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Cunningham and Mansour engage in an instant classic

Steve Cunningham and Amir Mansour aren’t the big names. They don’t fight on the premium cable networks and they don’t have the big name promoters and big money behind them. But none of that mattered on Friday night.

Steve Cunningham (left) and Amir Mansour eye one another at the weigh-in for their fight.
Steve Cunningham (left) and Amir Mansour eye one another at the weigh-in for their fight.
Rich Graessle, Main Events
Steve Cunningham (left) and Amir Mansour fought a fight for the ages Friday night in Philadelphia, PA.
Rich Graessle, Main Events

If you were lucky enough to have seen the two Philadelphians mix it up you saw a gem of a scrap. It was a battle that possessed all of the characteristics of a great fight and it was one of the best heavyweight fights you are likely to ever see in this day and age.

Cunningham, a former cruiserweight titlist, won the fight by unanimous decision after ten rounds of back and forth action. It was the type of fight that had ebbs and flows, there were lots of punches thrown and at any moment it appeared as though either guy could have knocked out the other. It is an early candidate for fight of the year.

It was just the type of fight that boxing needs more of and that matchmakers must seek to put together. Promoters Russell Peltz and Kathy Duva should be commended for the job they did in bringing this fight to the light of day and the NBC Sports Network deserves credit for airing it.

At a press conference to hype the fight back in March, Peltz correctly predicted this match-up was a good one. Peltz would know as he has been making fights since 1969 and has put together some excellent ones – especially in his hometown of Philadelphia. He has forgotten more about matchmaking and promoting than anyone in the world will likely ever know.

“These are the fights that make Philly the fight town it is. This is why people are going to come out and see it,” said Peltz. “Because nobody knows, nobody is willing to bet the bank other than the two fighters as to who is going to win this fight. It’s a toss-up fight, it’s a competitive fight, it’s a fight between two veterans, two contenders and two guys who each believe they are going to win. There’s no opponent in this fight.”

Peltz could not have been more correct. It was the type of fight for those that witnessed it will not soon forget. Both men fought honorably and with passion. Cunningham was down in the fifth round twice - and there would have been no argument had referee Steve Smoger called a halt to the bout there and then. Kudos must also go to Smoger for remaining calm and allowing the fight to continue. In this day and age of compassion and naivete , the vast majority of referees would have stopped the fight. Cunningham went on to take control of the bout and even scored a flash knockdown of his own in the tenth and final round to seal the ten round decision victory.

More importantly, when the fight was over both Cunningham and Mansour conducted themselves as true gentlemen. They congratulated and complimented one another and there was no complaining about the referee, the judges or anything else for that matter. This fight was a true rarity in this day and age of pampered boxers and the blithering buffoons that most of them employ.

Perhaps the last word should be left to Amir Mansour, the “loser” in this fight. He could have complained about the referee and he could have complained about the wide decision victory for Cunningham that was closer than the scorecards indicated. But Mansour did not bellyache and he praised his opponent as well as the referee.

“I’m sure it would have been stopped with some referees, but Steve is a great referee and he lets you rock,” explained Mansour. “And you know, if a man gets up and he wants to continue fighting give him that chance because I know I would never want to be counted out, so I can’t complain. I love Steve, he’s a great referee and he lets you bang and you know, we need referees like that. But I’m just glad to have been part of a good fight and I’m O.K. and he’s O.K. It was a good fight, good for the heavyweight division and good for boxing. I did exactly what I said I was going to do, I said I was going to get in there and leave it all in the ring…I can’t complain because I lost, I still put on a good show and a good fight.”

The fight was not only was instant classic, it was a night that exemplified graciousness, class and dignity from all that were involved.

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