|PHILLY BOXING HISTORY - April 17, 2021|
Former cruiserweight champion Steve "USS" Cunningham returned to the ring Saturday night after nearly four years away, and scored a six-round unanimous decision victory over former MMA fighter Frank Mir. It was Mir's debut as a boxer. The fight was part of a Pay-Per-View card staged by Triller Fight Club and headlined by YouTuber turned boxer Jake Paul. The event was held at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Cunningham used his superior boxing skills to control the bout. His jab and sharp right-hand power shots, and occasional work to the body kept Mir at bay, and never allowed the bulky tough guy to build the slightest bit of momentum. Mir did land a few stray shots, but was unable to maneuver Cunningham to the ropes or turn the fight into brawl. But by the look of things, a brawl might have suited Cunningham just fine.
Still, Mir posed a theoretical threat that the come-backing Cunningham had to beware. And it wouldn't be a Steve Cunningham fight if a few bombs didn't land on the battle-hungry Philly fighter. So, on paper there was danger.
Mir's big punch came at the end of round three. Just before the bell, Mir whacked Cunningham with a left hook that landed solidly, but didn't move the 44-year old battleship.
Mir built on his round-ending shot with a better round four. Cunningham appeared to take the round off and even tried switching southpaw for a stretch. Mir did better against a lefty Cunningham, and probably squeaked out the round. By the end of the fight, it was the only round you could even argue he might have won.
The other five rounds were mostly, if not all, Cunningham. Watching him fight, you'd never guess that he'd been out of the ring since August of 2017. At 206 pounds, he was his usual fit self, not even the slightest ripple of extra pandemic fat. Mir, 276 pounds, was big and bulky and didn't look to be in terrible shape, but he was winded within a few rounds.
Cunningham's best moments came at the end of round two, when he nailed Mir with a hard right hand just before the bell. Then in round five, Cunningham landed just abut everything he threw at a fading Mir. For a moment, it appeared he might get the knockout, but it never came.
In the final round, Mir pressured Cunningham for the entire round, bulling him into the ropes repeatedly. However, he was much more interested in holding and catching his breath than punching. The round ended and it was another that Cunningham had won.
Cunningham swept the official scores, 60-54, 60-54 and 59-56. The victory improved Cunningham's record to 30-9-1, 13 KOs. Mir left the ring 0-1 as a boxer.
In the semi-windup bout, Regis Prograis beat Ivan Redkach by sixth-round technical decision, when Redkach could not rise from a questionable body punch that sent him to the mat. Redkach indicated that the blow was low, and writhed and grimaced on the canvas for several minutes. He was even carried out on a stretcher, all the while gripping his groin with his gloved hands.
However, replays confirmed that the blow did not land below the belt. Prograis' right was more of a hooking punch that at first glance, looked like it may have landed in the illegal kidney area. However, a replay from the perfect angle revealed that the punch didn't land at all. Prograis' glove skimmed Redkach's hip and whistled by his ribs.
Redkach dropped to the canvas, clearly looking for a way out of a fight he suddenly wanted no part of. It should have been called a KO, but at least Prograis still got the win. Referee George Chip called it an accidental foul, and the fight went to the cards. Prograis led on all three official scorecards and took the technical decision.
I hate to be the wet blanket for this "fun" night at the fights. But the entire broadcast by Triller Fight Club, although slickly produced, was a collection of everything that is bad about boxing - and boxing fans. The commentary team, Ray Flores, Mario Lopez, Snoop Dogg, and guest announcers like Oscar De La Hoya and Pete Davidson, were loud and rambling and disrespectful. They all talked at the same time and one was more obnoxious than the other. It was like a foul-mouthed version of The View. Only Al Bernstein kept it together - even with Pete Davidson blowing weed smoke in his face. It was like watching the book worm at a high school party, with all the "cool" kids trying to corrupt him.
They touted potential house fighters like Frank Mir until it became clear that he had nothing to offer in the fight. At that point, everyone talked about what a moral victory it was that he wasn't knocked out. Up to that point, De La Hoya, intermittently commenting on this fight and hyping his own July 3rd comeback fight, was screaming that Cunningham had no chin, expecting Mir to knock him out.
It was like watching a bunch of new boxing fans at their first fight. There was a lot of noise and not much of it made sense. When Jake Paul entered the ring, you'd think they'd seen the second coming of Sugar Ray Robinson. Well, maybe it was all the marijuana talking. There was plenty of it wafting through the arena all night.
I too must have been high to order this fight, let alone pay $50 for it. But you'll never catch me missing a Steve Cunningham fight. The show dragged on for more than five hours and was littered with musical performances between the bouts. There was even a slap fight between two beefy guys to help fill the time.
Unfortunately this appears to be the direction boxing is going. On June 5, Teofimo Lopez will fight on Triller PPV. That's good. However, also on the card will be Evander Holyfield in an exhibition. That's bad. And on July 3rd, De La Hoya returns on Triller. That's worse. We're not even sure if it will be a fight or an exhibition.
I'll have to remember to load up on my medical marijuana before those events, so I can enjoy the evening as much as the TV crew.