By: William Holmes
The Liacouras Center at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania was the host for tonight’s NBC Sports Fight Night card. It featured a main event for the USBA Heavyweight Title between Steve Cunningham and Amir Mansour, as well as a middleweight bout between undefeated prospect Tureano Johnson and former title challenger Curtis Stevens.
On the undercard, Edner Cherry returned from a year away from the ring and continued to remake himself in the super featherweight division with a decision victory over Robert Osiobe. Sullivan Barrera won an impressive decision victory over Larry Pryor, and Lee Campbell scored a minor upset over Roberto Acevedo. Irish Mike Lee, best known for being the white boxer subway spokesperson, returned from nearly a year off to win a technical knockout victory over the previously undefeated Peter Lewison.
There was a half hour break in between the undercard and televised portion of tonight’s event, and by the time the cameras were rolling a decent crowd was in attendance but the upper level of the Liacouras Center was empty.
The first televised bout of the night was between Curtis “Showtime” Stevens (26-4) and Tureano Johnson (14-0) in the middleweight division. Johnson is a former Olympian and fights for Gary Shaw Productions and was the first man to enter the ring. Stevens, despite being a Brooklyn native fighting in Philadelphia, had the support of the crowd at the beginning of the fight.
Johnson was a southpaw and taller than Stevens and showed no fear of Stevens’ legendary power early on. He immediately attacked the body in the first round and had Stevens fighting with his back against the ropes. Stevens and Johnson willingly went toe to toe and turned up the excitement in the building in the first round, and the action never died down.
Johnson continued to apply the pressure in the second round and was doing some serious damage on Stevens by the ropes again. Stevens was able to land several strong uppercuts in the second, but Johnson took them well and continued to apply the pressure on Stevens. The third round was all Johnson again and hurt Stevens with some hard body shots. Johnson was warned by the referee for a low blow in the third.
Stevens looked tired in the fourth round and both fighters still exchanged heavy shots while fighting in a phone booth, but Stevens did a better job at staying off the ropes and hurt Stevens with a left hook right uppercut combination in the fourth. The fourth round was the best round of the night, but Stevens appeared to have won it.
Stevens won the fifth round again by landing good short hooks and snapping the neck of Johnson with his brutal uppercuts. But Johnson came back in the sixth round by applying the pressure and trapping Stevens in the corner again. Steven looked exhausted in the later rounds and was fading behind badly. He appeared to have no answer for the pressure of Johnson.
However, that all changed in the very controversial final round. Both fighters looked exhausted and Stevens needed a knockout to win. A brutal left hook by Stevens hurt Johnson badly and he went backwards towards the ropes. Johnson covered up and Stevens unleashed a combination but Johnson did not look to be hurt badly enough to have the fight stopped, but the referee for some reason decided to call it off.
The ring filled with boos and the Johnson vehemently protested the stoppage. Most at ringside felt it was an early stoppage, but Curtis Stevens pulled out a miracle victory with a TKO at 2:09 of the tenth and final round.
The scorecards read 87-84, 89-82, and 89-82 for Johnson at the time of the stoppage in a very entertaining, but also very controversial bout.
The main event of the night was between Steve “USS” Cunningham (26-6) and Amir “Hardcore” Mansour (20-0) for the USBA Heavyweight title. The crowd was evenly split for Cunningham and Mansour since both of them are from the area.
Cunningham had the height, age, and experience advantage over the southpaw Mansour, but Mansour fought like a man possessed and came out firing in the first round. He, to the surprise of many ringside, came out jabbing and landed several good jabs. Cunningham landed a good cross at the end of the first, but it was Mansour started off well.
Mansour went away from his jabs in the second round and started to load up for his punches. Cunningham landed a good body shot and a clean straight right hand. Mansour sent Cunningham backwards with an overhand left in the second that may have opened up a cut near Cunningham’s left eye. Cunningham came back strong in the third round by sticking to boxing and making Mansour miss wildly. Cunningham continued to outbox Mansour in the fourth round and had a dominating fourth.
The momentum completely changed in the fifth round towards Mansour’s favor. Mansour was swinging, and missing, wildly but he finally connected with a double left hook that sent Cunningham down hard. Cunningham was on wobbly legs but somehow was able to get back up, but Mansour sent him back down again. A lot of referee might have stopped the fight at this point, but Cunningham was allowed to continue and survived to the end of the round.
Cunningham looked wobbly at the beginning of the sixth round and Mansour was loading up all of his punches. Cunningham went on his bike and was able to avoid most of Mansour’s punches. In the seventh round Cunningham went back to his boxing and was able to connect with right crosses and avoid the wild punches of Mansour.
Mansour landed several good hooks and right uppercuts in the eighth, but Cunningham was still able to outbox and outmaneuver Mansour. The ninth round was close, and by the last round it was anybody’s fight.
Both of Mansour’s eyes were swollen shut in the last round and he was missing with wild punches. Cunningham slipped in the final round that some felt should have been ruled a knockdown, but he was able to get back up and land two crisp sharp straight right hands that sent Mansour backwards and his glove touched the mat. The referee rightly ruled it a knockdown and the crowd was going nuts.
Both fighters left it all in the ring and showed a tremendous amount of heart. The final scores were 97-90, 95-92, and 95-92 for Steve Cunningham.
Undercard Quick Results:
Edner Cherry (32-6-2) defeated Robert Osiobe (14-9-4) by decision with scores of 77-75, 79-73, and 78-74 in the super featherweight division.
Sullivan Barrera (11-0) scored a first round knockdown en route to a decision victory over Larry Pryor (7-8) in the light heavyweight with scores of 60-53 on all three scorecards.
Lee Campbell (7-0) defeated Roberto Acevedo (8-2) by decision in the light heavyweight division with scores of 76-76, 77-75, and 78-74.
Mike Lee (12-0) defeated Peter Lewison (6-1) by TKO at 1:39 of the sixth round.
Evincii Dixon (4-4-1) defeated Edgardo Torres (2-3) by TKO at 0:15 of the second round in the junior welterweight division.