by Sean Crose
“We have a fight here that is a pick ‘em fight.”
So said Main Events’ honcho Kathy Duva at the beginning of a conference call Wednesday to promote the upcoming twelve round heavyweight bout between Steve “USS” Cunningham (28-6, 13 KOs) and Vyacheslav “Czar” Glazkov (19-0-1, 12 KOs).
The match, which will be on the undercard of the Sergey Kovalev-Jean Pascal light heavyweight title scrap on March 14th will be aired live from the Bell Centre in Montreal by HBO. The winner will be the mandatory for the IBF heavyweight title, currently held by Wladimir Klitschko (who will be facing American contender Bryant Jennings in April at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan).
It’s undoubtedly a thrilling and challenging moment for both men. After all, as Duva herself said, “these are exciting times for the heavyweight division.”
Yet they are changing times, as well. Heavyweight champions are, let’s face it, a lot bigger now than they used to be. Sure, there have been big champions in the past, men like Primo Carnera and Jess Willard, but, by and far, giants didn’t traditionally perform combine size and skill in the heavyweight division until Lennox Lewis and the Klitschko brothers came around.
Now, with men like 6′ 6 1/2″ tall Deontay Wilder and 6′ 9″ tall Tyson Fury, who defeated Cunningham in New York City after being put on the canvas, knocking on Klitschko’s door, enormous heavies are now the norm. That, of course, might not bode well for guys like Glazkov and Cunningham, who have more traditional heights and frames (both men are under 6’4″).
With that in mind, I asked each fighter if he thought his lack of size would prove to be a problem in this world of supersized heavyweights. Needless to say, neither man felt that way in the least.
“I think that anything is possible,” Glazkov responded.
Cunningham’s response to the question was downright positive.
“I think my size is going to help me get a world tile,” the Philly native said, going against the grain.
Indeed, these are tough men, men who have to be confident to survive, for both have been through some extremely trying times, even by boxing’s rough standards.
Glazkov, a native of the Ukraine, has had to deal with a territorial dispute between his country and neighboring Russia, led by authoritarian strongman Vladimir V. Putin.
“It’s a war in Ukraine,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “I lost my grandma. She was killed in the street.”
Talk about the horrors of battle.
Glazkov made it clear, however, that he’ll be ready for business when he faces Cunningham in March.
“Right now I am concentrated 100%,” he claimed. “I am here, I am training, I’m ready.”
Cunningham, too, has had to deal with more stress and heartache than any one individual should have to. Kennedy, his daughter with wife Livvy, has Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, an extraordinarily serious illness which led the little girl to recently receive a heart transplant.
“I do the same thing that I’ve been doing,” Cunningham said of the situation. “I use [the situation] as energy, I use it as fuel, and I press on.”
Indeed, the man actually sees his daughter as a source of inspiration.
“She can go ahead and get a transplant with that much heart,” he pointed out.
“Me going into this fight is nothing.”
While both men have performed more than admirably in the face of adversity, there are concerns regarding each individual’s potential shortcomings as a fighter. For Cunningham, the question of age is starting to rear its head (he’s 38, after all).
As for Glazkov, a more psychological matter may have to be dealt with – the fact that he’s too nice in the ring.
“He’s not mean enough,” Egis Klimas, Glazkov’s manager, stated frankly.
Perhaps Glazkov’s upcoming opponent will be able to cure him of that problem.
“I’m an old school fighter’s fighter,” Cunningham said. “I love to fight, period.”