With his family in need and his heavyweight future hanging in the balance on Friday, veteran Steve Cunningham was forced to dig deep against unbeaten brawler Amir Mansour.
Then, with the fight hanging in the balance entering the 10th and final round, the 37-year-old reached back for even more.
Cunningham, who was lucky to survive a pair of brutal knockdowns in Round 5, rallied to score one of his own in Round 10 to secure an exciting, unanimous-decision win over Mansour at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia.
Fighting in front of his home fans for just the second time in his career -- and first since 2003 -- Cunningham (27-6, 12 KOs) needed every bit of support to earn the victory, by scores of 97-90 and 95-92 (twice). ESPN.com also had it 95-92 for Cunningham.
The win was extra sweet considering the two-time cruiserweight titlist was fighting for money to help pay the medical bills of his 8-year-old daughter Kennedy, who was born with a congenital heart defect.
"I've got faith, it's all I have," Cunningham said. "I don't have strength, I don't have speed. I have faith in my God."
Fighting against big-name competition for the first time in his career, Mansour, 41, utilized his raw and aggressive style to land a series of wild left hands to take control of the early rounds. Mansour (20-1, 15 KOs) wobbled Cunningham in Round 2 and cut him on the bridge of his nose.
But it was Round 5 when Mansour appeared ready to end the fight. He floored Cunningham on a hard right hook to the chin and later added a second knockdown in the closing seconds following a flurry of right hands.
Referee Steve Smoger gave Cunningham every opportunity to beat the 10 count, and he was lucky to make it out of the round.
"I was all right. I've been down before and got up and won," Cunningham said. "I got lackadaisical because I was really doing my thing. I won't make that mistake again."
Fighting on wobbly legs in Round 6, Cunningham courageously began to bank rounds behind his boxing ability as he made an increasingly wild Mansour miss repeatedly before countering with his right hand.
But with Mansour's eyes badly swollen and his balance and technique gone by Round 10, Cunningham sealed his comeback by dropping his exhausted opponent with a flush overhand right.
"I was getting in there and talking to him and using mind tricks," said Cunningham, who outlanded Mansour 117 to 110, according to CompuBox. "He wasn't built for 'USS' Cunningham."
Stevens stops Johnson in final round
Trailing on all three scorecards, hard-hitting Curtis Stevens entered the final round against unbeaten Tureano Johnson in need of something dramatic.
He got it.
In a stay-busy fight that had quickly turned into a nightmare, Stevens provided a dramatic finish to a sure-fire fight of the year candidate by rallying to score a TKO over Johnson at 2:09 of Round 10.
Both fighters had repeatedly traded heavy punches at close range for nine grueling rounds. But Stevens (27-4, 20 KOs) was finally able to break a determined Johnson by badly hurting him with a left hook in the final round.
Stevens responded with a flurry of punches, including a hard right hand as Johnson was pinned against the ropes, causing referee Gary Rosato to jump in and wave off the fight. The stoppage elicited a series of boos from the Philadelphia crowd, which felt it was too early.
Johnson (14-1, 10 KOs), 30, who forced Stevens to fight at a breakneck pace from the opening bell by smothering him and attacking to the body, was ahead by scores of 87-84 and 89-82 (twice) at the time of the stoppage.
"I was looking for the knockout so much I never set it up the way I was supposed to," Stevens said. "But it came, better late than never. He smothered me a lot. He did what he was supposed to.
"But I got the knockout late and did what I was supposed to do."
Stevens hurt Johnson with a series of heavy right hands in Round 5 but was unable to take over the fight at any point. Johnson, who set the tone in Round 1 by attacking and turning the fight into a brawl, showed a tremendous chin by trading toe-to-toe with Stevens throughout and simply outworking his opponent.