Friday, April 26, 2013

What’s next for Tyson Fury?

Over the course of the last two or three years several exciting Heavyweight prospects have emerged on the scene and have become fighters to watch as potential opponents for either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko.  Although the Klitschko Brothers remain in firm control of the World Heavyweight championship and continue to dominate all would be challengers, the question most Boxing fans seem to have is who might be able to adequately challenge the brothers that this observer refers to as the two-headed Heavyweight championship monster?

In recent times the Heavyweight division has seen a group of fighters emerge as hot rising prospects on the verge of becoming legitimate contenders.  Most notably among the group are fighters such as Bryant Jennings, Artur Szpilka, Dereck Chisora, David Price, and Tyson Fury.

Both Price and Fury one might argue have received the majority of the attention of these prospects despite Dereck Chisora being a former world title challenger.  For the last two years or so, it appeared as though Fury and Price were on a collision course.  Both fighters having been unbeaten, both fighters similar in size and both with career knockout percentages of well over 70%.

It is certainly understandable why a fight between these two British Heavyweights is intriguing.  It seemed as though it was only a matter of time before the two would meet each other in the ring.  Although a fight between Fury and Price is still likely in the future, it will not be in the near future.  Price suffered the first defeat of his career being stopped by longtime contender Tony Thompson in February of this year. Due to the sudden and somewhat surprising outcome of that fight Price and Thompson are set to square off in a rematch in July. 

As for Tyson Fury, he has gradually stepped up the quality of his opposition and has not been faced with much adversity thus far in his career.  After scoring an impressive stoppage of veteran contender Vinny Maddalone and scoring a twelve round unanimous decision over former world title challenger Kevin Johnson in his last fight, Fury was poised for what would be the toughest test of his career in the form of former two-time world Cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham.

Although all of the physical advantages in this fight belonged to Fury, it interested this observer to see how Fury would deal with someone of Cunningham’s pedigree and experience.  After all Cunningham is a former world champion and should have been viewed as a serious threat going into the fight.  As it was of interest to me to see how Fury would deal with Cunningham’s vast experience, it was of equal interest to see how Cunningham, who came into this fight after losing an extremely close decision in his second fight with former two-division world champion Tomasz Adamek would deal with a fighter with a near seven inch height advantage and who outweighed him by forty-four pounds.  The fight which was for the number two ranking in the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) Heavyweight ratings only added to what looked like an interesting fight on paper. It is doubtful however that many expected what turned out to be one of the more exciting and competitive Heavyweight fights in recent years when the two entered the ring at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on April 20th.

For Cunningham it was to his advantage to try and box Fury. Cunningham has good lateral movement and it was clear that if he were to have success in this fight he needed to use angles to avoid the bigger fighter’s pressure.  As the fight got underway I expected Fury to look to cut the ring off and neutralize Cunningham’s lateral movement.  Fury was able to establish a solid jab in the early going. In what was an otherwise close and uneventful first round, the round was highlighted by Fury who elected to drop his hands and taunt Cunningham. 

Cunningham would respond by knocking the undefeated Fury down for the first time in his career with a flush right hand in the second round.  Cunningham had clearly established that he was there to fight and anyone who thought that this was merely a showcase for Fury who was fighting in the United States for the first time had been mistaken.  Fury arose from the canvas but did appear stunned. Fury was rocked again in the fourth round by a right hand from Cunningham however Fury began to impose his size by using his weight to hold and lean on Cunningham on the inside. 

Both fighters were able to land on the inside however as the fight progressed Cunningham’s punches seemed to lose their steam and it was Fury landing the heavier blows. Despite being deducted a point in round five for a head butt Fury was able to cut the ring off and the fight seemed to turn in his favor by this stage of the contest.  Cunningham was quite “Game” however he simply could not keep the bigger man off of him.

As the rounds went on Fury’s confidence increased despite being knocked down in the second round and rocked in the fourth.  Cunningham although presenting a valiant effort began to succumb to Fury’s pressure, Fury’s ability to use his weight to his advantage clearly affected Cunningham.  In round seven Fury brought the fight to a sudden conclusion by knocking Cunningham down with a brutal right hand along the ropes.  The “Game” Cunningham with seemingly nothing left to give on this night was counted out.

A few questions that were answered in this fight were how Tyson Fury would respond to adversity.  In this fight Fury faced a stern test from a grizzled veteran who gave Fury all he could handle.  Fury not only showed the ability to get up from being knocked down but he also showed tremendous confidence in his ability.

Despite suffering the first knockout loss of his career, Steve Cunningham showed his mettle in this fight and one might argue that this loss actually will benefit Cunningham in the future.  During this fight Cunningham threw multiple overhand rights to the head of Fury that missed.  It appeared as he threw those punches that he took his eye off the target much as to be a good hitter in baseball you have to see the ball all the way through the swing.  If those punches had landed one could conclude the fight may have had a different outcome.  Good fighters such as Cunningham will review the tapes of the fight, get back in the gym, and work on the weaknesses. 

So what is next for Tyson Fury?  With the win over Cunningham Fury now moves into the number two position in the IBF’s Heavyweight ratings.  The logical assumption would be that Fury would next look to face fellow unbeaten contender Kubrat Pulev, currently the IBF’s number one ranked Heavyweight to determine who would be the next mandatory challenger for Wladimir Klitschko. 

In the eyes of this observer Fury is a force to be reckoned with however I don’t believe he is ready for the Klitschko Brothers.  Fury has defensive flaws that could be his downfall against either Wladimir or Vitali, both of whom are masters of the craft of Boxing.  Let’s not forget Fury will not be the big man when he faces either Klitschko and his pressure style will have to be adjusted for him to have any chance to succeed.

Whomever he fights next almost certainly it will be an entertaining fight. Fury’s style along with his crowd pleasing antics makes it an event that you want to attend.  Let me add to the quotable saying “ HELL HAVE NO FURY,  But Boxing Does…”

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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