I’m Just Ready To Test Myself, See How Far We Can Go
Cunningham did not have to ponder too long and hard over the question of at what point did he realise that he had morphed from being considered a high level opponent to someone with fighting for a world title towards the forefront of his mind.
Despite enjoying much notable success over the years, Cunningham has effectively turned his career on its head and is now preparing to top the bill in Telford with a second defence of his European super bantamweight title.
The Doncaster man goes up against the unbeaten 16-0 Terry Le Couviour at the Telford International Centre on April 16, live on BT Sport.
The turning point, Cunningham reports, came off the back of a defeat, the sixth and last of his 36-fight career to date.
In December 2018 he was drafted in to provide stubborn opposition for Belfast’s amateur superstar Michael Conlan who was, at the time, entering into double figures as a pro and was adding additional Irish flavour to the Warrington-Frampton card at the Manchester Arena.
Cunningham, typically, was nobody’s fall guy and put on a solid performance in losing on the cards. It was a display that triggered a surge of confidence in the boxer known as ‘The Iceman’ and one that he identifies as the keynote moment in his resurgence.
“It is the best way it has been put across to me, to be fair,” said the 32-year-old, who is now signed up by Frank Warren and Queensberry following his first European defence against Brad Foster in October of last year. “It was definitely after the Conlan fight where I gave a very, very good account of myself on the night. This obviously boosts your confidence, it was also up at featherweight, which was never really my division.
“I just got opportunities there because I won the Commonwealth title at that weight. That was an opportunity given at short notice and then you end up campaigning in that division.
“Super bantamweight has always been my division and I am undefeated at that weight as well.
“So after the Conlan fight, my next few performances put me in good shape and then it is all down to experience really.
“It has been a long road from the small hall stuff as well. I’ve been matched hard and have been in the away corner many, many times against good names. It has put me in good stead, I don’t take anything back, any of the defeats because it is all knowledge and experience and has made me the fighter I am today.
“I would say after the Conlan fight that I was coming into my prime. I had a few tickover fights and everything just started coming together. I felt I was coming into my best years and then, obviously, we stumbled into the Covid era, which put things at a standstill.
“So I ended up taking my opportunities at short notice again with Gamal Yafai (who he claimed the title from in May 2021) and kind of went from there. But I would say after the Conlan fight I could feel myself growing in confidence and took it from there.
“I knew it was all coming together,” continued Cunningham, who now possesses the inner belief that he is ready to take on anybody at the right weight.
“Yes, against anyone, and I do truly believe that. It is all step by step and I am confident of competing at world level. I believe I am big enough, strong enough at the weight and my boxing ability is at a high level as I also have a good pedigree from my amateur days as well.
“Confidence is a big thing and I am just ready to test myself and see how far we can go. Whether or not I get to my ultimate goal of being a world champion, I will certainly give it my best shot either way.
“Obviously I have now got Frank behind me, so everything is with me to give it my best.”