Sunday, June 16, 2024

Tyson Fury v Oleksander Usyk: Fight of the century nears as sporting legend struggles to pick winner

Must read

It’s boxing’s biggest fight of the century.

And both Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk have good reason to believe they’ll walk out of the Ring of Fire as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Last night, Fury weighed in at 262lbs (18st 10lbs) – making him nearly three stone heavier than Usyk, who clocked in at a career heaviest of 223lbs (15st 13lbs).

Usyk’s weight was announced incorrectly on stage by Michael Buffer, the International Boxing Hall of Fame ring announcer, who said it was 233½lbs (16st 9lbs), about 12lbs more than he’s ever scaled before.

The mistake was realised when video emerged from a camera mounted on the scales, which appeared to suggest officials recorded Usyk’s weight as 223lbs – with the boxer’s manager confirming to Sky Sports this was his correct weight.

While Fury refused to look at his opponent during Thursday’s news conference, he did not back down at the weigh-in, where the pair almost came to blows before being separated by their entourages.

The tense occasion also gave the pair a chance to exchange their final verbal jabs before stepping into the ring.

Fury declared he would knock Usyk’s “spark out”.

“I’m ready to rock and roll,” he added. “I’m coming for his heart. F**k his belts, I’m coming for his heart.”

More composed, Usyk’s last message to his competitor was: “Don’t be afraid, I will not leave you alone tomorrow.”

Read more:
Everything you need to know about tonight’s fight
Fury’s dad headbutts someone at media day

Hundreds of fans had packed the weigh-in venue in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, with Fury and Usyk’s supporters each chanting for their fighter.

The old boxing saying that “good big ‘un beats a good little ‘un” doesn’t apply when it comes to Usyk.

The Ukrainian is considered the most gifted boxer of his generation and because he beat a bigger man in the form of Anthony Joshua – twice – he holds three of the four heavyweight titles.

But Fury has said this isn’t important. With his typical bluntness, the British boxer said: “AJ isn’t worthy to tie my shoelaces.”

Image:
Usyk defeated Anthony Joshua in August 2022. Pic: Reuters

His opponent, though, is not fighting for just himself.

Usyk fought on the frontline at the start of Russia’s war on Ukraine, until President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told him to serve his country fighting in the ring.

A man of few words, he said: “It’s a big event for Ukraine. For me, it’s a big fight.”

Here in Riyadh, nobody can agree on who is most likely to win.

Fury was disappointing in his last fight when he almost lost to novice boxer Francis Ngannou at the end of 2023. But now he looks toned and slim.

He’s clearly put the work in for this one.

Tyson Fury v Francis Ngannou - Riyadh Arena, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - October 28, 2023 Tyson Fury in action against Francis Ngannou during the WBC Heavyweight Title fight Pic: Reuters
Image:
Fury beat Francis Ngannou on a split decision in October 2023. Pic: Reuters

Derek Chisora has fought – and lost to – both men. He knows what it takes to face them and counts them as friends. But even he can’t call it.

“Can I be honest with you?” he said. “I don’t know. You’re the first person I’ve said that to, that I don’t know. This is difficult.

“This is why we love this sport. Because you don’t know who’s going to win.”

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Fury v Usyk: ‘History will be made’

This fight should have taken place in February, but a freak cut to Fury’s eye in training meant it had to be pushed back until now.

Will Usyk target this injury as a weak point? Will Fury target the smaller man with body shots?

It’s also worth noting this intriguing clash between two showmen wouldn’t have happened without Saudi money.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

What women’s boxing in Saudi Arabia looks like

The reported purse for each man is around an eye-watering £100m and fans have travelled in big numbers to see boxing history unfold.

It’s exactly what Saudi Arabia wants – to open up and be seen as a modernised tourist destination capable of hosting huge sporting events.

Legendary promoter Bob Arum, who has worked with the likes of Muhammad Ali, said it doesn’t get bigger than this.

“Every era has big, big fights,” he said. “And for this era, this is the biggest fight that you can get.”

Latest article