The Saudis, who are hosting the title unification match, have promoted the big showdown between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk as a ring-of-fire duel. Source: Oleksandr Usyk’s official Instagram | Instagram @usykaa
The Saudis, who are hosting the title unification match, have promoted the big showdown between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk as a ring-of-fire duel. Source: Oleksandr Usyk’s official Instagram | Instagram @usykaa

Fury and Usyk finally end the quarter-century-long wait

Boxing OlyBet 15.05.2024

On May 18, the world of boxing will finally have an absolute heavyweight champion again, when Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will face each other in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The one who raises his hands to the sky as the winner that day joins a club without members yet.

In the world of boxing, everything revolves around championship belts, and although at one point they appeared like mushrooms after the rain, only the four big ones count – the WBA, WBC, WBO and the IBF. Whoever holds those title belts is the absolute champion.

In heavyweight, the crème de la crème of the boxing world, a man like that was last seen a quarter of a century ago, when Briton Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield on November 13, 1999. However, five months later, Lewis vacated the WBA championship belt, and since then there has been no exclusive reign in the heavyweight division.

It is important to note here that Lewis boxed for three more championship belts, and the WBO got among the big ones only in 2007. This fact makes the duel between Fury and Usyk historic – its winner will become the first absolute heavyweight champion with four titles.

It all started three years ago

The possible confrontation between Fury and Usyk began to buzz in boxing circles already in September 2021, when the Ukrainian, known as the cat, defeated Anthony Joshua in London, much to the chagrin of the home audience, grabbing the WBA, IBF and WBO belts. But arranging a title unification match is not that easy in the world of boxing.

Namely, each organization can put its challenger on the table at any moment, and the reigning champion cannot say no (otherwise he will lose the championship belt). In addition, in the world of boxing, there is a tradition of the right to rematch, which Joshua also used: therefore, before facing Fury, Usyk had to meet Joshua again.

In August 2022, a rematch took place and the Ukrainian won again. While strutting around the boxing ring as a winner, Usyk then announced that he dedicated the triumph to the Ukrainian people and plans to return to Kyiv to help fight the Russians. He also said that he is hoping for a title unification match soon.

Fury even came out of ‘retirement’

That’s what fans, both anonymous and famous, hoped for. “Hey, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk! Are we finally going to see a title unification match now? The fans have been waiting for this for a long time and deserve it,” tweeted Lennox Lewis, for example, after the duel with Joshua.

At that point, Fury was de facto retired, but it was largely a show to draw attention to himself during the non-fight period and/or spare himself random matches. Because Fury only wanted to face a true competitor.

Usyk was suitable for this; thus, negotiations took off, led by the wealthy Saudis. The initial idea was that the title unification match could occur the day before the World Cup final, i.e., December 17.

However, this plan went awry when Usyk announced that he would not return to the ring until February – the Ukrainian wanted to heal old injuries and spend time with his family.

The first obstruction named Chisora

Seeing things drag on, the WBC intervened in the debate and confronted Fury, who held the championship belt: Derek Chisora is your next challenger. So, on the 3rd of December, the Briton had to face his compatriot instead, but defeating him was not too problematic.

In short, a title unification match was still possible, and the parties sat down to negotiate once again. After initial discussions, the date of the 4th of March was set. “An agreement has been reached. The match will take place on the 4th of March at the latest. Location: it doesn’t matter,” Usyk’s promoter Aleks Krassjuk announced on social media.

However, things did not go as smoothly as that. The bone of contention turned out to be money, of which Fury wanted the lion’s share i.e. 70%. Things dragged on and on until the Ukrainian’s side put their foot down: these terms are suitable, but only if the match takes place on April 29th at Wembley and Fury donates a million of his winnings to Ukraine.

We don’t know whether it was this demand or Usyk’s desire to include a rematch clause in the contract, that didn’t suit the Briton. But we do know that this date too, simply went by.

Obstructions named Dubois, Ngannou, and an eye

Then the WBA ordered Usyk to face Daniel Dubois. The two met at the end of August and in a slightly controversial match – namely, the Ukrainian was knocked to the floor first, but the referee judged the blow to be too low, i.e. against the rules – Usyk still emerged as the winner.

His camp then sat down with Fury again. A lengthy discussion followed and the date for the title unification match was set for December 23rd.

But there was a “but”. In the shadow of the Usyk and Dubois match, the WBC had also taken its chance, ordering Fury to defend the title against former UFC star Francis Ngannou. However, the boxing crowd was sure that the Briton would have no problems defeating the Frenchman.

Although Fury won, the duel was unexpectedly even, and in the process, the Briton injured his hand. In short… December 23rd was off the table. But since the problem was only the date, and not the desire to hold the match, a new date was quickly settled: February 17th.

Until it happened again. At the beginning of February, Fury announced that he injured his face in sparring – his eye got hit with an elbow – and couldn’t step into the ring in the following week.

Although the injury was authentic, it upset the Saudis, who were organizing the title match and who by that point had already sunk millions into the event. They gave the ultimatum: the new match will take place on May 18th, and if either of them withdraws, they will have to pay a fine of 10 million euros.

Fury or Usyk?

So here we are in May, living with the sweet anticipation that in less than a week the first heavyweight title unification match will take place. But which one is the favourite in the duel? In the betting offices, both men are equal. For example, in OlyBet Fury’s coefficient is 1.84 and Usyk’s is 1.90.

Their records so far are equally impressive. 35-year-old Fury has entered the ring 35 times in his career and has emerged victorious in 34 cases (24 of them by knockout). The only “blemish” on his boxing path is a draw with Deontay Wilder in 2018.

It is interesting to note that Fury has held the WBA, WBO and IBF championship belts for which he now faces Usyk. In November 2015, he defeated Wladimir Klitschko. After that, however, he lost motivation, gained weight, and even ended up in a drug spiral, which was why he was forced to give up the titles.

Speaking of Usyk – who is two years older than Fury, i.e. 37 – he has entered the ring 21 times and won all the matches held so far. 14 times, the Ukrainian’s triumph has come with a knockout. It is worth pointing out that Usyk previously worked in a lower weight class and has only had five matches in heavyweight.

Before becoming a pro, the Ukrainian did well among amateurs too: he has European Championship gold (2008), World Championship gold (2011) and OM gold (2012) to show for it.

However, which of the two legends will be victorious, we’ll find out on May 18th. Boxing night in Saudi Arabia starts at 19:00 Estonian time when eight “warm-up” matches are scheduled. The main event of the evening, or the duel between Fury and Usyk, does not start before 1 AM.


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