Two title bouts on German card
Former cruiserweight titlist Steve Cunningham, who signed a promotional contract this week with leading German promoter Sauerland Event, now has his title bout signed, sealed and delivered.
Cunningham will face Troy Ross for a vacant title in Neubrandenburg, Germany on June 5, Sauerland Event attorney Scott Shaffer told ESPN.com.
The IBF had scheduled a purse bid on Thursday, but Sauerland Event and Ross promoter Yvon Michel signed contracts and avoided the bid, Shaffer said.
Michel said they made the deal Wednesday and signed the papers on Thursday morning.
Cunningham-Ross will be on the card headlined by the fight between middleweight titleholder Sebastian Sylvester, who will be fighting in his hometown, and former junior middleweight titlist Roman Karmazin.
It's rare for there to be two world title bouts on a Sauerland Event card, but with the World Cup set to dominate the German airwaves this summer, the TV dates are scarce, and Sauerland loaded up this card.
Cunningham (22-2, 11 KOs), of Philadelphia, will be fighting for the fourth time in his last six bouts in Europe. He signed with Sauerland Event, in part, because it has several attractive cruiserweight opponents to offer him, including a potential unification match against Marco Huck if he is able to defeat Ross. Cunningham owns a 12th-round knockout against Huck in a 2007 title defense, and Huck went on to win another version of the title.
The fight with Ross marks the end of an uncertain time for Cunningham. He was supposed to face Matt Godfrey for the vacant belt on ESPN2 on March 26. However, promoter Don King defaulted on the purse bid. Main Events, which had designs on signing Cunningham when his contract with King expired a few days later, inherited the rights to the fight because of its second-place purse offer and tried to keep the fight together.
Ultimately, it fell apart when Godfrey declined to fight, saying he believed the bout had been called off after King defaulted and he missed a couple of days of training.
The IBF then dropped Godfrey in its rankings and Ross, the next leading available contender, got the title opportunity.
Canada's Ross (23-1, 16 KOs), a two-time Olympian, is best known for winning the 2009 edition of "The Contender" reality series.
"This is a chance of a lifetime for Troy and we are confident he will win the title," Michel said. "The fight being in Germany we believe it will be an even playing field for both."
Michel said Ross was not concerned about going to Germany for the bout because three of his "Contender" bouts took place in Singapore and he had fought around the world as an amateur.
"He is very skilled, powerful and mature," Michel said of Ross. "We know Steve Cunningham and we have a lot of respect for him. It is going to be a very spectacular and contested fight but Troy will prevail."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.