Steve Cunningham-Wayne Braithwaite To Clash In IBF Cruiserweight Title Eliminator


by James Slater – On the same July night that IBF cruiserweight champion Tomasz Adamek has his awful mismatch of a fight with the undeserving Bobby Gunn, two former world champions at 200-pounds square off in a fight that will see the winner earn a shot at Adamek. Steve “USS” Cunningham and Wayne “Big Truck” Braithwaite collide, on the big July 11th show in Florida that is topped by the Joseph Agbeko-Vic Darchinyan bantamweight title fight..

A good, solid-looking match, Cunningham-Braithwaite is a pretty tough fight to pick. 32-year-old Cunningham of Philadelphia is a former IBF cruiserweight champ and he has been more active as of late than has the soon-to-be 34-year-old Braithwaite, a former WBC champ at cruiser. Cunningham may not have fought since his December 2008 title fight points loss to new champ Adamek, but “Big Truck” has had just two fights in the last two years; winning one of them. The younger man, then, must be looked at as a slight favourite to win in July.

Cunningham has also never been stopped in his 21-2(11) pro career, and he has not had as many of the potentially ageing type battles the man who was born in Guyana has had during his, now 23-3(19) career (although Adamek-Cunningham was a real war!). Cunningham is not likely to be overly concerned by Braithwaite’s southpaw stance either. Add these factors up, and it looks like a win for the younger man. But the former WBC ruler can never be written off. Braithwaite is always dangerous and he remains hungry.

Since losing on points to Enzo Maccarinelli in Cardiff, Wales back in July of 2007, Braithwaite has won just once – TKO’ing the unbeaten Yoan Pablo Hernandez inside three-rounds in March of last year. Ring-rusty he may be, but “Big Truck” will be looking to run right over Cunningham as he did the once (and maybe still) promising Hernandez. It’s a mystery why Braithwaite did not build on his fine win over the 24-year-old Cuban, as the win was indeed a good one for him, and one that should have led to a bigger fight. The 34-year-old has a big fight now, Vs. Cunningham, but why the idle spell beforehand? If rust does not turn out to be a big factor, Braithwaite should give Cunningham a real battle in July.

The older man has been stopped before – by Guillermo Jones in September of 2005 – and he was floored by Maccarinelli in his last defeat. Cunningham was put down three times by Adamek when losing his IBF belt last December, but on balance he looks the more durable fighter today – as well as being the fresher man. Both of Cunningham’s losses have been mightily close ones – both of them coming via split decisions, in fact. The first one, to Krzysztof Wlodarczyk of Poland, was the result of a hugely debatable verdict given in Warsaw, and the loss to Adamek was damn close also. Cunningham will not want to let the Braithwaite fight appear close on the cards.

A distance fight is what I think we will get, however. There may be a few scary moments for Cunningham along the way, and a knockdown or two scored by the man who lost his WBC belt in a tough fight with Jean Marc Mormeck could well be on the cards, but in the end the former IBF champ will earn a chance to regain his old title with a fairly wide points victory.