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The Cunninghams, A Fighting Family of Faith

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Cunningham Family Photos-1-1Livvy wears a manager hat, but tonight at the Pru, she will be the devoted wife, watching husband Steve make his first step in the heavyweight division.

The Biggs Morrison boxing gym in Atlanta will always be remembered as a special place for Steve “USS” Cunningham.

It was there that the former two time cruiserweight champion of the world, newly discharged after four years of service in the U.S. Navy, began to train for an amateur boxing career and met a neophyte boxer who would have a profound and lasting effect on his life.

His path through the gym’s doorway would lead to a professional boxing career and allow him to meet his future wife and partner in life, Livvy.

“Steve had moved to Atlanta after the Navy and I had moved there after graduating from college,” recalls Livvy Cunningham. “I had always been a casual boxing fan and joined the gym to get in shape. That is where we met in 2000.”

Their newly formed relationship would take them from Atlanta, Ga to Martinsville, Va, from the amateur to professional ranks, from undefeated prospect to world champion, from Martinsville to Philadelphia; and from dating to married life, parenthood and now the heavyweight division.

After fighting as a cruiserweight for the majority of his pro career Cunningham, (24-4, 12 KO) , will step into the ring for the first time as a heavyweight when he faces Jason Gavern (21-10-4, 10 KO) in a ten round bout tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark.

His fight is the co-feature in a card headlined by Tomasz Adamek (46-2, 28 KO) clashing with Travis Walker (39-7-1, 31 KO).

The fight is the first in a new promotional agreement with Main Events, who achieved great success in guiding Adamek from cruiserweight champion, into the heavyweight division and a world title opportunity.

It was that recent blueprint along with the job Main Events did in revitalizing the career of Zab Judah, a Cunningham friend, that convinced Cunningham to sign with Main Events and begin his heavyweight journey.

When his multi fight deal with Germany’s Sauerland Event expired, Cunningham saw limited opportunities remaining at cruiserweight and fighting overseas. Former champions Adamek and David Haye had left for the heavyweight division, and a hoped for rematch with Marco Huck did not appear to be on the horizon.

With that realization Cunningham trained his sights on the heavyweight division, although with some hesitation, “My mindset was I wasn’t chasing money, so there was no immediate need to go to heavyweight,” the Philadelphia fighter related during a break from training. “I felt I could be comfortable with what a cruiserweight champion could make. My goal was to be the best cruiserweight of all time. If the fights had unfolded as I planned, I would have retired as a cruiserweight.”

As often happens in the business of boxing the fights did not unfold the way Cunningham planned, and a move to heavyweight was now an exciting reality.

As Cunningham moved through the various phases of his career and the highs and lows that came along with them, Livvy was right by his side.

As soon as he began his pro career she started to assist and work with the promoter’s office with the desire to learn as much as possible about the business of boxing.

“I graduated with a degree in business management with a concentration in marketing, and I wanted to put what I had learned to use in helping with Steve’s career,” the personable Mrs. Cunningham said.

As she continued to gain experience it became a comfortable and natural progression to assume the role of manager for her husband’s career.
As Cunningham himself put it, “who better to have your best interests at heart than your wife?”

Being married to and managing a professional fighter does bring a lot of emotions into focus. “As a wife I realize that my husband is literally putting his life on the line to provide for our family,” she said. “As a manager I wear many hats on the business side of things, but when it’s fight night I go back to being a concerned wife.”

Gaining acceptance of her role in the male dominated landscape of boxing has taken time and Livvy encountered resistance along the way. “Naazim Richardson is the first trainer to accept me, not feel threatened by my presence, and keep me at arm’s length thinking I might take his job,” she stated emphatically. “Naazim welcomes me into the corner to watch and learn, he is willing to take the time to explain things if I have a question.”

With her husband now campaigning back in the U.S., and a solid promotional team in place, Livvy has plans to capitalize on his winning personality and years of service for his country to raise his profile in the world of marketing and endorsements.

Outside the ring the Cunninghams live a life centered around family and faith.

They are devoted parents to sons Steve Jr.(9), Cruz (1), and daughter Kennedy (7) . Their faith is the bedrock of their family life as Kennedy has been diagnosed with a serious heart condition and after several surgeries still faces uncertainties regarding her condition.

As he embarks on his journey to capture the heavyweight crown, Cunningham now has the opportunity to build the homegrown fan base that a fighter of his accomplishments deserves.

“That’s my prayer for Steve,” states his wife and manager, “to experience an arena full of fans cheering for him.”

The first step in that process begins tonight at the Prudential Center.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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