Tyson Fury is on top of the world right now.
The ‘Gypsy King’, 33, successfully defended the WBC belt he won from Deontay Wilder last February after knocking out The Bronze Bomber in their trilogy clash in Las Vegas.
But he might never have got the opportunity to fight for the world title in the first place if Steve Cunningham had been able to land that final blow on his American debut in 2013.
By then, Cunningham was the former IBF cruiserweight champion, who came up short in a bid to wrest the IBF North America heavyweight title from champion Tomasz Adamek less than five months before at Sands Casino Resort in Pennsylvania.
Fury, meanwhile, was barely in his mid-twenties – and still had a full head of hair.
But the 24-year-old got an almighty shock to the system when he found himself flat on his back after being decked by a big right hand in the second round.
The American, now 45, told award-winning outlet Boxing News Online: “When I knocked him down I was thinking, stay down, stay down, stay down. Then I saw him get up and I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go back to work.’
“But I knew I could hurt him now. I just needed to line up another good shot.
“And I did. I hit him with another right hand in the next round that really hurt him. It stunned him. I thought, okay, line him up again.
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“He then switched up his game a bit. More than that, I wanted to get that knockout and make a statement as a heavyweight.
“I wanted to say, ‘I’m here, I can beat these big guys, I can bust them up and knock them out.’ I wanted to do that.
“It kind of backfired on me, but this is boxing. If you’re not willing to lose, you shouldn’t be in there.”
Fury got back to his feet on unsteady legs, but he shook his head from side to side to clear the brain fog before brutally knocking Cunningham out in the seventh round.
He added: “Unfortunately, I sat in there with Fury and gave him the opportunity to lay on me and tire me out.
“I was doing good in the fight, too. I got the knockdown and hurt and stunned him a few more times. But then, by the fifth round, the laying on me started to weigh on me.
“I knew I’d get a second wind. I thought let me get out of this round and then I’ll be back on track. That’s when he did what he did and got the KO win. It’s all good. It’s part of the game.”
Fury has always spoken highly of Cunningham – and gave him credit for almost pulling off a stunning upset.
He later admitted: “I fought Steve Cunningham, he was a very good cruiserweight world champion, 215lbs, 6ft 3in, chiselled.
“He gave me one of my hardest fights I’ve ever had, but what happened in the end of that fight? It was brutal.
“And I didn’t do it by outboxing him because I was getting outboxed. I had to go to the well to get the job done.
“Knock him spark out, only time he’s ever been knocked out. Not too shabby.”