Oleksandr Usyk once again proved that he is arguably one of the best fighters in the world with an audacious victory over Anthony Joshua on Saturday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, to retain his three heavyweight titles.
Now, he’s the only one belt without being called the undisputed heavyweight champion – a title no one in the four belt era has had. That last belt, of course, is held by Tyson Fury, whose claims to retire again, and never again, seem to be a rite of passage for top fighters.
Fury has always called for a heavyweight summit meeting for all four belts, and was on the verge of meeting Joshua for the undisputed title last August before a referee forced a third fight with Deontay Wilder.
But one month before Fury scored his opponent’s second consecutive KO, Joshua was turned on by his mandatory opponent, Usyk, and sent plans for the undisputed championship.
While Joshua was preparing for his rematch against Usyk, Fury defeated Dillian White in April and announced his retirement immediately. But earlier this month, to absolutely no one’s surprise, Fury claimed he would end his retirement with a third fight against Derek Chisora.
Of course, this is a fight of little interest, and Fury soon dismissed the potential rival into “retirement” again.
Usyk left little doubt in his intentions after he hit Joshua, stood in the middle of the ring and shot him.
“I’m sure Tyson Fury hasn’t retired yet,” Usik (20-0 13 KOs) said in the ring after the fight. “I’m sure. I’m convinced he wants my warrior. I want to fight him. And if I’m not fighting Tyson Fury, I’m not fighting at all.”
Sure enough, Fury responded minutes later in an Instagram video.
“I will annihilate both of them in the same night,” he said, referring to Ussek and Joshua. “Get your checkbook because ‘The Gypsy King’ is here to stay forever!”
And that’s all in music for the ears of boxing fans, who have long enjoyed the chance to see Usik test against a much larger man of his equal level of boxing ability. Sure, Joshua is a massive guy at 6 feet 6 feet 245 pounds, but Fury is 6 feet 9 and 270 pounds and has the kind of punch and footwork that separates him from his compatriot, Joshua and most other fighters in the sport.
“I want to fight him. And if I’m not fighting Tyson Fury, I’m not fighting at all.”
Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) fared better in the rematch after Usek, 35, stopped him at the first meeting in September. But Joshua isn’t a streamlined, natural boxer like Usik. The outrage, of course, and the feud that puts the two into the four heavyweight belts is a huge sporting event. It is a type of boxing event that is very rare.
Fury promoter Bob Arum told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel Saturday that Usyk-Fury “won’t be a hard fight,” and that the bag split should be 50-50. Perhaps only the second part is true, because the larger the boxing match, the more difficult the negotiations.
But this fight makes a lot of sense — and dollars — to back off the road. It’s a match the Saudis have long been looking forward to in December, and just last year, they were willing to pitch close to $155 million for the undisputed title fight between Fury and Joshua.
The long-awaited Fury-Joshua fight may not come true now, but the consolation prize in this case is something better anyway.
Usik’s use of angles, movement, and an educated punch made it a puzzle that no opponent could solve. He even showed in two fights against Joshua that despite weighing only 220 pounds, he had enough pop in his shots to do a lot of damage.
The way the Ukrainian managed to survive in the ninth round – when Joshua hit him in the body and sent him reeling to the ropes – proved Usyk had the strength to beat Fury. He broke out into a more dominant round in the tenth round, and also showed the punch resistance needed to withstand his most dangerous shots.
Of course, there was no question about Usyk’s character. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Usyk quickly took up arms in a territorial defense battalion and served as a beacon of hope for those watching his fight at home after he arranged for the battle to be broadcast on TV for free.
Inside the ring, Usyk proved to be equally brave. He conquered the 200-pound division before being pitched as an underdog against Joshua in his only third heavyweight fight. So far, he has not met his match.
Putting it all together against the Fury characters to be Usyk’s ultimate challenge. And while he wasn’t considered a puncher earlier in his career, that reputation changed after Fury scored two devastating KOs of Wilder.
The 34-year-old Englishman is able to switch positions seamlessly, and his jab is one of the best in boxing. Unlike Joshua, Fury is more adept at imposing his superior size on enemies. Fury bullied Wilder in his last two fights, leaning him in the ring and pushing him onto the ropes, forcing his opponent to face 270 pounds of him.
This seems to be the recipe for success against Usik…if there ever was one. And no one is better equipped than Fury. Fury is ESPN’s No. 1 heavyweight boxer and No. 5 pound-for-pound boxer. Usyk is one place behind in both rankings.
Now, the boxing business must ensure that it does not go its own way. This is a battle we must see.
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