George Hanson Jr., Esq

Cunningham & Hanson (Photo by John DiSanto)

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The Mouthpiece

Don King Comes to Philadelphia – Cunningham vs. Adamek Press Conference

by George Hanson Jr., Esq.

What: Press Conference
Who: Steve “USS” Cunningham, IBF Cruiserweight Champion
Tomasz “Goral” Adamek, Former WBC Light-Heavyweight Champion
Date: 3:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Venue: World Café, 3025 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA
Promoter: Don King Productions (Cunningham) & Main Events (Adamek)

Over sixty people, including members of the media and the boxing community, were present for the announcement of the pending bout between the International Boxing Federation Cruiserweight Champion, Steve “USS” Cunningham (21 wins – 1 loss – 0 draws – 11 kos), and former WBC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Tomasz Adamek (35 wins – 1 loss – 0 draws – 24 kos). The match is slated for December 11, 2008 in Newark, New Jersey at the sparkling-new Prudential Center. The last time Newark hosted a world championship fight was 1948 when Tony Zale regained the World Middleweight Championship via a third round knockout of Rocky Graziano in the rubber match of their epic three-fight trilogy.

I arrived at the spacious and opulent World Café at precisely three o’clock. To my relief, as soon as I walked in someone announced that the press conference would be delayed thirty minutes. The name of this venue is somewhat misleading because the atmosphere is more akin to a multiplex and not a café. I was clearly tardy because most of the crowd was already eating or mulling around talking. I immediately spotted the loquacious one, the greatest promoter in history, Don “Only in America” King at the bar enjoying a rather small plate of buffalo wings. Not far from him engaged in a conversation was J. Russell Peltz of Peltz Boxing Promotions.

Seated next to the podium were Adamek and his promoter, the head of Main Events Promotions, Kathy Duva. Nearby was former middleweight contender, Curtis Parker. Scanning the room I spotted Cunningham and his manager and wife, Livvy; Percy Custus, owner of the James Shuler Gym; boxers Jamaal Davis, Prince Badi Ajumu, Simon “One Punch” Carr, “Fast” Eddie Chambers, and Steve “Showtime” Chambers; and writers Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News, Marc Abrams (www.15rounds.com) and Ken Hissner (www.doghouseboxing.com); Chamber’s manager, Robert Murray, and Dave Price, inventor of the Cov-Glov.

Like Usain Bolt in the starting blocks for the finals of the Olympic 200 meter race, suspense was in the air as King made his way to the podium. Instinctively, you knew that it was show time. The only thing left to do was relax, sit back and enjoy the ride like jockey Steve Cauthen atop Triple Crown Winner, Affirmed in the 1978 Kentucky Derby. True to form, King did not disappoint.

He began with a dissertation on the 13th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution – “they changed the laws [but] not attitudes.” Gaining momentum, he explained why we all should vote for the next President of the United States, Senator Barack Obama asserting, “What do you want for your babies? We need change.” King made it clear that he is a “republicrat.” He is neither a Democrat nor a Republican. He supports whomever is best for America.

Over thirty minutes had passed and I was enjoying the lecture, however, I was curious about how he was going to transition from politics to the upcoming match. And like Michael Jackson making a wardrobe change, King effortlessly launched into the theme of “working together.” Referring to Obama’s campaign he stated, “We need change. Working together works, that is why I am working with Kathy to bring you this fight.” Classic Don King!

King introduced his charge, IBF Bantamweight Champion Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko (25 wins – 1 loss – 0 draws – 22 kos) of Ghana who will be defending his championship on the undercard against Nicaragua’s William Gonzalez (21 wins – 2 losses – 0 draws – 19 kos). Brash, confident and likeable, the dreadlocked Agbeko did not waste any time in letting us know that he was going to open “a big can of whup-ass” on the absent Gonzalez on December 11th. In closing he reminded us that King Kong lives and that he is the only King Kong. Amen!

The charming and self-deprecating Kathy Duva took the stand and remarked of not knowing that Don King was a feminist, referring to one of King’s earlier comments that women should support Obama. Duva explained the magnitude of the matchup and that she was confident that Adamek, a Pole now residing in New Jersey, would be bringing the championship back to the Garden State. You could hear several voices unitarily shouting, “No way!” in support of the champion and Philadelphia native – Steve Cunningham. It was all in good fun.

Following his promoter’s penchant for brevity, Adamek apologized for his limited command of the English language and thanked the crowd, assuring that he will give a good performance on December 11th. Adamek’s remarks were brief — shorter than Michael Spinks’ bout against Mike Tyson.

Rivaling King’s performance was the erudite and eloquent champion, Steve “USS” Cunningham. Decked out in a black, tailored jacket bearing his “USS” insignia, Cunningham stood before the podium and began by giving honor to God. He then thanked and recognized his team headed by his wife and manager, Livvy, also acknowledging his brother and children. Cunningham reminded us that this will be his first bout in the United States in over two years. He was overwhelmed that the match was scheduled so close to his home – Philadelphia. He explained his 11 months of inactivity as a result of the contenders eluding him. However, Cunningham assured us that he has been living in the boxing gym. “This is the hardest and biggest fight of my career. I will force my will on Tomasz.”

Cunningham dismounted the podium as if he were 2008 Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Shawn Johnson exiting the balance beam. He closed saying, “There is something in the Philly air that makes good fighters, and I am breathing in deep!” What a way to nail it!

John DiSanto of www.phillyboxinghistory.com and creator of The Bennie Briscoe Award in honor of the legendary middleweight and awarded to the “Fighter of the Year” helped wrap up the evening. He was assisted to the podium by Eddie and Mike Everett, brothers of the late Tyrone Everett, junior-lightweight contender and Philly legend. They brought the award, a statue in the likeness of Briscoe, to the podium and handed it to DiSanto, who made the presentation to Cunningham, the “2007 Fighter of the Year.” In attendance was Carl Levotch, the commissioned artist who created the statue. Cunningham was gracious in his comments thanking DiSanto and everyone for honoring him. It was a wonderful way to conclude a great event.

Only in America! Continue to support the sweet science and always carry your mouthpiece.

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