Unbeaten British heavyweight Tyson Fury faces two-time cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham at Madison Sqaure Garden on Saturday night in an IBF eliminator for the #2 spot. This is Fury’s biggest test in his career so far because Cunningham’s got lightning fast hand speed and is excellent defensively but in my opinion he does lack power.
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I’ve been very surprised about the amount of criticism coming Fury’s way for picking out Cunningham as his opponent. Fury made it clear he wanted to face an American heavyweight and I don’t really see any better options. Tony Thompson was obligated to give David Price a rematch so that’s him out of the picture. Golden Boy wouldn’t let Deontay Wilder near Fury in a million years and Johnathan Banks was knocked out by Tomasz Adamek, who Cunningham would have beaten in December if the judges hadn’t robbed him. Seth Mitchell was knocked out by Banks and Tony Grano was knocked out by Nicolai Firtha, who didn’t last 5 rounds with Fury. Cunningham has never been knocked out and his only losses have come to world champions, albeit world champions at cruiserweight. Some say that Cunningham is just a jumped up cruiserweight, but so was Evander Holyfield and so is David Haye so If you’ve got the talent, there’s no reason you can’t be successful. Fury definitely has a lot of weaknesses that need ironing out if he’s going to be as good as he thinks he is, and he certainly thinks he’s good. He doesn’t use his jab enough and against Kevin Johnson he looked like he seriously lacked power. On the other hand, he is one of the few heavyweights who actually has decent hand speed and in my opinion he did a better job on Kevin Johnson and Dereck Chisora than Vitali Klitschko did, even though he was rocked by some good right hands from Chisora in the early rounds. Mick Hennessy, Fury’s promoter has done an excellent job of guiding Fury towards a title shot. If he gets past Cunningham he will have to beat powerful Bulgarian #1 IBF Kubrat Pulev to become Wladimir Klitschko’s mandatory challenger and he is also well positioned for a shot at the WBC title, whether that is against Vitali or against whoever inherits the title if he retires. The opportunities are there but whether Fury has the talent is still debatable. If he beats Cunningham in New York this weekend, he’ll be on his way to proving his many doubters wrong. Prediction: Fury to win by UD