Posted by George Hanson., Jr Esq. on Apr 15, 2014
Buffalo Soldiers—Cunningham Whups Mansour

Buffalo Soldiers—Cunningham Whups Mansour

The Mouthpiece
Buffalo Soldiers—Cunningham Whups Mansour
By: George H. Hanson Jr., Esq.

Date: Friday, April 4, 2014
Venue: The Liacouras Center, Temple University – Philadelphia, PA
Promoters: Main Events & Peltz Boxing Promotions Inc.
Coverage: NBC Sports Network
Commentators: Kenny Rice, BJ Flores, Chris Mannix & Larry Hazzard
Ring Announcer: Joe Antonacci
Referee: Steve Smoker, Shawn Clark & Gary Rosato

Ok, so the title of the story got you reading and you have reached this far. I am writing and listening to some Bob Marley while drinking a cup of Hawaiian Kauai coffee—my supply of Blue Mountain has long been depleted and a distance memory. A great story starts with the title and it was Cunningham who at the opening press conference on March 17th stated, “I am a soldier in the army of Christ.” His declaration and mantra entered our psychic as effortlessly as breathing because it was axiomatic as me proclaiming that Tommy Hearns is my favorite boxer. Yes, Steve “USS” Cunningham is a deeply religious family man—fearless in his convictions, unwavering in his beliefs, supremely confident in his skills and will to best anyone in the squared circle. But, what does this have to do with a buffalo? You don’t get it? Read on.

Mansour and Cunningham - March 17th Press Conference.

Mansour and Cunningham – Press conference March 17th

The day Cunningham vs. Mansour was announced the social media debate began with the primary discussion topic of Philadelphia fighters facing each other. Joining discourse was Uncle Russell—promoter J. Russell Peltz—who extolled the virtues and nostalgia of the historic Philly wars featuring “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, Bobby “Boogaloo” Watts, Eugene “Cyclone” Hart, Stanley “Kitten” Hayward, “Joltin’” Jeff Chandler and countless others. Salient points were made and the Facebook forum was open for all to add their “two-cents” in an attempt to affect change. Cunningham joined the discourse reminding everyone that he had a family to feed and that we should all “come out and enjoy the fight.” Cunningham and wife Livvy are the proud parents of three wonderful children—Steve Jr., Kennedy and Cruz. Kennedy, the middle child and only girl, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome— a rare congenital disease that left her with a small heart. Her struggles have been well documented and the eight-year old’s courage rivals that of her father’s will to win in the squared circle. Kennedy is a fighter of the higher order just like her dad. Thus, I couldn’t be dismissive of the two-time world champion who was correct but didn’t realize that this was an age-old topic and his fight only added more fuel to the fire.

The opening press conference on March 17th at the Joe Hands Gym in Philadelphia shed much light on the outlook of both participants. “We didn’t choose this fight. This is what happens in boxing. This is about business. This is our career,” said Cunningham. After moving up in weight to the heavyweight division, what appeared to be victory over Tomasz Adamek on December 22, 2012 was overturned by two judges who must have been delusional or were watching another fight? Cunningham lost a split-decision and was in the ring four months later against the 6 feet 7 inch 270 lbs. behemoth—Tyson Fury. A laser right had Fury on his back in the second round appearing as thought he was sun-bathing in Negril Jamaica. But, the giant fought back using every conceivable permissible and impermissible advantage to wear down his smaller foe winning by technical knockout in the 7th round. At the time of the stoppage, Cunningham was ahead by two points on two scorecards and even on the third. “I don’t lay down for anybody—Mansour knows it’s going to be a fight.”

Cunningham and Brother Nazim Richardson - Press Conference March 17th.

Cunningham and trainer Brother Nazim Richardson – Press conference March 17th

“I was flabbergasted when I was told that I was fighting Steve. He was the first person that I sparred after I got out of jail in 2010. I was happy that I performed so well that I went to the bathroom and cried” stated USBA heavyweight champion Mansour— who trains at the Joe Hands Gym. Mansour’s budding professional career which began in 1997 was cut short in 2001 when he was 9 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 6 kos due to a drug charged that garnered him eight and half years behind bars. There is an old adage that “prison is a fool’s play pen and the wise man’s university.” Mansour was no fool and maximized his time behind bars by earning an Associate’s Degree as a paralegal and learning carpentry. He was prepared to re-enter the working world with two marketable skills. But a sparring session with Cunningham and he knew that his dream of winning a world title wasn’t a fleeting illusion. Working in the legal profession or with his hands as carpenter was put on hold. The intelligent and insightful fighter set his sights on ruling the heavyweight division.

Uncle Russell, a pugilistic preacher in the pulpit, was in rare form displaying his oratorical alacrity similar to his tear-jerking tribute to “Bad” Bennie Briscoe at the memorial service on January 11, 2011. On that day I doubt if there was a dry eye in the church after Peltz finished honoring the fighter that became the foundation of his promotional outfit. ”Teddy Brenner, the greatest matchmaker had three criteria for a great match-up – 1) was there a good mesh in style? Here we have the bull vs. the matador 2) does the fight lead anywhere? Here the winner will move on to a six-figure pay-day and 3) would I buy a ticket?” Peltz finished with an eloquent soliloquy chronicling many of the great Philadelphia match-ups including—Charley Scott vs. Sugar Hart, “Joltin” Jeff Chandler vs. Johnny “Dancing Machine” Carter and Derrick “Pooh” Ennis vs. “King” Gabriel Rosado. He was in stride and for a split-second my mind wandered and I imagined that he said David vs. Goliath. He dismounted with “guys from the same neighborhood fighting each other made Philly the fight town that it is.”

Reverend J. Russell Peltz in his pugilistic pulpit.

“The Reverend” J. Russell Peltz in rare form at the March 17th Press Conference.

“It’s a job we have to do. It’s not about being the baddest guy in boxing. People have written him off. It is his job to change their minds,” stated Brother Nazim Richardson, Cunningham’s trainer, at his fighter’s media day workout on March 19th. In response, the acerbic and gloriously confident Cunningham retorted, “My last fight in Philadelphia was in 2003. I have traveled the world and I have been fed to the wolves by my promoters. Fighting again in Philadelphia is a dream come through.” Richardson’s words weren’t lost on me because he was telling everyone that he was going to ensure that a new chapter is written about Steve “USS” Cunningham. It was no accident that Richardson discovered the plaster of Paris in WBA welterweight champion Antonio Margarito’s hand wraps prior to his bout with “Sugar” Shane Mosley on January 24, 2009. Richardson is a stickler for the minutest detail and is so observant that he probably would recall the make and model of your watch if he ever shook your hand. It is axiomatic that he watched every available recording of Mansour’s bouts and would train Cunningham to exploit all of the southpaw’s shortcomings.

Over the weeks leading up to the fight I reminded everyone including Peltz that professional boxing is called “prize fighting.” Boxers are the ones doing all the fighting, sustaining permanent damage yet were not getting enough of the prize! During these social media debates, Uncle Russell shoulder-rolled, used the famous Archie Moore cross-arm defense and parried as the Facebook fire raged on—never dissipating. I have no issue with intra-city rivalry and bouts with Philadelphia pugilists in opposing corners. I love my grandmother but had she been in my weight class in the Philadelphia Golden Gloves we would have fought. Lost on so many was that despite the glory and his name forever etched in the history of boxing “Bad” Bennie Briscoe was still working as a garbage collector a few years before his passing. I doubt if Cunningham and Mansour would be compensated commensurate with the punishment that they were going to dole out and sustain respectively.

Cunningham (L.) mixing it up with Mansour.

Cunningham (L.) mixing it up with Mansour.

The gong sounded and Mansour (20 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 15 kos) attacked with reckless abandon swinging wild punches hoping to connect and send Cunningham (26 wins – 6 losses – 0 draws – 12 kos) crashing to the canvas a hapless heap—an early knockout victim. Cunningham kept his composure under fire, used lateral movement, slipped several right hooks and used his jab and short chopping rights to keep the marauding southpaw at arm’s length. In the second round a right uppercut opened a gash over Cunningham’s left eye that wasn’t a factor for the remainder of the bout—cut man Buddy Osborne worked his magic. Round after round Mansour’s game plan appeared to be predicated on him connecting with one big punch. He came forward—oftentimes airborne more times than Donald Trump’s private jet— eating jabs and right hands his left eye swollen and rapidly closing. I don’t mean to diminish or disparage Mansour and his handlers but this strategy was tantamount to someone squandering his life earnings hoping to win the Powerball lottery to fund retirement. Every huge swing and miss drained his energy as Cunningham countered with body shots.

With forty seconds remaining in the fifth round while moving backwards with his hands down, Cunningham found himself on the canvas after two right hooks ricocheted off his jaw thrown by a leaping Mansour. Smoger waved Mansour to the furthest neutral corner and reached the count of nine when Cunningham made it to his feet and responded positively to his inquiry. The action resumed and a rejuvenated Mansour, like a shark tasting blood in the water, came forward wanting to close the show. He attacked throwing with reckless abandoned and connected with a combination including a vicious right hook that reintroduced Cunningham to the canvas his legs folding beneath him in freaking fashion with his head resting on the bottom strand of the ring ropes with eleven seconds remaining in the round.

Press row held its collective breath with many believing that the fight was over. But, maybe Cunningham is an alien from another galaxy because amazingly he got on one knee listened to his corner and was upright by the time Smoger reached the count of six. Smoger let him know that “one more time” and he would be stopping the fight. Cunningham acknowledged the referee’s proclamation and the fight resumed with the bell ending the round. Buddy Osborn met Cunningham in the ring as he made his way to the corner using a sponge to squeeze water on his dome.

Cunningham is down for the second time.

Cunningham is down for the second time.

Many fights are won and lost based on the action or inaction of the corners. Like Hannibal—the great African general who conquered Italy by trekking through the Alps—Brother Nazim Richardson remained calmed and gave clear, precise instructions sending Cunningham out for the sixth round. Using his legs and long, lengthy jab, he out-boxed Mansour who was launching right hooks in hope of decapitating his foe. Cunningham survived, cleared his head, boxed at a distance while talking to Mansour over the next several rounds. Mansour, despite slowing down was always in hot pursuit, forever dangerous with dynamite in his mitts.

In the first few seconds of the tenth and final round Mansour connected with a straight left to the shoulder blade of Cunningham that sent him backward to the canvas. It was ruled a slip by the referee but should have been scored as a knockdown. The action resumed and Cunningham continued to box on the outside tying up Mansour whenever he was within reach. With forty seconds remaining in the bout Cunningham scored a knockdown. Mansour bobbing and weaving, moving backwards was struck with a few chopping rights and a short uppercut while off balance and his left glove touched the canvas. The bout resumed and concluded with a standing ovation and raucous cheers from the contented audience.

Cunningham captured the USBA heavyweight belt winning a unanimous decision by scores of 97-90 and 95-92 twice. There were several close rounds depending on one’s proximity to the action and scoring methodology. Mansour won three rounds on two scorecards—and only one on the third scorecard—the fifth round which he took 10-7 unanimously. It is interesting to note that the two judges who gave Mansour three rounds only agreed on the first and fifth rounds—with one also scoring the second for him and the other giving him the eighth. Had both of these judges agreed on the second and eighth rounds and the referee not missed the knockdown in the final round—Mansour would have won 94-93 on these two scorecards. Then again, had only the rounds that they were in agreement taken into account Cunningham would have won 96-91. Regardless of the scoring I can only hope that there is immediate suspension, an eye examination and sobriety test for the judge who scored the fight 97-90. What fight was he watching?

Prior to the main event, hard-hitting middleweight contender Curtis “Showtime” Stevens (26 wins – 4 losses – 0 draws – 19 kos) of Brooklyn, NY and Nassau Bahama’s Tureano Johnson (14 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 10 kos) set the ring on fire in a scheduled ten- round bout. The southpaw Johnson who represented the Bahamas at the 2008 Olympics – hopped on Stevens at the opening bell engaging him in a phone booth war standing right in front of the Brooklyn heavy-hitter showing no respect for his punching prowess. Johnson took charge and repeatedly drove shots to Stevens’ kidney and ribcage outworking him round after round. Besides the fourth and fifth rounds in which Stevens rocked Johnson early with uppercuts the Bahamian dominated the action and was ahead on the scorecards 89-82 twice and 87-84 heading into the final round.

Johnson (R.) connecting with a right hook.

Johnson (R.) connecting with a right hook.

Remember, fights are oftentimes won or lost due to the ineptitude of the corner men and/or the fighter’s inability to follow instructions. Nothing could have been more applicable than Johnson ahead on the scorecards by a wide margin continuing to fight at closed quarters with a wicked puncher like Stevens in the final round. Maxwell House coffee is touted as “good to the last drop.” Curtis Stevens is dangerous to the last second. The 10th round followed the script as the previous nine with Johnson blanketing Stevens on top of him like a wino on a wind-blown $20 bill on a city side-walk. He pressed the action forcing Stevens to the ropes outworking him to the body and head. With a minute remaining Steven unleased an earth-shattering left hook that crashed off Johnson’s chin forcing him to drop his hands freezing him almost in slow motion as he backed into the ropes with Stevens throwing a combination with most of the shots missing their mark. Referee Gary Rosato immediately jumped in and called a halt to the action with Johnson complaining. Stevens won by technical knockout at 2:09 of the tenth round.

A formal written protest by Johnson and his handlers is inevitable and not far-fetched. Granted that there is no eight-count rule in Pennsylvania, the referee made a judgment call that cost Johnson the fight. But, much of the blame rests with Johnson and his corner. He had beaten Steven’s at his game by using a strategy that most believed was suicidal. Johnson should have coasted by fighting at long range using his jab and made it to the final bell. There was absolutely no reason to continue his high-wire act without a safety net.

Stevens (L.) moving in for the kill.

Stevens (L.) moving in for the kill.

Undefeated super-middleweight Lee Campbell (6 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 3 kos) of Laurinburg, North Carolina pushed the envelope of political correctness to its limit by strolling out of the dressing room with his moniker “Silverback” emblazoned on the waistband of his trunks for all to read. I forgot to mention that Campbell is African American and looks like he was carved out of steel. In fear of Al Sharpton showing up at my doorsteps all references to the fighter’s nickname have been omitted. In the scheduled eight rounder, Campbell pressed the action at the opening bell against his opponent Roberto Acevedo (8 wins – 1 loss – 0 draws – 5 kos) of Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

The powerfully built Campbell who stands 5 feet 10 inches outworked his rival who towered over him by four inches. By the third round, Acevedo was sporting a cut on his left cheek. I doubt if the Puerto Rican expected such a tough fight because very little credence is given to the level of competition from the Carolinas. Managers in need of a victory for their fighters tend to import it from North or South Carolina. Campbell was disproving the common myth by relentlessly working the head and body. He hurt Acevedo throughout the bout with constant pressure and good work to the body. The Puerto Rican was on his bicycle for most of the fight with Campbell pursuing. The fighter from North Carolina captured a majority decision by scores of 78-74, 77-75 with the last judge scoring it 76-76 raising questions about his competency and eye sight.

Campbell (L.) unleashing on Acevedo.

Campbell (L.) unleashing on Acevedo.

Other Results: former junior-welterweight title challenger Edner Cherry (31wins – 6 losses – 2 draws – 17 kos) of Nassau, Bahamas who lost a 12-round decision to WBC junior-welterweight champion Timothy “Desert Storm” Bradley on September 13, 2008 won a unanimous eight-round decision by scores of 79-73, 78-74 and 77-73 in a junior-lightweight bout against tough Robert Osiobe (14 wins – 8 losses – 4 draws –6 kos) of Ughelli, Nigeria. Cherry coming off a 13-month lay-off pressed the action and suffered a cut over his left eye in the seventh round caused by an accidental head butt which will sideline him for several months. Cuban light-heavyweight Sullivan Barrera (10 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 6 kos) scored a knockdown in the opening stanza winning a unanimous six-round decision by scores of 60-53 on all three scorecards over a game Larry Pryor (7 wins – 7 losses – 0 draws – 4 kos) of Washington, DC. Notre Dame graduate, light-heavyweight Mike Lee (11 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 6 kos) of Chicago Illinois who is trained by former heavyweight champion Chris Byrd, dropped Peter “Lightning” Lewison (6 wins – 0 losses – 0 draws – 5 kos) of Grand Cayman in the final round of their scheduled six-rounder forcing corner man— junior-middleweight contender Charles “The Killa” Whittaker to signal referee Smoker to stop the bout at 1:39. It had been an entertaining fight with the Caymanian refusing to surrender. Junior-welterweight Evincii “The Prize Fighter” Dixon (3 wins – 4 losses – 1 draw – 1 ko) of Lancaster, Pennsylvania dropped Edgardo Torres (2 wins – 2 losses – 0 draws – 2 kos) Vineland, New Jersey in the opening round of their scheduled four-rounder and again in the second round forcing referee Shawn Clark to call a halt at the 15 second mark awarding Dixon a victory by technical knockout.

Livvy and Kennedy being held by her dad - the new USBA heavyweight champion.

Livvy and Kennedy being held by her dad – the new USBA heavyweight champion.

Tonight a national television audience witnessed an epic and extremely entertaining heavyweight battle featuring a two-time world champion and a murderous punching contender. Cunningham was the more experienced and disciplined combatant. He not only withstood the pressure and power of the unyielding Mansour but also followed the instructions of his trainer Brother Nazim Richardson. I am confident that it will win the Briscoe Award for 2014 Fight of the Year. The USBA belt is the gateway to a top-10 ranking by the International Boxing Federation which had President Daryl Peoples at ringside. Hopefully, this victory will lead to a high six-figure payday for Cunningham. Despite the setback – Mansour’s performance can only propel him into another meaningful fight.

Remember that on July 4, 1910 heavyweight champion Jack Johnson was paid $250,000 for successfully defending his title against former champion James J. Jeffries. The average US worker made between $200 and $400 annually. There was no income tax at this point in US history, no television, no pay-per view and no big endorsement deals. Facebook was 94 year in the future and Peltz Promotions 59 years away. We can debate ad nauseam about the propriety of Fightkingsgloves (1)Philadelphia contenders facing each other. But I doubt if anyone will argue that either fighter made $250,000 for his efforts. Buffalo soldiers!

Continue to support the sweet science, and remember, always carry your mouthpiece!

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About George Hanson., Jr Esq.

George Hanson., Jr Esq. has written 106 post in this blog.

Hailing from New Forest, Jamaica, Hanson started boxing as a teenager in Philadelphia under the tutelage of former welterweight contender, Dick Turner. He excelled, capturing four Pennsylvania State Amateur Championships—his last while a junior at Drexel University studying Accounting. According to most who have seen Hanson fight, “He is the best fighter never to have turned professional.”

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