The James Shuler Memorial Gym was packed Monday for the media workouts of Steve Cunningham(24-4 12KO’s), Bryant Jennings(14-0 6KO’s) and Karl Dargan(10-0 5KO’s). Reporters, myself included, were there for the featured fighters but we swarmed around the gym getting a glimpse of fighters as young as 8-9 years old, all the way up to the 36 year old veteran Cunningham. Dargan is preparing for Jesse Carradine(8-1-1 4KO’s), Jennings for Chris Koval(25-9 18KO’s), and Cunningham for Jason Gavern(21-10-4 10KO’s)
Though the official start time of the event was 2pm, it didn’t really begin until legendary trainer Nazim Richardson walked in. On Sept. 8th Nazim will be in the corner for both Karl Dargan in his Lightweight bout and in Steve Cunningham’s corner as he makes the move from Cruiserweight to Heavyweight; an era where Cunningham was a 2 time IBF Cruiserweight world title holder, will be coming to an end. “It was time. How much can a Cruiserweight do, you know. As a Cruiserweight world champ I’ve been a top the Cruiserweight division for years. After my 2nd run as champ, my main goal was to try to unify. I couldn’t get the fight with Wlodarczyk, I couldn’t get that fight for some reason. I tried to set up a fight with Tarver before the Hernandez fight, but he had more excuses on why we shouldn’t fight, then why we should fight. To be truthful we were talking about Heavyweight before the first Hernandez fight,” Cunningham said.
Throughout the 32 years of the divisions existence there have been other Cruiserweights who’ve made the jump up in weight and have been successful . Holyfield, Haye, Adamek are just a few who have done it and Cunningham hopes to add his name along theirs. Cunningham’s body looked absolutely chiseled and he appeared comfortable with the added weight on his frame. While working the mitts his hands were quick and he was light on his feet. In a division where he is considerably undersized, he will need to be intelligent and fleet footed. When speaking on the weight change, Steve’s trainer Richardson added, “It’s like anything else. There’s a period where you can make mistakes and then forget them. Then there comes a period where the mistakes you make are no longer forgiven. He’s moving to a division where the mistakes are no longer forgiven. There will be no, my bad man I slipped. The mistakes you make in this division can change the way you talk to your children. You mess with these big guys and you’ll put a pamper on your dog and sit your daughter out on the back porch. That’s how backwards things will be for you getting hit by these big fellas. But I think as long as he stays smart, with his athleticism and he’s got the courage of a lion. Like I said I think Steve Cunningham is going to surprise people.”
Steve might have received the most action Monday but Jennings also had his share of our attention. Though the undefeated Heavyweight didn’t get in the ring with his trainer Fred Jenkins for a workout, we witnessed some shadow boxing and jump rope work. By-By Jennings has shown the ability to take the division by storm and he’s aware of that his time is here. “I think my greatest achievement would be defeating either one of the Klitschko brothers. I’m ready, no doubt about it,” Jennings proclaimed. He’s the favorite going into his fight against Koval and should look impressive in taking his next step towards his world title shot.
Dargan will be coming off a year and a half layoff when stepping in with Carradine. That is something he says won’t be a trend as he plans to fight 3 times before the year is out. He’s a very quick fighter which was on display during a speed bag session and in the ring with Nazim swinging foam sticks at him.
All together it was exciting to see a few of Nazim’s training methods live. He’s one of the great minds this sport has ever seen. He and Jenkins have their fighters in tip top condition, if there’s one word to describe all 3 warriors, it’s ready.