth due to Hernandez being cut by an accidental headbutt.

In other action on the card:

Alexander Alekseev UD 12 Enad Licina
Mateusz Masternak TKO 4 Michael Simms
Troy Ross UD 8 Lukasz Rusiewicz
David Graf UD 6 Paul Morris
Eduard Gutknecht UD 12 Vyacheslav Uzelkov

Article posted on 05.02.2012

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