Originally written on The Queensbury Rules  |  Last updated 9/30/14
(Tyson Fury, left, tries to connect on Steve Cunningham)   Steve “USS” Cunningham had chided Tyson Fury for being more like a one-man talk-show than a fighter before their NBC televised heavyweight clash at The Theatre in Madison Square Garden, New York, on Saturday. After an extreme yet strangely enthralling episode, Fury came across more Jerry Springer than Dick Cavett. Cunningham, a bulked up cruiserweight, pole-axed Fury in the 2nd and dipped his knees in the 4th with overhand rights, however, the charismatic leviathan turned the tables in round 7 with a monster right hook that put Cunningham down for the full count.  Fury, 21-0 (15), Manchester, England (but representing Ireland) had blathered up a storm all week. Nevertheless, there was a suspicion that something was amiss when it became apparent his trainer hadn’t accompanied him to the States (reportedly due to a visa issue) and that his chief second would be Derby’s answer to Steve Wilkos in ex-heavyweight Clifton Mitchell, who runs a security firm in the UK that chaperones boxers on their way into the ring. “Big Cliff”, as Mitchell is known, managed to get that part of his task right, at least.   Alternatively, Cunningham, 25-6 (12), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, had been swotting under ace Philadelphian coach Naazim Richardson. Disadvantaged by six inches and 44 lbs, Cunningham had his work cut out in even closing the distance between himself and Fury and he struggled with his range while being made to eat crow. That changed abruptly enough in round 2, when Cunningham, boxing a well-ordered fight, lanced his tormentor with a Hail Mary right that caught Fury squared-up with both hands dangling below his beltline. Fury fell like a sail on a windmill -- crashing onto his back -- and for a few spine-tingling moments it appeared he wouldn’t be coming back around again.    Up at six, Fury, 254, managed to ride out the round, yet he’d reverted back to the flat-footed brawler that had struggled against the likes of Nicolai Firtha and Neven Pajkic. With his Uncle Peter AWOL, Fury veered between improvisation and shambles. He draped himself over Cunningham, 210, repeatedly and was clipped again in round 4 with his defences awry. Referee Eddie Cotton, who’d already warned Tyson for shoving Cunningham after the bell, took a point from him in the next frame for butting. As his welcome party began to look like it might actually be a leaving do, Fury -- who is as gutsy as they come in spite of his technical shortcomings and repeated malfunctions -- took it to the cobbles and Cunningham began to wear out as a result.   Fury winded the American in the 7th with an uppercut. As Cunningham covered up against the ropes, Fury barged him into a corner. There, he propped Steve’s chin up with his left forearm before socking him with a crushing right hook. It looked like a jeep running into a bollard. Cunningham could not continue and Cotton stepped in at 2:55.   “I was dazed ya know?” Cunningham admitted post-fight. “And friggin’ couldn’t make the count, man. He caught me in the clinch. He pushed me up and he threw the punch. That’s illegal but he did what a big man’s supposed to do to a smaller guy.”    Quizzed in the ring about why his boasts of being the world’s greatest fighter had looked a little off the mark, Fury was forced to take stock. “It’s one of them things,” he lamented. “This is a fight. And a fight it was.” Indeed. But this oddball heavyweight, who serenaded the crowd afterwards with a croaky Ricky Van Shelton rendition (yes really), must apply himself far more seriously if he hopes to become anything other than a mid-afternoon circus act.
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