On Saturday night in Neubrandenburg, Germany, Yoan Pablo Hernandez was awarded the IBF Cruiserweight Title by split technical decision over 2-time champion Steve Cunningham of Philadelphia after Hernandez’s corner and doctor advised the referee to stop the bout in the corner after the 6th round.
Since the bout, in a release sent out by Sauerland Event, the Hernandez corner has attempted to take the focus away from the machinations that caused the stoppage and the score cards – with the judges voting for Hernandez being universally criticized by the media worldwide – which awarded Hernandez the belt, and have attempted to create controversy over the failure of the referee to stop the bout after Cunningham had been knocked down in Round 1, a move reminiscent of the “controversy” that some tried to create in the aftermath of Mike Tyson v Buster Douglas, Hernandez trainer Ulli Wegner is looking to divert attention away from the role played by the ring doctor Walter Wagner, who advised referee Mickey Vann that the fight should be stopped even though the cuts suffered by Hernandez were not bleeding. Cunningham responded to the tactics saying, “As soon as I read what Wegner was saying, I knew what it was – they want to take the focus off the way the fight was stopped. I am a true champion and despite the knock down, I was coming back to win that fight and they were not going to let that happen.”
In an AP report, Dr. Wagner is quoted as stating that he recommended that the Cunningham v Hernandez bout be stopped even though “the cuts weren’t dangerous but the blood could have run into his eyes and affected his vision. I think the head clashes that the referee felt were accidental weren’t entirely accidental. You can have different opinions there. Hernandez was at a disadvantage from the cuts, so I gave the recommendation.”
Let’s get this right – the doctor, who was observed at ringside cheering on Hernandez and was noted to have been keeping a scorecard together with a representative of Sauerland Event, advised the referee – who would be remiss not to take the advice of a physician – to stop the bout because, in his medical opinion (?), Dr. Wagner felt that Hernandez was at a “disadvantage”- even though the cuts ‘weren’t dangerous” – and the blood “could have” run into Hernandez’s eyes and “could have” affected his vision – even though it was clear that neither cut was bleeding when Hernandez arose from his stool?
Dr. Wagner proceeded to further question the judgment of the experienced referee Mickey Vann on the boxing (not medical) call about whether the clashes of heads were accidental or not? “Everyone knows that the referee is the one to make those calls, I am not a dirty fighter, never have been. When an orthodox and a southpaw fight, head butts are likely to happen, and with that cuts are likely also, but if the cuts were not causing a problem, the fight should have continued. The only person with a disadvantage was me, I was fighting against way more that Yoan Pablo Hernandez on Saturday night.” said Cunningham.
Dr. Wagner is no stranger to controversy – he was the ring doctor who was in the corner of Ulli Wegner-trained Arthur Abraham when Abraham was permitted to fight on against Edison Miranda, in spite of having suffered a broken jaw and with Abraham’s face being a mask of blood throughout the bout. This obviously was, in the humble and respected opinions of Herr Wagner and Herr Wegner, far less an injury than was suffered by Hernandez, as both argued that Abraham could continue but that Hernandez could not. “It’s really crazy. Abraham was allowed to fight on like a warrior despite his serious injuries and my fight was stopped due to two cuts that weren’t bleeding, I guess they liked their chances with Abraham over Miranda more than they did of Hernandez beating me” said Cunningham.
Cunningham then went on to recount how the night went, “In the first round I was feeling him out. I thought it was going well and then I got caught by a good shot and went down. I was down but not out. The knock down only me made me more determined. After the action started in the second I was back and went to work. I could feel myself getting stronger, sharper every round and I could feel him fading. I could taste a late round stoppage coming. But as you know, we didn’t get the chance to see who the best man was as they stopped it after the sixth round.”
Most neutral observers had Hernandez winning the first two rounds, with Cunningham taking control and winning Rounds 3 through 6. With Cunningham coming on and Hernandez fading, at the conclusion of Round 6, the referee asked the doctor to have a look at the cuts.
Doctor Wagner informed referee Vann that the fight should be stopped. The referee, who is in fact the final arbiter, was in a position in which he cannot, in good conscience, overrule what he takes to be advice provided by a neutral ring doctor based on what is believed to be medical opinion. Referee Vann asked “is that what you’re telling me” and then stopped the fight on the advice of ring physician Wagner. Hernandez walked to the center of the ring, without a drop of blood coming from either cut, and shrugged to Cunningham like he didn’t know why the fight was being stopped.
Hernandez wasn’t the only person confused by the decision, “I am a world champion, this is how I provide for my family and I have and always will fight to the end. Perhaps Wegner was out for some revenge after what I did to Huck, they wanted my belt and were willing to do whatever to take it” said Cunningham, before continuing “I have asked my lawyer to look what my options are, at the end of the day, no one should feel good about the way this fight ended. Hernandez and I share the same promoter and they should want to see this rectified. I have always been so proud to be the IBF Champion, they are an organization that stands behind their rules and does not get pulled into the shady politics and I respect them so much for that. I know they want their champions to earn the title, a rematch is truly in order.”
For those that have yet to see the fight check it out on YouTube (link to English language version) and then make your own mind up.
Full fight video Steve “USS” Cunningham vs. Yoan Pablo Hernandez
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