By Terence Dooley
Peter Fury took the reins of his nephew Tyson Fury’s training set-up at the turn of 2012, wins over Martin Rogan (TKO 5), Vinny Madalone (TKO 5) and Kevin Johnson (W12) followed during the following year. Tyson, 20-0 (14), is scheduled to meet former IBF cruiserweight champion Steve Cunningham, 25-5 (12), at Madison Square Garden’s Theatre on April 20 in a bout that will decide the IBF’s #2 heavyweight contender.
Peter believes that the fight will showcase the new slimline Fury’s skills and burgeoning maturity. “Tyson is looking fantastic, he’s improving his arsenal because we’re working on a lot of angles, variety of shots, and speed and power, so expect to see a new Tyson — he’s really coming into his own now,” he said when speaking to BoxingScene.
“Tyson is looking forward to boxing in America because he loves the excitement and razzmatazz that goes with it and this will give him a chance to show off. Tyson’s a flamboyant character, very outspoken and an extrovert, so he’ll put on a show — it will be good.
“Cunningham has a puncher’s chance in the boxing ring. Heavyweight boxing is a battleground where anything can happen within three-minutes, so we’ll make sure Tyson keeps that onboard. We have a game plan, every fight is different, and we work on things that way to make sure it all goes to plan.”
Although American’s fascination with the heavyweight division has died down in recent years, they have had an interest in “Great white hopes” stretching back to the controversial reign of Jack Johnson. White heavyweights have been a mixed bag in the intervening years. You had the likes of Jerry Quarry, who had ability but lacked top-level durability, and George Chuvalo, tough as nails yet lacking the skill to dethrone the champions of his day, with Rocky Marciano the stand-out white American fighter.
“Gentleman” Gerry Cooney showed talent and toughness during his WBC world title challenge to consensus number one Larry Holmes in 1982. Cooney soaked up Holmes’s best shots before his trainer stepped into the ring at 2:52 of the thirteenth-round. Cooney is set to hook up with the Furys during their American jaunt and could walk Tyson to the ring on fight night, which is music to the ears of his uncle.
“Gerry’s a great ambassador for boxing over there, he’ll be joining us in the training camp when we get there and hopefully walking Tyson to the ring,” he said. “It is going to help Tyson’s build-up, which is great for us as we’re great fans of his — I remember watching him against Larry Holmes. He took Larry thirteen rounds; you have to be a very good fighter to do that with someone like Larry. People need to remember that Gerry was an elite fighter, for sure.
“We all know that Larry had the best jab in boxing, Gerry gave as good as he got and it showed the level he was at. Gerry knows a lot and Tyson can learn from what he knows. Tyson’s always respected Gerry, he always had a lot of time for his career as a little boy growing up. His father and I always spoke about the great Gerry Cooney, so it is a real privilege.”
Cunningham, 36, has campaigned at heavyweight for his past two fights, a decision win over Jason Gavern last September and a split decision loss to Tomasz Adamek in December, and the match-up has been criticised by some. Fury, though, believes that you can never take anything for granted at this weight and against established world-class names.
“I certainly am, yeah,” he said when asked if he expects a tough night’s work. “I expect Cunningham’s A-game and anything less wouldn’t be wise. He has a very good corner, very good preparation from fighting Adamek and his confidence will be very high. We expect a hard fight, it isn’t easy when you fight world-class people, a former world champion, and we know that anything can happen. Cunningham will try to make Tyson miss so that he can counter — we can’t make any mistakes.
“Tyson has mentioned Michael Spinks and David Haye, fighters who moved to heavyweight and made a success of it. If you have a talented fighter moving up to heavyweight, and he has all the skills and slips, then he’s a threat to anyone. If a guy who weighs over fourteen stone hits you on the chin then you can go no matter how good you are. Tyson knows Cunningham is a threat from the first until the last round.
“These guys have the power to do damage, so Tyson won’t underestimate Cunningham or think he’s a 6’ 9’’ monster who can just walk through everyone. Tyson’s facing a well-built athlete who can bang. Cunningham will pop that jab out like nobody’s business and we all know that if you can pop that jab then you’re a problem for any fighter. I think he’ll be better at heavyweight than he was at cruiserweight.”
Many British fans still hold out hope for a showdown between Fury and David Price despite Price’s second-round stoppage loss to America’s Tony Thompson. Fury, though, maintains that his fighter is moving beyond Price’s level, and will continue to do so unless the 29-year-old Liverpudlian learns from the loss.
“I’m not surprised (by Price’s loss) because we have a lot of public overhyping of people,” said Fury. “I’m a boxing realist, I know boxing and saw a lot of weaknesses, a lot of flaws there, but people were just looking at the big bang and he was getting away with it. You can bang people away at domestic level, but if you move up then that punch is all you have, and that was evident from what Thompson did to him.
“Thompson was coming over for one last hurrah, he said so at the press conference, but he came over to give it a go and look what happened. Even at the end of his career, an old campaigner can’t be mistaken for a domestic-level fighter. That old, world-level fighter will beat a domestic fighter hands down. It is all about skill at the higher level, if you don’t have the skill then you’ll be found wanting, and that’s what happened.
“Obviously, he should have kept Thompson long, had a look at him, realised he had mixed at world level and been patient, but he looked at how Wladimir stopped him twice [in 11 and six-rounds respectively] and thought he could do it. Price isn’t Wladimir, they saw Thompson crumble against Wladimir, but Wlad’s a different kettle of fish, he moved Thompson a little to the left to cut his angles off. David didn’t have the experience to do that. Thompson just walked right through him.
“You’ve got a novice who has banged people over for 14-fights prior to that, he’s not even done twelve-rounds in a fight, so you’ve got a rank novice with a big bang taking on a guy who is a step up, and he wasn’t ready to step up. It partly the promoter’s fault because they’re looking at paydays and seeing it as a business rather than allowing the fighter to develop. They should have been teaching Price properly and they haven’t been doing that.”
Still, Price has vowed to come back even stronger, and many heavyweights have had to taste the pain of defeat. Thompson’s shot clipped Price’s hear, robbing him of his balance and equilibrium, it may well be a one-off thing — time will tell. Fury, though, believes Price can return from this setback, while warning that the inexperience he showed after hitting the deck needs to be worked on.
“It is all about the person’s willpower, I believe Price has the hunger to do it, he’s a fighting man who did big things in the amateurs,” he said. “Price showed bravery to get up from the floor, but that again shows the inexperience of the man, he should have stayed on his knee for six-seconds then got up to his feet. They obviously hadn’t worked on what to do when he’s down on the floor, instead he jumped straight up when his legs were all stiff.”
He added: “These types of things should not be happening. Price needs an experienced advisor to take him back to school and teach him the tactics of the pro game because, to me, he still fights as an amateur and not a pro. His style is based around his big shots and banging people out.”
On the same night, Audley Harrison made an unlikely comeback by winning Prizefighter: The International Heavyweights. “A-Force” has managed to secure himself a heavyweight lifeline at the ripe old age of 41, and won himself a few new admirers in the process.
“I’ve never been a fan of Audley, really, because he’s an underachiever, but he deserves the upmost respect because he has been beat so many times and keeps coming back, and back,” said Fury.
“I agree with Tyson, there’s something about Audley. I take my hat off to him. Although these Prizefighters mean absolutely nothing, they’re not world-class fighters, a man who has mixed at a good level will beat domestic fighters. Audley isn’t just a domestic-level fighter — he has got world-class skills and pop. Only sometimes he turns up, most times he doesn’t.”
Price and Dereck Chisora’s recent reverses leave Fury standing alone as Britain’s immediate hope of a world title challenger. A win over Cunningham will boost his standing with the IBF and bring him closer to a fight against Wlad Klitschko. Although his uncle insists that there is plenty of time for Tyson to develop before making his move.
“Tyson’s young and is getting an air of confidence about him, he’s a natural athlete who is growing nicely into a world-class fighter,” he said. “There’s still improvements to make, but he is growing from a young kid into a man, let’s not forget that Lennox Lewis didn’t turn pro until he was the age Tyson is now .
“Tyson’s a 6’ 9’’ guy who is coming into his own, he’s not a Mike Tyson, who was 5’ 10’’ and exploded through at a young age. He is maturing and coming on impressively, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my family.”
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