By Jake Donovan
Tyson Fury is still five weeks away from his April 20 heavyweight showdown with Steve Cunningham, at Madison Square Garden’s The Theatre but believes he’s already won a major battle. A press conference held last Thursday afternoon in New York City was civil until about the final ten minutes, when the two camps erupted into a violent war of words.
Further drama ensued off camera when Fury wound up in a shouting match with Naazim Richardson, Cunningham’s trainer. The outbursts made for an eventful day, one that Fury insists went exactly according to plan.
“I’ve done exactly what I wanted to do – I got under their skin,” Fury (20-0, 14KO) says of the day’s developments. “It got heated, and I achieved my goal. (Richardson) tried to outspeak me, and that’s never going to happen. I wish Steve Cunningham and Brother Naazim – as they call him - the best of luck. Trainers can’t fight for you. You can have all of the game plans you want, but the fighters still have to go in there and fight.”
The fight – which airs live on NBC – is to determine the next challenger for top rated contender Kubrat Pulev. The winner of that fight will then become the mandatory challenger Wladimir Klitschko later in the year.
What excites Fury even more than the prospects of a title shot is that he makes his U.S. debut in this fight and is fully prepared to take New York City by storm. The fact that his opponent’s camp knew so little about him was a bit surprising, as Fury laughed off Richardson’s claim of being more popular than the unbeaten heavyweight. The humor stemmed from the fact that Fury wasn’t too familiar with the very man making such suggestions of anonymity.
“I heard his name, because of his work with Bernard Hopkins,” Fury says of the Philly trainer. “Beyond that, I never really knew much about him. I don’t know where he gets that he’s more popular than me, but ask yourself – who really knows Steve Cunningham?”
Beyond that, Fury seems less concerned about the popularity contest than he is about the fight, although he offers a solution to the isolated debate.
“If he wants to go out on a street crawl after the fight and see who draws more applause, we can do that,” Fury quips. “The man is 50, 60 something years old. I really don’t have any interest in fighting with him over who’s more popular.”
Fury hopes to use April 20 as a springboard to bi-continental popularity. Already a big draw in the U.K., the second generation prizefighter is already targeting the Northeast as his potential stomping grounds for a stateside run.
“I’d like to be a draw in the United States. I’d like for the Irish community to get behind me,” says Fury, British by location but whose descendants are Irish travelers, including his father and former domestic heavyweight “Gypsy” John Fury. That the press conference took place in New York City just prior to St. Patrick’s Day weekend was hardly an accident.
“New York on St. Patrick’s Day weekend - it’s a great place to be this time of the year. I’d like to think that in New York, Boston, Philly and around here I can rally the masses to get behind my career.”
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: @JakeNDaBox