Sunday, April 13, 2014

What does it all mean?

So Manny Pacquaio won a unanimous decision against previously undefeated Timothy Bradley on Saturday night; thus avenging a disputed decision loss to Bradley nearly two years ago. In doing so, he wins his ninth world title in eight divisions. He also quelled any suspicion that the 35-year-old was on the downslide after a couple of setbacks. Yet all that said, what does it all mean?

It is unquestioned that Pacquiao (56-5-2, 38 KO's) is an all-time great and will be a future Hall of Famer someday, but is his legacy questioned and tarnished at all if he never faces the consensus number one pound for pound fighter Floyd 'Money' Mayweather, Jr.? However, it goes both ways. Mayweather, unquestionably the number one fighter in the world, is still undefeated at (45-0, 26 KO's). He too is a multiple title winner in numerous divisions, yet the same can be asked about him. Is his legacy questioned and (or) tarnished without ever fighting Pacquiao?

It is hard to believe that anyone would question anything regarding these two champions. They have both been the top two fighters in the world for numerous years now and both have faced all types of challenges from all comers, except each other. I could care less about who's at fault in that scenario. Ask that question and you'll have a never-ending debate from fans of both about who's to blame.

Truth is, they are both to blame equally. If they really wanted this fight to happen, which it should have already long ago, it could have been done. Beyond the politics of boxing, of which there are a lot, both of these men have the power to make this happen. Why they won't is beyond me? Maybe their legacy, of which I am asking about, is the reason. Only one man can be declared a winner; thus the loser lives with the infamous stigma of being an all-time great, but not the greatest of his era.

So what? Look at the history of boxing and does anyone really care about whom won or lost? It is the battles that took place from combatants at the top of their game that is revered. Is the legendary Wilfredo Gomez no longer regarded as an all-time great, even though he loss via knockout to the late Salvador Sanchez in their epic battle from 1981? Is Marvin Hagler regarded any less for losing a decision to Sugar Ray Leonard in the "Superfight' of '87? Is Oscar De la Hoya, still not considered the Golden Boy champion that he was for losing to Felix Trinidad in their classic meeting of unbeaten 26 year old welterweights back in 1999?

The answer to all these is an emphatic no! All those names are hallowed in the annals of boxing and it should go without saying that so would the names Pacquiao and Mayweather, regardless of who won or lost. Therefore, I say that Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. can continue to do what they do and be universally regarded as the top two names in the sport until they decide to hang up the gloves. However, unless they face each other at some point, and hopefully some point before it's too late, because they're already past their prime, the question will always remain, "What does it all mean?"

Monday, April 7, 2014

Daughter's failing heart fuels the heart of a champion

A man who fights and possesses skill is always a threat; but a man who fights with a purpose is virtually unbeatable. Heavyweight contender Steve
'USS' Cunningham is that man. A former two-time cruiserweight world champion, Cunningham fights for much more than glory.

A family man, 37 year old Cunningham has an eight year old beautiful daughter named Kennedy who at first glance looks like any other eight year old. However, if you took a closer look at the TV cameras focusing in on her at ringside by her mother's side in her father's latest fight this past Friday, you could see part of a scar; one that ran from near the top of her chest down into her dress. That's because Kennedy Cunningham was born with a congenital heart defect; one that needs to inevitably corrected by a transplant before it stops beating.

It is with that type of reality that Steve Cunningham forges ahead and does what does. His record (27-6, 12 KO's) is a bit deceiving considering he's fought his last five fights as an undersized heavyweight; or more likely as a blown up cruiserweight. Considering he's 6'3", it's not like he doesn't have the size to be a heavyweight. However, at 206 lbs., which is what he weighed in for his last fight this past weekend against heavy-handed and previously undefeated Amir Mansour (20-1, 15 KO's), who was 25 lbs. heavier, he's definitely a small heavyweight for sure.

So why does a man who has had worldwide success as a cruiserweight and is not that big to fight in the heavyweight division move up to tackle those giants? It's simple mathematics; the cruiserweight division has never drawn much attention, thus that means it doesn't draw much money. However, in the heavyweight division there is money to be made. A successful run there to a potential title shot against Vladimir Klitschko can mean financial security for Cunningham and his family, including a new house to aptly care for his daughter and the eventual transplant she needs.

It is with that purpose that Cunningham (pictured above @ left in his fight against Mansour) got up off the canvas in the sixth round, not once, but twice after Mansour nearly finished him with some bombs. Mansour, who realized he was behind at the time and fighting with his own desperation due to a closing left eye was throwing haymakers with each punch and at one point a left hook to Cunningham's chin nearly decapitated him. Most fighters after that punch would have been down for the count. How Cunningham got up is beyond me?

Yet he did, both times, and survived the round. Renowned trainer Nazim Richardson and his corner did a great job in reviving him and surprisingly he came back in the seventh and won back that round. He avoided any further damage and eventually made up for those falls in the sixth by dropping Mansour himself in the 10th and last round. That knock down solidified his case for a unanimous decision victory.

When asked in his post fight interview, while holding his daughter in his arms, what drives him he emphatically said, "Faith!" It's what he had stitched in the belt line of his trunks and it's what he holds onto to help him deal with his daughter plight. However, in this quest to become a heavyweight world champion, it's his daughter's failing heart that fuels the heart of a champion.

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