Oleksandr Usyk win opens clear path to undisputed championship – if Tyson Fury wants it

Oleksandr Usyk proved once again that he is arguably one of the best fighters in the world with a bold win over Anthony Joshua on Saturday in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to retain his three heavyweight titles.

Now, he is just one belt away from being called the undisputed heavyweight champion – a title no one ever possessed in the era of four belts. That last strap, of course, is held by Tyson Fury, whose recurring retirement demands seem like a rite of passage for the best fighters.

Fury has long called for a summit meeting at heavyweight for all four belts, and was set to meet Joshua for the undisputed title last August before an arbitral decision imposed a third fight with Deontay Wilder.

But a month before Fury scored a second consecutive knockout of his rival, Joshua was knocked down by his mandatory challenger, Usyk, sending plans for the undisputed title fight up in smoke.

As Joshua prepared for the rematch against Usyk, Fury beat Dillian Whyte in April and immediately announced his retirement. But earlier this month, in a surprise to absolutely no one, Fury claimed he would end his retirement with a third fight against Derek Chisora.

Of course, it’s a fight of minimal interest, and Fury quickly brushed off the potential matchup to once again “retire.”

Usyk left no doubt about his intentions after beating Joshua, standing in the middle of the ring and calling his shot.

“I’m sure Tyson Fury isn’t retired yet,” Usyk (20-0 13 KOs) said in the ring after the fight. “I’m sure. I’m convinced he wants to fight me. I want to fight him. And if I don’t fight Tyson Fury, I’m not fighting at all.”

Sure enough, Fury responded a few minutes later in an Instagram video.

“I’m going to annihilate them both on the same night,” he said, referring to Usyk and Joshua. “Pull out your fucking checkbook because ‘The Gypsy King’ is here forever!”

And that’s all music to the ears of boxing fans, who have long relished the opportunity to see Usyk tested against a much bigger man who is at the same level of boxing ability. Sure, Joshua is a big man at 6ft 6in, 245lbs, but Fury is 6ft 9in, 270lbs plus and has the kind of kick and footwork that separates him from his compatriot, Joshua and the most other fighters. in the sport.

“I want to fight him. And if I don’t fight Tyson Fury, I don’t fight at all.”

Oleksandr Usyk

Joshua (24-3, 22 KOs) performed better in the rematch after being almost stopped by Usyk, 35, in the first encounter in September. But Joshua is not a smooth, natural boxer like Usyk. Fury is, of course, and a matchup that pits them for all four heavyweight belts is a monster sporting event. This is the kind of event that boxing offers far too rarely.

Fury promoter Bob Arum told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel on Saturday that Usyk-Fury “won’t be a tough fight to fight” and the purse split should be 50-50. Maybe only the second part is true, because the bigger the boxing match, the harder the negotiations.

But this fight makes far too much sense – and money – to pass up. It’s a match the Saudis have been waiting for for December, and last year they were willing to dish out around $155 million for an undisputed title fight between Fury and Joshua.

The highly anticipated Fury-Joshua fight may never materialize now, but the consolation prize in this case is something better anyway.

Usyk’s use of angles, movement and an educated jab made him a puzzle no opponent was able to solve. He even showed in two fights against Joshua that despite weighing just 220 pounds, he has enough pop on his shots to inflict a lot of damage.

The way the Ukrainian was able to survive Round 9 – when Joshua hurt him to the body and sent him staggering into the ropes – proved that Usyk possessed the kind of toughness needed to beat Fury. He rallied with an even more dominant Round 10 and also displayed the punch resistance needed to withstand the most dangerous shots.

Of course, there was never a question about Usyk’s character. When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Usyk quickly took up arms in a homeland defense battalion and served as a beacon of hope for those watching his fight at home after having the fight televised. free.

Inside the ring, Usyk was just as brave. He conquered the 200-pound division before being installed as an underdog against Joshua in his third heavyweight fight. So far, he hasn’t met his match.

Putting it all together against the Fury figures to be Usyk’s ultimate challenge. And while he wasn’t considered a puncher earlier in his career, that reputation changed after Fury twice scored destructive knockouts 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 much more adept at imposing his superior size on his enemies. Fury has bullied Wilder in his last two fights, leaning on him in the clinch and pushing him towards the ropes, forcing his opponent to grapple with his 270lbs.

Seems to be the recipe for success against Usyk…if there is one. And there’s no one better equipped than Fury. Fury is ESPN’s No. 1 heavyweight and No. 5 pound-for-pound boxer. Usyk is one place behind him in both rankings.

Now the boxing industry needs to make sure it doesn’t get in the way. This is a fight we have to see.

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