By: William Holmes
Friday night will feature a crossroads fight between two prominent Philadelphia heavyweights, Steve “USS” Cunningham and Amir “Hardcore” Mansour. Steve Cunningham is a veteran heavyweight boxer that is a former cruiserweight world champion and Mansour is an ex-felon who has used boxing to help turn his life around.
Friday’s card is being promoted by Main Events, Joe Hand, and Peltz boxing and will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network. It is also being held at the Liacourcas Center in Temple University and a good turnout is expected. Curtis “Showtime” Stevens faces the undefeated Tureano Johnson in the middleweight division in the co-main event.
The following is a preview of both of the televised bouts on Friday night.
Curtis Stevens (26-4) vs. Tureano Johnson (14-0); Middleweight Division
Stevens & Johnson
Photos: Rich Graessle/Main Events
Curtis Stevens is a valuable fighter for any promotion in that he has at this point in his career shown that he can bounce back from tough defeats and is willing to fight anyone at anytime. He’s still in his athletic prime at the age of 29 and has vastly more experience as a professional than the slightly younger Johnson
Both Stevens and Johnson had a successful amateur career but Johnson has Olympic experience while Stevens does not. Johnson will also be the taller man inside the ring. Both boxers have a good knockout ratio, Stevens has stopped nineteen of his opponents including four if his past five opponents while Johnson has stopped ten of his opponents also including four of his past five.
Stevens, obviously, has a huge edge in terms of quality opposition. He had a tough loss against Gennady Golovkin in New York in November, but was able to impressively bounce back with a first round TKO over Patrick Majewski in Majewski’s backyard of Atlantic City, NJ. Stevens has also defeated Saul Roman, Derrick Findley, Elvin Ayala, Piotr Wilczewski. Stevens has fought as high as a light heavyweight division but is better suited in the middleweight division. Stevens has had losses to quality opposition such as Andre Dirrell, Jesse Brinkley, and the previously mentioned Gennady Golovkin.
Johnson defeated Willie Fortune in February of last year to earn the right to face Stevens.
Fortune was undefeated at the time and lost every round to the quicker Johnson. Besides that however, Johnson’s record is filled with opponents who have losing records. The three opponents before his bout with Fortune had a combined record of 4-22-1.
This is a big step up in competition for Johnson and it will be either sink or swim for him. This writer thinks he’ll sink against Stevens, and Stevens could very likely find himself in another championship bout sooner than later with an impressive performance.
Steve Cunningham (26-6) vs. Amir Mansour (20-0); Heavyweight Division
Mansour is forty one years old, but he’s a young forty one. He has spent some time in prison, and had a nine year break from fighting from 2001 to 2010. Since his return to the ring in 2010 Mansour has been on a tear. Mansour has stopped fifteen of his opponents including four of his past five fights.
Cunningham & Mansour
If there’s a knock against Mansour it’s that he can be a little sloppy inside the ring. He stopped Kelvin Price in his last bout and knocked him down twice, but often showed some difficulty figuring out the jab and clinching of Kelvin Price.
To his credit, Mansour isn’t one of those undefeated heavyweights that have fought nothing but tomato cans inside the ring. Besides Price, he has also defeated Maurice Harris, Dominick Guinn, Jason Gavern, and Dominique Alexander.
Mansour has that one punch knockout power, but he has never faced an elite boxer such as Steve Cunningham.
Cunningham doesn’t have the power of Mansour, he has only stopped twelve of his opponents and has spent much of his career fighting in the cruiserweight division. But Cunningham is a superb technical boxer that has been on the wrong side of some dubious decision.
Cunningham will have a two inch height advantage and an eight inch reach advantage. That should help Cunningham tremendously if he tries to outbox Mansour and keep him at a safe distance. However, Cunningham is thirty seven years old and has been in some brutal wars.
He was stopped by Tyson Fury in the seventh round in at Madison Square Garden despite the fact Cunningham knocked Fury down in the second round and was subject to repeated elbows and holds by the much bigger Fury. Cunningham also lost a split decision to Adamek that many felt he should have won.
However, Cunningham showed that he isn’t ready to be put to the pasture with his decision victory over Manuel Quezada in his last fight. Cunningham has also defeated the likes of Jason Gavern, Troy Ross, Wayne Braithwaite, Maco Huck, and Krysztof Wlodarczyk.
If Cunningham loses on Friday he may never receive another world title shot. His 2-4 record in his past six fights clearly shows he’s on the downside of his career and has been since 2011. If Mansour loses on Friday it will show that he’s great at beating B level opposition, but isn’t talented enough to defeat high level contenders.
But this writer thinks Cunningham will outsmart and outwork Mansour to a clear decision victory.