By Jake Donovan
Mixed reviews came of Tyson Fury’s off-the-canvas 7th round knockout of former cruiserweight king Steve Cunningham in their NBC-televised heavyweight eliminator this past Saturday afternoon in New York City. Fury was dropped hard in round two and also docked a point for headbutting in round five before rallying back to knock out the American towards the end of the seventh round.
Fury – six inches taller and 44 lb. heavier than the aged Philly product – was expected by many to cruise to victory in his stateside debut. Instead, he raised several questions of his fighting ability, ultimately winning on pure size advantage as he was actually down on two of the three scorecards and even on the third at the time of the stoppage.
Among those who weren’t very impressed was another rising heavyweight, Bryant ‘By-By’ Jennings. The unbeaten Philly native was ringside both as an interested observer and in support of Cunningham. By night’s end, Jennings saw a path for his own future.
What he didn’t see was the future of the heavyweight division.
“I’ve seen a future foe. I think Tyson Fury is very hittable,” Jennings noted after the fight while interviewed on NBC. “Steve did a good job, he fought very well. But I just don't think Tyson has it. He just can't take pressure. He was getting hit too much. He got floored in the second round. We all know that Steve’s not that strong, not a power fighter. We all know Steve is the better boxer, the better mover and the better counterpuncher.
“If he faces a real heavyweight such as myself... we already know what the outcome is gonna be like.”
Jennings (16-0, 8KO) returns to the ring on June 14 against the dreaded To Be Announced. The bout will mark his first ring appearance since a knockout win over Bowie Tupou last December. The bout aired on NBC Sports Network Fight Night, one of four series appearances for the 28-year old who fought five times overall in 2012.
His next fight will also air on the Fight Night series. While an opponent is being sought, it’s doubtful that he lands an assignment against Fury. Perhaps such a match can be made down the road, as he sees it as his path towards a heavyweight title shot.
Jennings threw his name into the hat for a potential shot at lineal heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko. He and his team knew it was a long shot that he would land the assignment, which instead went to Francisco Pianeta.
There is one theory that the delay is a blessing in disguise, suggesting that Jennings isn’t quite ready for a title shot. Then there is the way that Jennings himself sees the opportunity.
“I'm not that disappointed… well, in a way I am,” Jennings admits. “After this fight he'll probably be tied up with mandatories and stuff like that, so that probably puts a hold on (a title shot).
“I’m in this game; I’m not going nowhere. I’ll just keep doing what I have to do. I'll just have to keep taking these fights – keep winning, keep training and keep doing what I’m supposed to do and those opportunities will come.”
One such opportunity he seeks is a shot at Fury, who as a result of Saturday’s win is now in line for a showdown with unbeaten Kubrat Pulev. The winner of that final eliminator will become Wladimir Klitschko’s mandatory challenger. Such an opportunity to face Pulev was originally reserved for Tomasz Adamek, who instead conceded his ranking in order to move his career in a different direction.
Jennings is curious to see if Fury follows in Adamek’s footsteps. If so, he’d love nothing more than to get a crack at the second generation heavyweight.
“I’m not gonna give away my secrets, but I’m just gonna be a stronger, better conditioned individual,” Jennings insists. “Steve is getting up there in age, but he still has the heart. He showed good heart. I'm just bringing youth and stronger punching, fighting fire with fire.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Tyson Fury , Bryant Jennings