Sport

THRILLING BATTLE

Usyk beats Fury to become undisputed heavyweight champ

Usyk beats Fury to become undisputed heavyweight champ
Oleksandr Usyk celebrates after beating Tyson Fury to become the undisputed heavyweight world champion, at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 19 May 2024. (Photo: Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge

The heavyweight boxing division has an undisputed champion for the first time in a quarter of a century.

Oleksandr Usyk scored a razor-thin split decision over Tyson Fury to become undisputed heavyweight boxing world champion in a thrilling contest at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh in the early hours of Sunday.

Dwarfed by his enormous opponent, Usyk had to weather a storm in the middle of the fight, but came roaring back, forcing Fury to take a standing count in the ninth round as he blazed his way to victory.

The 37-year-old Ukrainian is the first boxer to hold all four major heavyweight belts at the same time and the first undisputed champ since the end of Lennox Lewis’s reign in April 2000.

Usyk got the better of the opening rounds before Fury hit his stride in the fourth, engaging in some showmanship as he started to catch Usyk with vicious body shots, but the Ukrainian battled back with several stinging reminders of his power.

Usyk

Oleksandr Usyk in action against Tyson Fury at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on 19 May 2024. (Photo: Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge)

Usyk turned the tide in the eighth round and few would have been surprised had the referee stopped the fight in the ninth as the Ukrainian’s powerful punches to the head left Fury reeling.

The previously undefeated Briton managed to hang on until the bell but struggled through the final three rounds of the fight as Usyk chased him down to edge him out on the judges’ scorecards.

“Thank you so much… It’s a big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country… It’s a great time, it’s a great day,” a tearful Usyk said in a post-fight interview in the ring, adding that he would grant Fury an immediate rematch.

Oleksandr Usyk in action against Tyson Fury at the Kingdom Arena in Riyadh on 19 May 2024. (Photo: Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Couldridge)

Usyk Fury

Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk face each other during a press conference in London, Britain, on 16 November 2023, ahead of their undisputed heavyweight championship title fight. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Tolga Akmen)

Ungracious Fury

An ungracious Fury said sympathy for Ukraine was behind the judges’ awarding a split-decision victory to Usyk, with the Briton calling for an immediate rematch.

“I believe I won that fight. I believe he won a few of the rounds but I won the majority of them… His country’s at war, and people are siding with the country at war, but make no mistake, I won that fight,” Fury said.

Ukraine has been fighting a Russian invasion that started more than two years ago.

“I’ll be back. I’ve got a rematch clause,” the previously undefeated Fury added, with promoter Frank Warren saying in the ring another fight between the two was a certainty.

“That’s what the contract says. It’s what he wants. It’s his call, it’s Tyson’s call. So, whatever he wants to do, it’s up to him,” Warren said.

After an intriguing 12-round battle that saw both men enjoy success, plenty of boxing fans would relish the chance to see the pair go at it again, especially after Usyk managed to turn the tide.

“We’ll go back to our families and I’ll see him again in October. We’ll go back, rest up. I believe I won the fight but I’m not going to sit and cry and make excuses. We’ll run it again in October,” Fury said.

Asked if he would be prepared to face Fury again, Usyk, who did not respond directly to Fury’s claim, was unequivocal.

“Yes, of course,” he said. Reuters/DM

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