By: William Holmes
At New York (NBC): Tyson Fury vs. Steve Cunningham, 12 rounds, IBF heavyweight eliminator; Curtis Stevens vs. Derrick Findley, 8 rounds, middleweights;
The heavyweight division is far from dead.
Despite what many will tell you there’s a large crop of young and talented heavyweights who are looking to dethrone one of the Klitschko brothers from atop the heavyweight throne. Bryant Jennings, Deontay Wilder, David Price, Kubrat Pulev, and Robert Helenius are some of the young and promising contenders who could challenge for a world title in the near future.
Tyson Fury should be near the top of the list of heavyweights to keep an eye on. He’s young, he’s powerful, he’s entertaining, and he’s talented. But before he can challenge for a world title he has to get past former cruiserweight world champion Steve Cunningham.
The following is a preview of the televised bouts on NBC this Saturday afternoon.
Curtis Stevens (23-3) vs. Derrick Findley (20-9); Middleweights
Curtis “Showtime” Stevens is a 28 year old middleweight that is looking to overcome some earlier career setbacks and get back on track towards a world title shot. The New York native had an impressive amateur career and packs some major power in his punch.
He’s short for a middleweight and has won four of his last five fights. He was upset in 2010 by Jesse Brinkley for a possible shot at the IBF Super Middleweight belt and took two years off before returning to the ring in 2012. He was last seen on NBC Sports Fight Night stopping Elvin Ayala in the first round.
He’s strong and powerful, but he can be outboxed. He was stopped in the 8th round by Marcos Primera in 2006 but later avenged that defeat in an immediate rematch. In 2007 he lost a unanimous decision to Andre Dirrell. His biggest victory since then was a 3rd round stoppage over the then undefeated Piotr Wilczewski in 2009.
He was once a highly touted young prospect and he should continue his successful comeback to the ring on Saturday afternoon.
Findley is an average boxer and he’s not the standard over the hill boxer we too often see on undercards when matched up with a promising talent.
He has thirteen stoppages on his record, but also an abnormally high nine losses for a televised fighter. In fact Findley has lost three of his last five fights. Those losses came to J’Leon Love, Viktor Polyakov, and Eric Mitchell.
He did make some waves when he stopped Ronald Hearns in the second round in 2012, but Hearns has proven to be a fighter with a big name only.
Stevens should have little to zero problems with Findley. He quickly disposed of Elvin Ayala the last time we saw him, and Ayala defeated Findley in 2011.
Tyson Fury (20-0) vs. Steve Cunningham (25-5); IBF Heavyweight Eliminator
Tyson Fury is confident. He’s so confident that he’s called out UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez despite the fact he has no grappling experience. He readily calls himself the best fighter in the world to any and all who will listen.
Tyson Fury is powerful. He’s stopped fourteen of his opponents, including four of his last five opponents. He’s extremely tall, he stands in at 6’9” and has an absurd 85 inch reach. He’ll have a six inch height and a three inch reach advantage on Steve Cunningham.
Fury is a former ABA champion as an amateur and turned professional after failing to make the Olympic team. He’s spent his entire career fighting in the United Kingdom and Saturday will be his first appearance in the United States.
His record is impressive, but his resume lacks a recognizable name for most American fight fans. He’s defeated the likes of Kevin Johnson, Vinny Maddalone, Neven Pajkic, and Dereck Chisora.
Even Fury perhaps knows that Cunningham is on a different level than his past opponents. He recently stated, “ Cunningham is a good boxer and world champion who fought in different countries. He’s a small heavyweight who will come in with a good game plan and strategy. I anticipate him running but, sooner or later, I will catch him and knock him out. If he runs, I hope the fans boo him out of the arena. He’s going to have to fight me. I’m coming to fight and put on a show”.
Steve “USS” Cunningham is a talented fighter, but he’s had most of his success in the cruiserweight division and has only recently jumped up to the heavyweight division. He won the national golden gloves in 1998 and has been boxing professionally since 2000.
At the age of 36 it’s likely he’s past his athletic prime, but he can still box with the best of them. He was robbed in his last fight against Tomasz Adamek at the Sands Casino in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Many felt Cunningham’s best days were behind him when he faced Adamek because he lost twice in a row to Yoan Pablo Hernandez for the IBF Cruiserweight title, but Cunningham looked good inside the ring against Adamek.
He doesn’t have a lot of power and it’s unlikely he’ll suddenly find power on Saturday. He’s only stopped twelve of his opponents. He’s defeated the likes of Enad Licina, Troy Ross, Marco Huck, Krysztof Wlodarczyk, and Guillermo Jones.
But at the age of 36 and losing three of his last four bouts, it’s unlikely Cunningham will be able to defeat the taller, younger, and stronger Tyson Fury.
If he can stay out of Fury’s range and stick and move, he stands a chance. But it will be very difficult for Cunningham to avoid the long reach of his opponent.