On Wednesday night, Steve Cunningham made the trip north from his hometown of Philadelphia to New York City to witness opening night of the New York Daily News Golden Gloves tournament at BB King’s. The former two-time cruiserweight titleholder, who now campaigns at heavyweight, is hoping to return to The Big Apple in a few months, this time wearing gloves and standing across from unbeaten heavyweight contender Tyson Fury at Madison Square Garden.
In a story first reported by RingTV.com, it looks likely that Fury (20-0, 14 knockouts), a towering 24 year old from Manchester, England, will face Cunningham (25-5, 12 KOs) on April 20 in the same building where fellow Britons Naseem Hamed and Amir Khan launched their international campaigns. The bout would be televised by NBC.
The 36-year-old Cunningham cautioned that a deal isn’t a deal until it’s done, however.
“Just talks, we haven’t seen a contract or heard any numbers or nothing yet,” said Cunningham, who is now promoted by New Jersey-based company Main Events. “We all know that Tyson Fury talks a lot, they’ve been tweeting and going crazy with it but he’s still got other people he’s considering so I’m ready to fight whomever. My goal is to be world champion at heavyweight.”
Cunningham is officially 1-1 since rising to heavyweight last year, having lost a highly disputed decision to former foe Tomasz Adamek in December. Tyson Fury’s uncle and trainer Peter Fury is one of the majority of boxing observers who don’t hold that mark against him.
“I think a fight with Cunningham is a good fight, especially when everyone says he beat Adamek,” Peter Fury told World Boxing News. “So if Tyson does a good job on him, it will send a message to everyone and I have no doubts he will do.”
Cunningham also feels vindicated in the public eye with his performance against Adamek, who is rated no. 6 by THE RING at heavyweight.
“I didn’t get the win but I got the victory,” said Cunningham. “It’s a thing with fighters and people overall who don’t even fight. When you get into a situation or challenge and something like this happens, you get cheated, you know within you that you won. I have that feeling. I’ve been robbed before and I’ve worked through it. This was even better, out of 20,000 people I’ve spoke to, probably four came up to me [and said] ‘I thought it was a draw or I thought Adamek won.’ So that helps me feel great.”
Fury, who is rated no. 10 by THE RING at heavyweight, has managed victories over respectable fighters Dereck Chisora and most recently Kevin Johnson, whom he decisioned in December. While Cunningham is considered the favorite to face the 6-foot-9 boxer, Fury has engaged in public battles through the media with British heavyweight rivals David Price and David Haye, as well as American former title challenger Tony Thompson and even UFC fighters Michael Bisping and Cain Velasquez.
Cunningham, who stands 6-foot-3, acknowledged that fighting Fury is a different animal from fighting the 6-foot-1 Adamek, who had spent most of his career in lighter divisions as well.
“It’s a different fight, a different person,” said Cunningham. “He’s bigger, he’s taller. I would be prepared and I have a world-class trainer in Brother Naazim [Richardson] so we’ll be prepared for what he brings and we’ll bring some new stuff also.
“It can be done, these guys aren’t unbeatable. It just takes heart, which I have, skill and a great game plan and discipline to execute it.”
Photo / Boris Streubel-Bongarts
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.