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Saturday, April 20, 2013
Fury comes up big against Cunningham

By Franklin McNeil


NEW YORK -- Heavyweight Tyson Fury promised to call it quits if he failed to look impressive Saturday against Steve Cunningham in The Theater at Madison Square Garden.

Fury can continue fighting. He knocked out a game, but much smaller, Cunningham in the seventh round to improve to 21-0 as a professional.

But Fury might want to tone down the volume on his trash talk. Though the win will look impressive on paper, there were several moments during the fight when he was anything but.

Cunningham exposed a flaw in Fury’s game during the second round: His chin is suspect. A right hand to the jaw did the damage. That punch did more than just put the 6-foot-9, 250-pound slugger on the seat of his pants; it momentarily halted his swagger.

Gone was the smirk that Fury wore on his face throughout the buildup to this title eliminator. He was extremely confident going into this fight, even suggesting that it was disrespectful to put Cunningham in the same ring with him.

But for a brief period, Fury probably wished he could take back that promise of retirement.

After returning to his feet, Fury remained a bit woozy. His balance was a little off, his punches lacked the sharpness of the first round, and he was holding on tightly for his professional boxing life.

Fury regained his confidence after a solid fifth, even attempting to entertain the fans in attendance with a dance before the start of the sixth round. Most in the crowd, however, did not approve of his dancing skills, booing loudly.

Though his confidence was back in full force, and his punches were again finding their intended target, the damage to Fury’s reputation had been done. That didn’t prevent Fury from still regarding himself as the best fighter worldwide.

“Absolutely, 100 percent,” Fury told ESPN.com when asked if he is still the best fighter. “Nothing went according to the game plan. My entire game plan went out the window.

“And I turned it into a dogfight. The fighter in me came out tonight.”

But Fury isn’t nearly the fighter he thinks he is. And it’s time he put that silliness to rest.

While on the subject of best fighter in the world, Fury might consider putting an end to the talk of taking on UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez.

That fight isn’t going to happen, and it no longer deserves media attention each time Fury mentions it. For now, Fury needs to focus on becoming the best boxer in the heavyweight division.

As far as Cunningham (25-6) is concerned, Fury isn’t close to being the best heavyweight boxer at this time.

“He’s a good fighter,” Cunningham told ESPN.com. “His size is his advantage. He did what he is supposed to do, which is be the big man.

“But he is not the best man in the world. That’s my opinion. I mean, I’m 6-foot-3, 208 pounds. If he didn’t do a little damage to me, then he should do like he said and retire.”

There is no need for Fury to retire. He won this fight by knockout, though not nearly as impressively as he promised.

But based on the holes exposed in his game by Cunningham, a former cruiserweight champion who isn’t a power puncher, Fury might want to tighten his defense and never utter the word "retirement" before a fight again.

Fury is a good talker, but that won’t earn him best-fighter accolades. He has to accomplish that feat in the ring.