Saturday April 20th, 2013

Tyson Fury (left) took a hard punch in the second round, but knocked out Steve Cunningham in the seventh. (Mary Altaffer/AP) Tyson Fury (left) took a hard punch in the second round, but knocked out Steve Cunningham in the seventh. (Mary Altaffer/AP)

NEW YORK -- Three thoughts on Tyson Fury’s seventh-round knockout win over Steve Cunningham:

Fury packs a real heavyweight punch

No question, Fury is still a work in progress. At 24, his style is sloppy, he leaves his chin exposed—evidenced by the punch Cunningham landed that in the second round that sent Fury toppling to the canvas—and he doesn’t use his jab enough to keep smaller fighters off  of him. But he packs a wallop and uses every inch of his 6-foot-9, 257-pound frame, leaning on Cunningham and wearing down the two-time cruiserweight champion. Cunningham fought a sharp fight: He moved well, landed accurately and, thanks to a knockdown and a point deduction, appeared to be in a good position on the scorecards. But the strength and size of Fury took its toll, and a series of shots in the seventh capped by a clubbing right hand put Cunningham down and out.

Tough ending for Cunningham

Cunningham is one of the easiest fighters to root for. He served four years in the Navy and earned his way in boxing the hard way, going overseas to challenge top cruiserweights on their home turf. He’s a good heavyweight who could probably hold his own against Chris Arreola, David Haye or any of the other big men his size. But he faded quickly against Fury, unable to keep the bigger man off of him and unable to move enough to keep him away from him. Cunningham (25-6) is 36, and there is no reason he can’t keep fighting if he wants to. But he needs to be carefully matched, because the biggest of the big men are too much for him.

Whither, Fury?

Fury fancies himself a legitimate title contender, and with his size, record (21-0) and gregarious personality, he is unquestionably a rising star. By beating Cunningham, Fury set himself up for a fight with Kubrat Pulev, with the winner of that fight earning a title shot against Wladimir Klitschko. But Fury could get a shot sooner. With Vitali Klitschko’s future unclear, Fury, ranked No. 5 by the WBC, could be in a position to challenge for Vitali’s belt if he vacates it. Promoter Mick Hennessy told me Pulev was the top target, but, obviously, they would give up the eliminator for a title fight.

- Chris Mannix

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