Tomorrow, former cruiserweight world champion Steve Cunningham will face undefeated contender Andrew Tabiti. The fight will be part of the Showtime Pay-Per-View undercard to Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor.
Cunningham, 41, hasn’t minced words when it comes to who he thinks will come out on top, as he explained to Fightful:
I love challenges. Fighting Tyson Fury was a challenge… Fighting a young, hungry undefeated fighter that they say has power is a challenge. Money Team, Funny Team, it doesn’t matter whoever he fights for. Money Team isn’t getting in there and fighting for him.
Here’s what you need to know about Steve Cunningham:
1. He Earned the Nickname ‘USS’ While Serving in the US Navy
Cunningham was born on July 15th, 1976 in Philadelphia. His parents divorced when he was 7, according to the Daily Dot, and Cunningham began selling crack as a teenager to pay for his school clothes. He eventually found an outlet in the form of the US Navy, for which he enlisted in 1994. reports that Cunningham served on the USS America and the USS Enterprise during his service. It was during this time that he earned the nickname “USS.”
“Initially, my idea was to do 12 to 16 years and possibly retire out of the Navy. I was formulating a plan to keep my nose clean and trying to make Navy’s boxing team just to fulfill an urge,” Cunningham told Premiere Boxing Champions. “If boxing didn’t work, I still had options as an aircraft refueler. I had expertise in that that would have allowed me to go to Delta or another airline to get paid for that.”
Fortunately, Cunningham was able to earn a reputation as a tough fighter in Philadelphia, and he won the National Golden Gloves title as an amateur in 1998.
2. He Held the Cruiserweight Championship Title Twice Between 2007 & 2011
Cunningham began his professional boxing career in 2000. He won his first 19 fights in a row, including a split decision match with Guillermo Jones. In 2007, Cunningham challenged cruiserweight champion Krzysztof Włodarczyk, and snatched the title with a majority decision in his favor. He defended the title against Marco Huck in Germany in December of that same year.
The following year, Cunningham lost the title in a split decision fight against Tomasz Adamek. He was reportedly knocked down in the second, fourth, and eighth rounds. Cunningham wasn’t kept down for long, however, and he reclaimed the cruiserweight title from Troy Ross in Germany in 2010. He defended the title against challenger Enad Licina on February 12, 2011.
To date, Cunningham’s professional record is 29-8 with 13 wins by KO and 1 no contest.
3. His Daughter Kennedy Was Born With Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
In 2005, Cunningham’s daughter Kennedy was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, which is a life-threatening condition that renders a portion of the heart unable to function. According to Premier Boxing Champion, Kennedy underwent her first open-heart surgery when she was just two days old, and a second time six months later. She wound up spending the first year of her life in the hospital.
“That was a hair-raising situation when we found out that the children’s hospital in Philly didn’t feel like they could do the transplant,” said Cunningham. “They were basically like, ‘Make her comfortable.’ And I’m like, ‘What’s that? I’m supposed to wait until my daughter dies?’” Three months before her eighth birthday, Kennedy underwent a heart transplant that proved successful.
“To look at her now, running and jumping around and screaming at the top of her lungs,” Cunningham said in 2016, “It makes us fall on our knees in prayer. It remains an inspiration to us and to millions of people. But what’s on the forefront of our minds is that we’re staying on track, she’s been for checkups every month and she’s got no major issues.”
Cunningham and his wife Livvy also have three sons, Mosiah, Cruz, and Steve, Jr.
4. He’s Currently Writing & Illustrating His Own Comic Book Series
Despite his fame as a boxer, Cunningham’s other creative passion– comic books– generally goes unknown by the public. That is, until he decided to write, illustrate and distribute his own series in 2016.
“I grew up in this rough neighborhood, and you watch movies and TV shows for an escape,” Cunningham told the Daily Dot, “But reading comics was an escape to another universe where everything was possible—dudes flying around, people freezing you. That’s a little boy’s dream—to find some type of land where people are super.”
The series, titled USS Comics, finds Cunningham playing a fictionalized version of himself as battles villains who “borrow some of the traits of his former boxing opponents.”
“This is one of those things that could really turn into something,” he explained. “It could turn into that. I would love for it to be something. Am I expecting it to go? Not necessarily. I know comic book fans can be fickle and funny. But I’m already coming in with a fan base from boxing. People are like, ‘I can’t wait to see it.’ There is an interest out there.” You can learn more about USS Comics by going to its official Facebook page.
Between his comic releases and his boxing career, Biography reports that Cunningham has an estimated net worth of $2.5 million.
5. He Believes His ‘Experience’ Will Allow Him to Beat Tabiti
Cunningham is 14 years older than Tabiti, and he believes his experience will be the deciding factor in who will win. “I have the experience,” he told Fightful, “If you have a gun at home and a guy breaks into your house, are you gonna ball up your fist and go after him? That gun is my experience, I’m gonna go blow his brains out.”
Furthermore, Cunningham makes it clear that he doesn’t intend to retire anytime soon. “I just turned 41 and feel great. The only difference from being 30 is I’m wiser and more comfortable,” he told Prime Boxing Champions, “If I look good in this next fight, even losing close, I’ll stick around for another title shot. I’m looking to be out of here by 43 or 44.”
“I’m going at cruiserweight right now, which doesn’t mean I couldn’t fight the guys at heavyweight,” he adds. “My last two fights have been at cruiserweight after being a heavyweight eight times in a row. If the fans want to see me at heavyweight and I can make money doing it, I’ll be ready.”