Yoan Pablo Hernandez and Steve Cunningham will meet again for a cruiserweight title after the IBF ordered a rematch following Cunningham's protest over the controversial conclusion of their Oct. 1 bout.
Hernandez won a sixth-round technical decision against Cunningham in Neubrandenburg, Germany, after referee Mickey Vann stopped the fight on the advice of Dr. Walter Wegner, the ringside physician. Wegner called for the stoppage because of cuts Hernandez suffered due to accidental head butts.
Hernandez, 26, wound up winning a technical split decision, with two judges tabbing him as the winner (59-54 and 58-55), and the third judge going with Cunningham (57-56).
Although there was an outcry by some over the two scores in favor of Hernandez -- who had scored a hard first-round knockdown of Cunningham but appeared to lose rounds 3 and 6 -- the rematch was not ordered because of the scoring.
Instead, the rematch was ordered Friday because of what the IBF said was an incorrect stoppage based on the fact that cuts Hernandez suffered in the third and sixth rounds were not interfering with his ability to compete.
"We just appreciate the IBF's consideration of this matter and believe their ruling is the correct one," John Hornewer, Cunningham's attorney, told ESPN.com. "Hernandez and Cunningham should both want the chance to settle this in the ring, and a rematch is the way to do that. This is the fairest result for everybody.
"I don't think the decision (to stop the fight) sat well with anyone. I don't think Hernandez felt good about the way he won the title."
IBF president Daryl Peoples and championships chairman Lindsey Tucker reviewed video of the bout and media accounts. In a letter ordering the rematch, obtained by ESPN.com, Peoples wrote: "Tucker and I have determined that this was an improper stoppage of the title fight. For this reason, the IBF is ordering a direct rematch."
The IBF ordered negotiations for the fight to begin immediately, with it due to take place by Feb. 11. Also, the winner was ordered to face mandatory challenger Troy Ross by May 11, 2012. Ross was due to be the next opponent for the winner of the Oct. 1 bout.
The one media account cited in the IBF letter was an Associated Press report on the fight in which the doctor was quoted as saying, "The cuts weren't dangerous but the blood could have run into the eyes and affected (Hernandez's) vision. I think the head clashes that the referee felt were accidental weren't entirely accidental. You can have different opinions there. Hernandez was at a disadvantage from the cuts, so I gave the recommendation."
However, ringside doctors are not supposed to recommend bouts be stopped because blood might affect a boxer's vision, only if it actually does affect it -- something Peoples pointed out in his letter.
"Hernandez boxed the entire fourth round with no significant bleeding from the cut that he had received in the third round. During round six there was another clash of heads that was also ruled accidental. This clash of heads produced a cut above the left eye of Hernandez. At the conclusion of the round, Dr. Wegner got on to the ring apron to examine the cut above Hernandez's eye. At the conclusion of Dr. Wegner's examination, he called the referee to the Hernandez corner and recommended that the fight be stopped.
"Based on the recommendation of the doctor, the referee stopped the bout and indicated that since both of the cuts that Hernandez sustained were caused by accidental fouls, a decision would be rendered based on the judges' scores. It appeared that the bleeding from Hernandez's cuts had been stopped. There was no blood on Hernandez's face."
Cunningham, 35, of Philadelphia, was making the second defense of his second title reign when he faced Hernandez (25-1, 13 KOs), a Cuban defector based in Germany.
Cunningham (24-3, 12 KOs) was pleased with the ruling, tweeting, "Can't wait to become 3x IBF cruiserweight world champ."
Dan Rafael is the senior boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.