Fury, Cunningham have duel of words

In the packed upper room of an Irish pub whose name evokes the memory of one of boxing’s most colorful heavyweights of Celtic stock, Tyson Fury made his New York bow last Thursday with a mix of banter and bravado that left his April 20 opponent irked.

Fury was in town for the official announcement of his IBF eliminator with Steve “USS” Cunningham at Madison Square Garden [MSG] and got into a lively exchange with the American at Jack Demsey’s Bar in Manhattan after predicting to knockout him out.

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“I’ve a question for Steve and [co-promoter] Kathy [Duva],” the 6-foot-9 Fury who traces his roots to Belfast said.

“I’m wondering if the bottom of Steve’s boots have been sponsored as there are going to be a lot of people watching around the world. I’d like to put my tweeter account on both of them so I can get more fans on tweeter,” he smiled.

The standing room only crowd of writers and boxing types laughed but Cunningham [25-5, 12 KOs], a two-time world cruiserweight titlist, was not amused.

“I grew up in Philadelphia right on the cusp of kids from street fighting to guns,” the 36 year-old retorted. “And back then there was a code and it still runs true in the streets – and that’s the guys who talk a lot, they’re chumps!”

“You can talk all you want but that won’t help you on April 20,” Cunningham added. “The only reason this dude is winning fights is because he’s big. Shrink him down to 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 [and] he’s garbage.”

A mischievous glint in his eye, Fury, who's 24 and undefeated [20-0, 14 KOs], seized on that in his lyrical comeback:

“Not only am I big, I’m tall, dark, handsome, cool, calm, collected [and] super sexy. This guy [Cunningham] has got no chance at all…I’m the best fighter on the planet.

“There’s no man born of a woman than can beat Tyson Fury. Steve Cunningham is in big trouble. Come April 20, this guy’s getting knocked spark out. I hope he and his trainer believe in magic because he’s going to need a lot of magic to beat Tyson Fury.

Steve Cunningham, the whole of Philadelphia behind him and every man in it cannot beat me together, never mind him on his own.”

Naazim Richardson, Cunningham’s trainer, drew the biggest laugh when -- in response to Fury’s claim to be the more renowned man -- he challenged the Irishman to walk down the street with him and see who would be easily recognized by New Yorkers.

At any rate, Fury may have succeeded in making an impressionable New York debut that he’ll probably build on ahead of April 20.

His scheduled 12-rounder with Cunningham is an official IBF heavyweight voluntary eliminator fight for the number two position in that organization. The winner must meet the top ranked challenger – currently Kubrat Pulev -- or the leading available contender to establish the mandatory challenger for IBF champion Wladimir Klitschko.

Among the undercard fighters will be Hughie Fury, Tyson’s 18 year-old cousin. The 6-foot-8 teenager, a former world junior champion, makes his pro debut in Montreal, Canada, this Saturday against 34 year-old journeyman David Whittom[11-19-1, 7 KOs].

Both the UK-based Tyson and Hughie have set up camp at Casino Lac-Leamy in Gatineau, Quebec.

Fury, who’s also a cousin of world middleweight title contender Andy Lee, had earlier told the Echo that he’d decided to train Lac-Leamy near Ottawa because it’s in the same time zone as New York.

“They have good facilities there and it’s away from all the distractions. So I’m hoping to get in good shape and come do a good job,” he said.

“I truly feel I'm ready to conquer the heavyweight division,” Fury added. “Steve Cunningham is the toughest test of my career, but I've made a name for myself by passing those tests again and again. I've taken camp to Canada this time in order to make sure that trend continues.”

Fury vs. Cunningham will be broadcast nationally 4 p.m. on NBC as a special two hour afternoon presentation of NBC Sports Fight Night, and in Britain on Channel Five. It is presented by Hennessy Sports and Main Events.

Tickets are priced at $25, $50, $100, $250 and $500 and are available at the Madison Square Garden box office, through Ticketmaster (866) 858-0008 and at ticketmaster.com.