Steve Cunningham entered Saturday’s 200-pound title fight against champion Krzysztof Glowacki with a history of struggles against southpaws and Polish titleholders. Those struggles continued at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Krzysztof Glowacki (26-0, 16 KOs) twice floored Steve Cunningham (28-8-1, 13 KOs) with second-round, left-hand counters, then used short right hands to drop him once more in the 10th and 12th rounds en route to a unanimous decision victory.
Thanks to the four knockdowns, Glowacki prevailed by lopsided scores of 115-109 twice and 116-108, much to the delight of a Barclays Center crowd that was packed with Polish fight fans. It was Glowacki’s first defense of the championship he won in August by rising from a sixth-round knockdown to dethrone longtime champ Marco Huck by 11th-round stoppage.
In that victory, Glowacki fought through injuries to his left wrist and shoulder that required surgery in September.
“The plan from the beginning was to hit him with the left hand, and you could tell I was hitting with full power,” Glowacki said. “I couldn’t hit that hard against Marco Huck because of my injury, and now I’m hoping to keep that power up in my next fight.
“Power and precision are my trademarks. That’s always been my game. I was a little bit reluctant because of the surgery, but I got more comfortable as the fight went on.”
Despite the wide final scores, the victory wasn’t easy for the 29-year-old Glowacki, who was often forced to hold or fight off the ropes against a game challenger who engaged toe to toe throughout the night.
In fact, while Glowacki had an advantage in power punches 101-96, Cunningham out-landed him overall, 124-117.
“He punched with me and caught me coming in,” said Cunningham, a former two-time champion at 200 pounds who was returning to the division after spending four years fighting as a heavyweight. “I knew after the second-round knockdowns that I had to get rounds back and go get him. I knew I hurt him a few times with good shots, [but] he’s a smart fighter.
“I’m just disappointed. I wanted to be a three-time champion, and I took my shot at it.”
In between the knockdowns in the second and 10th rounds, the fight was evenly contested, with the 6-foot-3 Cunningham using his boxing skills and seven-inch reach advantage to slow the 6-foot, come-forward champion. However, a large welt—which looked to be caused by a head butt—began to develop over Cunningham’s right eye in the seventh round.
If the welt bothered him, though, the challenger refused to acknowledge it.
“There was a head butt in the third or fourth round that started the growth on my head,” Cunningham said. “But I’m a warrior and a champion. That stuff doesn’t bother me. If a missile hit me, I’d keep going.”
A 39-year-old native of Philadelphia, Cunningham came into Saturday’s fight with a 3-3-1 record against southpaw fighters. He also had a tough time in four previous bouts against Polish titleholders, having dropped a pair of close decisions to Tomasz Adamek while splitting two fights with Krzysztof Wlodarczyk.
Against Glowacki, Cunningham not only had to deal with a brawler who possesses a potent left hand, but also a large contingent of Polish fans who booed his entrance into the ring and chanted Glowacki’s name throughout the bout.
Glowacki credited those fans—who also turned out in force for his victory over Huck in nearby Newark, New Jersey last summer—for pushing him past Cunningham.
“The fans were my motivation throughout the fight,” Glowacki said. “I just wanted to give them more and more. I want to thank everyone who came and watched me.”
After his last two performances, the unbeaten Glowacki is quickly becoming a rising star with a bright future in the competitive 200-pound division. Conversely, Cunningham—who fell to 4-6-1 in his last 11 outings after Saturday’s defeat—isn’t exactly sure what lies ahead.
“I feel good,” Cunningham said. “I just don’t want to be that [former] champion who is getting used for a record builder.
“I’ll talk with my team and figure out the next step.”
For complete pre- and post-fight coverage of Glowacki vs Cunningham, check out our fight page.