Big Fight Fiasco – Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham Breaks His Silence Over Godfrey Pulling Out And More.
After a long, long fifteen month wait, this coming Friday former IBF Cruiserweight Champion of the World Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham should finally have had the chance to regain the coveted title that he, and many others, believes is rightly his by facing Matt ‘Too Smooth’ Godfrey for the vacant IBF Cruiserweight Crown.
However, following one fiasco after another, first a change of date and location, then with just over a week to go before the fight Don King announced that the fight would be postponed again due to a contract dispute between himself and ESPN, it seems Steve’s hopes of regaining his crown soon are to be dashed yet again.
As King, who had won the purse bid on December 18th ’09, had defaulted on making the fight within 90 days the IBF reacted quickly to try and save this most important of fights.
Kathy Duva’s Main Event’s organisation, who had made the second highest bid, were contacted by the IBF. Main Event’s president Kathy Duva then spoke with ESPN who negotiated with Chicago promoter Daniel Pesoli to place the fight on his existing 26th March show. So courtesy of some seriously slick negotiations the big fight was back on…or was it?
Following what has been described by Godfrey’s trainer, John Scully, as a ‘miscommunication’ between Godfrey and his promoter, Jimmy Burchfield, the fight is now seemingly in doubt again.
Scully, claims that Burchfield had failed to let them know that the fight was being rearranged and as such Godfrey stopped training last Wednesday. Godfrey and Scully claim to have only found out that the fight was rescheduled, to take place in Chicago, whilst watching last week’s ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. Godfrey and Scully say that they have lost three important days of preparation and as such are now not ready for the fight.
Unusually things have been extremely quiet from the Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham camp during the lead up to this most important of fights for the former Champion. This was because Steve broke with tradition and instead of preparing close to home, at The James Shuler Memorial Gym in West Philadelphia, traveled to the relative seclusion of Big Bear in California.
‘USS’ Cunningham, who was being prepared for the showdown, with Godfrey, by ‘Trainer of the Year’ Naazim Richardson, finally broke his long silence this week saying, “This latest news is very disappointing. I have been away in Big Bear, CA for over two months training hard for this fight. That is time and money spent, that you just don’t get back. This has been an emotional roller coaster, the fight is on… the fight is off… it’s back on…but one thing has remained the same, there is a world champion belt at stake, my belt, and no news was going to keep me from being ready for whatever.
When I got the call from my wife/manager that the fight was off, it was a huge disappointment, at that time there was no hope of the fight being saved, we were told it would have to be rescheduled. I have been around long enough to know that it isn’t over until it’s over, me, Livvy and Naazim all felt it best to stay on course. And it seems like this is one of the big differences here, I am ready and he’s not.
I have no negative feeling towards, Matt. It sounds like there was communication problems in his camp, it’s just a shame that it’s costing everyone this opportunity. No doubt this boxing business is messed up and shady stuff happens, but at the championship level it is the fighter’s job to stay focused and be ready for whatever.
So if it’s really over, what can I say, I am world champion with or without that belt, and I will be ready for whatever is next. I’m still sticking with ‘Champ again in ’10′”
Back in Philadelphia, Steve’s wife, and manager, Livvy took a less philosophical stance by saying. “We are upset, a lot went into this, but it is not the end of the world and quite frankly nothing new…fighters have missed their planes on the way to weigh-ins to avoid fighting Steve [G. Jones], they have vacated their belts rather than fighting Steve [Bell], they have claimed to have ‘cleaned up the division’ and moved up to heavyweight [Haye], while Steve was an IBF titleholder, and just skipped him all together… it’s all flattery in a way, but you know what? Flattery doesn’t pay our bills and it doesn’t help this division get the attention is deserves.
The Cruiserweights are over looked by many and the fighters aren’t getting rich here, they are fighting to be best and for a legacy and I still cannot wrap my head around just letting this opportunity pass you by, it makes me wonder what is really going on behind the scenes, because it just doesn’t add up.”
The Cunningham’s are not the only ones who can’t believe that Godfrey has now elected to withdraw from the fight. Main Event’s President Kathy Duva, today said “The fight is now 100% off. I am extremely disappointed. I decided on Wednesday to do everything I could to salvage the March 26 date, rather than elect to move the bout to June, which was my right, because I believed that it was the best thing to do for the fighters, who had already spent a considerable amount of time, money and effort to prepare for a fight that was only days away. I know for a fact that Doug Loughrey at ESPN shared this belief, as he did everything he could to keep the fight intact.
Steve was an absolute professional through all of this. He remained in Big Bear and continued to train at his own expense through today in the hope that he could still fight on Friday. We let both Godfrey’s promoter and Livvy Cunningham know at roughly 4:30 pm on Wednesday–three hours after we all learned that DKP had canceled the fight–that we were working with ESPN to salvage the fight. In fact, Godfrey’s promoter suggested to my attorney and to ESPN on Wednesday that we should investigate the possibility of finding another promoter’s show on March 26 and offer them the fight. ESPN immediately contacted Dominic Pesoli of 8 Count promotions in Chicago and suggested that we work together to make it happen, which we did.
We kept Godfrey’s promoter and the Çunningham camp apprised of the situation every step of the way as it unfolded. The Godfrey camp never suggested to us or the IBF that Godfrey would not go through with the fight until after ESPN announced that we had succeeded in saving the bout on Friday night.
How Godfrey could ignore the fact that we were all working to move Heaven and Earth to save the date is a mystery to me. Fighters are supposed to want to fight. I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.”
So it’s now official, Cunningham Vs. Godfrey for the vacant IBF World Cruiserweight Title on the 26th March is off. The big question now, that Matt Godfrey has withdrawn from the title challenge, is who will face Steve ‘USS’ Cunningham for the title. The smart money is on Canada’s Troy Ross, who is currently ranked number 4 by the IBF. As for the revised date I guess we will have to wait and see.