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  • Writer's pictureDexter Hastings

Tribute to a Great Career as Craig Cunningham calls it a day.

Tribute to a Great Career as Craig Cunningham calls it a day.

The Birmingham Boxing Column’s first boxer of the year Craig Cunningham has decided to call it a day at the age of 30. The tricky southpaw from Birmingham made his debut on the 20th December 2011 beating Duncan Cottier on points at the Holiday Inn Birmingham. Cunningham then went on to win his next 10 fights and claimed the Midlands Middleweight Area title in his first title fight going away from home beating Prince Davis on points (2nd July 2014) at the Hermitage Leisure Centre Leicestershire.

Cunningham and his Eastside team then rolled the dice as he entered the prize-fighter event at the Winter Garden’s Blackpool which was shown live on Sky sports (14/2/15). He lost to the eventual prize-fighter winner Tom Doran in the quarter finals but this was just a blip as he went on and won 3 more fights in 2015 finishing the year on a strong footing.

2016 has got to go down as Cunningham's best year in his boxing career. Craig started the year off with the defense of his Middleweight Midlands Area title against Ryan Aston at Dudley Town Hall (21/5/16) where he won with a six round TKO.

Cunningham continued his hot streak by then challenging for the Super welterweight Midlands Area title against the highly rated and now current British Middleweight Champ Jason Welborn. Cunningham won a hard fought fight on a points decision at the PLAYFOOTBALL arena Newtown Birmingham (16/7/16) making him a two times two weight Midlands area champion.

This would do most boxers as a job well done for the year but Cunningham and his team continued there title hunt taking on Matchroom’s much fancied Olympic silver medalist unbeaten Anthony Ogogo on the undercard of the Eggington v Gavin fight at the Barclay card arena Birmingham. Ogogo and Cunningham where contesting the vacant WBC international Middleweight title that was scheduled for ten rounds and was supposed to be Ogogo time to shine and the start of him moving up the Middleweight ranks. No one had informed the 20 to 1 underdog who put Ogogo down before his corner pulled the Olympian out of the fight in the eighth round.

First Cunningham Interview for the Birmingham Boxing Column, "Welcome to Fightden".

This was a great victory which had to put Cunningham into British title contention at the very least. Two thousand and sixteen ended on a positive note with Craig winning the British Boxing Board of Controls Midlands boxer of the year and of course the highest accolade bestowed on him in 2016 “The Birmingham Boxing Column’s Boxer of the year” .

Two thousand and seventeen started positive with Craig getting the call to fight for the Middleweight British title against then champion Tommy Langford. It was going to be held at Leicester arena on 22nd April on a Frank Warren show to be shown live on Boxnation. This was Craig's big chance and thier was a big buzz around this fight as both fighters resided in Birmingham. Unfortunately the buzz did not last long as Langford opted to face Brooklyn based fighter Georgian Avtandil Khurtsidze for the vacant WBO intern world Middleweight title.

Cunningham was as you can imagine very flustered about this but it was expected by all that Cunningham would fight for the British title against Langford or if it was vacated later in the year. While Cunningham waited he had a tick over 4 rounder against Anthony Fox winning on points, I talked to Craig after the fight and he was not shy about airing his frustrations about not getting his shot at the British title.

Craig talking to the Column after his fight on the Tommy Owen's Show "Heavy Fire"

Langford lost his world title fight and it was expected his next British title defense would be against Cunningham. While waiting for the call Cunningham had another tick over fight, a six rounder against William Warburton which he won on points.

I talked to Craig after this fight and he informed me he was finding it hard to get him self up for these fights as he wanted to fight for titles and keep his momentum going.

Craig talking to the Column after his fight on the Tommy Owens show "Stand and Deliver"

As Langford had a six round return fight in October of this year, Cunningham and his team rolled the dice again taking on Lukas Ndafoluma from Namibia Africa in a 10 round eliminator for a shot at the Middleweight Commonwealth title.

Craig talks to the column on "Welcome to Fightden 54 about his up and coming fight.

Cunningham really under preformed in this fight and in his own words “didn’t turn up” Ndafoluma won the fight on points handing Cunningham only his second defeat of his career.

At the end of 2017 there were 3 names in the mix to fight Langford in his mandatory British title defense Cunningham, Welborn and Arnfield. The Birmingham Boxing Column had a internet poll to see who the public thought should get a shot, Cunningham was the overwhelming winner of the poll with a lot of comments saying he deserved a shot. Unfortunately for Craig, Arnfield was chosen by the BBBoC as the Mandatory challenger who Langford beat on points with ease in February 2018.

Cunningham was given a title shot on the Black Country Boxing's promotions first arena show “Now or Never” at the Genting arena NEC. He was going to be fighting fellow Midlander Andrew Robinson for the vacant IBO Middleweight Continental title on February 23rd and not wanting to stop there had already agreed to fight in Germany on March 10th in a 8 rounder against Jack Culcay. Again fate was not on Craig’s side as the BcB event was moved from February 23rd to March 24th.

Craig talking to the Column on "Welcome to Fightden" 67 about the Cunningham v Robinson fight.

Cunningham and his team were still happy to take both fights in the same month but from what I understand BcB promotions did not want to take the risk of Craig getting hurt or injured over in Germany and having to find a replacement at short notice. Craig took the fight in Germany where he fought like the warrior he is with some people staying he did enough to win the fight, but you are never going to get a close decision in Germany against a German, Craig lost this fight on a point decision. This was Craig’s last fight before he announced his retirement.

I messaged Craig after I heard about his retirement and asked him why he has chosen to call it a day? The Birmingham boxer informed me “Thier are to many people dogging each other or looking for the next easy fight, theirs too much politics”.

I also talked to his manager and trainer Jon Pegg who told me “Craig overachieved a lot, scored some great upsets but the biggest fights are the ones that avoided or pulled out against him. Craig could have done even more if given his chance”.

I also messaged one of the Midlands top promoters Tommy Owens to ask him what he thought about Cunningham retiring? He told me “Craig exceeded all expectations of him from starting on a small hall stage to becoming one of the most avoided fighters domestically, a proper handful for anyone”. Tommy continued “He will remain one of my favourite fighters and I am proud to of had him fight on my shows! Happy retirement mate enjoy it”.

I then messaged Eastside world title prospect Sam Eggington to ask him how he thinks Craig did in his career? The Savage told me “Craig done brilliant as a pro, we turned over from the same amateur club not being top amateurs by any means, he was always up for taking the biggest fights but not always offered them! But being gym mates from the amateurs to pro I think the Ogogo win the same night as beating Gavin stands out as a huge night what we will both never forget”.

Another Eastside Veteran Karl Wiggins AKA Karly Gee had this to say about his Craig. He told the Column "What can I say about Craig, he was hard working, never ducked a challenge and a pleasure to train with around the gym. he was not the loud type, he just got on with his work, done it and went onto his family life. So from work straight to the gym to family, a real blue collar fighter no frills just hard work, only thing which let Craig down was opportunities and that’s what held him back but he made the most of what was given to him, one thing, he can look back on winning belts and beating and Olympian, so hats off to Craig and have a great retirement" Dexter’s Thoughts

Since I started the Birmingham Boxing Column in 2016 I have followed Craig’s career closely. That year was an amazing one for him with everything going right for him. He defended his Middleweight Midlands area title, won the super welterweight Midlands area title and then beat the odds and not just beat but stop Olympic ulcer medallist Anthony Ogogo to win the WBC international Middleweight title. Craig then came done with his new belt to Fightden boxing gym in Digbeth and I interviewed him on the very first “Welcome to Fightden” show.

He ended the year with 3 titles the BBBoC Midlands Boxer of the year award and to top it off the Birmingham Boxing Column’s Boxer of the year award. The following year was a frustrating one for Craig his team and all of his supporters. Myself and the column championed Craig getting his British title shot asking Tommy Langford in nearly every interview when will he be fighting Cunningham.

Craig has had a great career and anyone one who knows boxing can see if he had been given the chances he should have been given he could have done so much more. Cunningham has been a great ambassador for Birmingham boxing and is an inspiration to anyone in or out of boxing that you can achieve anything you put your mind to. He will go down as one of my favourite boxers and I can say with pride that I was a Craig Cunningham fan.

The Birmingham Boxing Column would like to wish Craig all the best in his retirement and hope he stays in the game training the next generation of boxers.

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