The words exciting and heavyweight don’t normally go together. NBC’s April 20th main-event between Tyson Fury (21-0, 15 knockouts) and Steve Cunningham (25-6, 12 knockouts) proved to be one of the rare exceptions. What makes this even more surprising is the fact that many cirticized the fight as being an absolute mismatch. After all, Fury was a 6’9″ fighter who outweighed the 6’3″ Cunningham by close to 50 pounds, and in the first round things looked to play out in the manner most had expected.
Fury answered the opening bell in an aggressive yet predictable manner. Mixing in powerful straight rights with a telephone pole-like jab, Fury found some early success in keeping Cunningham at bay. Although Cunningham missed with some of his bigger shots early, it was obvious that his superior movement would be key in taking down the hulking Fury. Cunningham continued in his patient approach and things began paying off as he managed to find a home for his jab and body attack. Fury was largely unaffected by the shots however and resorted to taunting in order to goad the much smaller Cunningham into a fight. Boy, did he get one.
At the start of the second round, Fury’s confidence was at an all-time high. This led to him coming out especially aggressive, which allowed Cunningham to land a massive right-hook that dropped that giant Englishman against the canvas. With Fury badly shaken up, Cunningham was hell-bent on stopping Fury. Unfortunately, things didn’t play out that way as Fury resorted to constant clinching in order to survive the round. For the following rounds, Cunningham continued fighting both smart and confident as Fury continued on his pattern of power punches and clinching. Regardless of Fury’s tactics, Cunningham seemed on his way to earning an upset decision victory. Once again, things just didn’t play out the way Cunningham had planned.
At the start of the fifth round, Fury was docked a point for head-butting Cunningham. This lead to growing frustration from Fury, which translated to greater aggression and much more holding. This pattern of fighting beginning to take its toll on the much smaller Cunningham, as the signs of exhaustion were becoming apparent. This led to the already confident Fury to get much more comfortable as he increased his output and began throwing series of powerful hooks in an attempt to put Cunningham away. In the seventh round, Fury was successful in finally cutting off Cunningham’s movement and was forcing him along the ropes. It was here that Fury managed to unleash a flurry of power shots with a right hook that finally knocked Cunningham down and unable to answer the ref’s 10-count.
It was the type of fight that neither fighter should be ashamed of. Cunningham was able to do much more than anyone ever expected against an opponent like Fury, while Fury managed to put on a performance that was the 12-round snooze fest that many had anticipated. Even with another loss on his record, Cunningham has managed to prove that he can hang with the best of them. Whether he can actually defeat the best of them remains to be seen. As far as Fury’s future is concerned, he has now earned the number-2 spot for the IBF’s heavyweight title eliminator. Whether Fury emerges successful or not, you can be sure that the next fight will not be as exciting as his in-ring time with Cunningham.