Cunningham was a two-time world champion as a cruiserweight.
Two-Time Cruiserweight Champion Passes Tough Test in Gavern
Philadelphia native Steve “USS” Cunningham (25-2, 12 KOs) was given a tough opponent for his debut in the heavyweight division, and the two-time world cruiserweight champion was able to pass the test in pretty dominant fashion. It was a near shutout for Cunningham against veteran Jason Gavern (24-11-4, 10 KOs), winning a unanimous decision with tallies of 100-90 (twice) and 99-91.
“Fighting a guy like Jason Gavern was a testament to who we are, who we want to be,” Cunningham said at the post-fight press conference. “I want to be heavyweight champ. Why else would I be fighting? I want to be champion again. I know how it feels to be a champion – financially, for you personally, also, so that’s what I want to be. I would like to be heavyweight champ. Much respect to every heavyweight out there who I may see in the future, but I come to win.”
Cunningham came out firing the jab against Gavern, a resilient opponent who came forward throughout the 10-round affair. Cunningham had a game plan formalized that would utilize his superb fitness and great quickness, and at no point did he let his flamboyant opposition sway him from his planned attack. Gavern appeared to begin significantly tiring as early as the third round, dropping his hands and breathing from the mouth, while Cunningham displayed the same strength in his legs in the final frame that he had in the opener. In defense of Gavern, however, he was more than game to battle through any physical pain he faced in this bout.
The Virginia native also proved to undoubtedly have a stern and steady chin, as Cunningham continued to find the mark on a series of hard blows. Gavern looked like he was in some serious trouble in the fifth round after absorbing a heavy body shot from Cunningham, but he dug deep to get out of the round and seemed to recover on the stool in between frames.
Tactics and fitness would prove to be the differential as the action continued, with the compact Cunningham creating and capitalizing on openings while Gavern came forward with sweeping overhands. That type of attack was one that Cunningham was prepared to diagnose, and he did well in defending the heavy hands of his opposition. When all was said in done in this encounter, it was nearly a 10-round blank slate in favor of Cunningham, solidifying a very impresses debut in the heavyweight division.
“A guy like Gavern, he’s a tough cookie,” Cunningham admitted. “We’re brothers, we share the same faith, but it’s one of those things. We have to fight each other. He’s going to try to get me, I’m going to try to get him. Force my will on him before he does it to me. It’s part of the business.”
After a successful debut in the heavyweight division, it is likely that Cunningham would appear again in 2012 under the banner of his new promotion, Main Events, which has a contract with NBC and NBC Sports Network to put on regular television cards.