Sicilian Nightmare, Heavyweight Joe Cusumano, Calls Out A.J., Gets Robert Simms Rematch Challenge
Editorial By Robert Brizel, Head Real Combat Media Boxing Correspondent
Most improved heavyweight Juiseppe Angelo ‘Joe’ Cusumano, also known as ‘The Sicilian Nightmare’ and ‘The Sicilian Sandman’, has received a new immediate rematch challenge from Salita Promotions Michigan heavyweight Robert Simms. Cusumano deserves the unique distinction after resurrecting his heavyweight career from the dead with an eighth round stoppage of onetime contender Adam Kownacki in the eighth round at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, June 24, 2023. Joe earned it.
Cusumano, who knocked down Kownacki in the first round and took the bout to him, as Cusumano was in the best conditioned bout of his career, is also a candidate for Fight of the Year for his 2023 win over Kownacki at Madison Square Garden. There have been some upsets this year, however Cussumano’s was the betting lnogshotin the heavyweight division. Cusumano was a seven to one betting underdog, meaning if you bet 100 dollars, you would win 700 dollars, with Cusumano having only an eleven percent odds on chance to win. Cusumano was sort of like Race Strike in the 2022 Kentucky Derby, a long longshot boxing underdog of the year in 2023 to win this bout if you played the odds by the bookies. You never underestimate your opponent, as you will get beaten, you will get burned. It happened.
Once in a while, a fighter gets religion, and decides he is going to do the physical conditioning work and put in the discipline and hard work to score a major win. Having bombed in the first round against Daniel Dubois, and having lost decisions to Daniel Martz (Lose 4), Robert Simms, and Steve Vukosa (Lose 8), Cusumano seemed a longshot at best.
Simms, 12-3-1 with three knockouts, nonetheless has some hard core experience. Simms has lost three close decisions to Craig Lewis in 2016 (lose split decision 6), Alexey Zubov in 2017 (lose split decision 6), George Arias in 2019 (lose majority decision 8), and drew with Moses Johnson in 2022 (Technical Draw 3), fighters with a combined record of 38-1-1 at the time Simms fought them. Simms holds wins over undefeated Colby Madison in 2019 (Win 8) and undefeated James McKenzie Morrison in 2022 (Win 8 for the vacant World Boxing Council USA Heavyweight title). Johnson subsequently got stopped in the first round by undefeated Walter burns in June 2023. The Simms challenge to Kownacki is significant, because it exposes a chink in the armor. If Cusumano cannot win a rematch with Simms, how can he call out A.J. Joshua or a top ten contender name similar?
Cusumano won two four round decisions back in 2012, and had never been past the sixth round. Cusumano, 22-4 with 20 knockouts, Danville, Virginia, had never been in a 10 rounder before when he was thrown to the wolves against Kownacki, 20-4 with 15 knockouts, Brooklyn, New York via Lomza, Poland. The bout never made it out of the eighth round when trainer Sugar Hill threw in the towel at 2:00 on the eighth to the sounds of ‘Eye of the Tiger’. Cusumano, who moved from Sicily to the United States as a child, stated he had trained for this bout like a madman, and was smart not to leave the bout the cards.
Cusumano headhunted, was in top form and condition, but he also worked the body of Cusumano with sparkling accuracy to break him down. Cusumano moved to Connecticut to train at Champ’s Boxing Gym with coach David McDonough, and then flew to Costa Rica for superior conditioning work at Gareth McCloskey’s FARMERSTRENGTH training camp. The hard work paid off.
Both Cusumano and heavyweight contender Jarrell Miller have been calling Anthony Joshua the immediately available backup opponent, in the event Dillian Whyte pulls out of his rematch negotiations with Anthony Joshua, in a situation similar to Andy Ruiz Jr. stepping up as a last minute opponent in June 2019 to fight Joshua when Miller’s original bout with Joshua fell through, and Ruiz and made themselves available for Joshua. According to CES Boxing promoter, Jimmy Burchfield Sr., “After this dominant victory (by Joe Cusumano) against a real warrior in Adam Kownacki, who trained harder and was in the best shape of his boxing career tonight, we’ll take the most lucrative option because Juiseppe (Joe) it. This was a fight of the year, and was the co-feature on a major platform. Any network would want to feature a power-punching heavyweight who represents both Italy and the United States.”
However, in the case of Cusumano, highly regarded promoter Burchfield, in the absence of a top lucrative next match for Cusumano, should consider moving Cusumano immediately with the same training regimen which worked for him, and get him another bout to keep him active, whoever it is. Too many fighters, from Keith Thurman to Caleb Truax to Tevin Farmer, have been waiting too long through the Pandemic and post Pandemic period to fight again. Jarrell Miller’s layoff was due to suspension, but in any case, fighters get too ring rusty and cannot recover their form. Kownacki had been inactive for almost a year. You can train hard, but without activity, you cannot master ring generalship and maintain your discipline regimen if you are out of the ring too long. Even as a sportswriter, your skills are based on keeping active and abreast of the sports field.
Cusumano’s win is being taken seriously by boxing writer experts. We will be watching Joe Cusumano and Jimmy Burchfield to see when Cusumano fights next, and if he can continue performing at the level he did for the Kownacki bout. Simms, or perhaps a new and different name for Cusumano, could be next on the horizon.