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Usyk floors Fury in late round flurry

Split decision sees Ukrainian crowned undisputed heavyweight champion

Updated: 2024-05-20 09:37
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Usyk celebrates with his belts after winning the fight by split decision. AP/REUTERS

"I believe I won that fight," Fury said. "I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority of them, and I believe it was one of those 'what can you do?' One of those decisions in boxing. We both put on a good fight, and did the best we could do."

Usyk, who needed four stitches to a cut above his right eye, and who was headed to hospital for a scan of his jaw, remembered his father, who died shortly after his Olympic victory in 2012.

"I miss my father," he said, wiping his tears with his T-shirt. "I know he's here."

Usyk has missed his children's birthdays, and even the birth of his daughter, during his eight-month camp for the Fury fight, originally scheduled for February, before the Briton suffered a cut in training.

His promoter Alex Krassyuk believed that Usyk was denied a knock-out victory, when the referee stepped in as Fury looked about to hit the deck in round nine.

"I believe the referee saved Tyson from a knock-out and stole the ninth-round knock-out, which should have happened," Krassyuk said.

But, Usyk said: "No knock-out, no problem. I don't think about it because we had a win."

Usyk is the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis held the honor for five months in 1999 and 2000. He is also now the lineal heavyweight champion by beating Fury, who beat Wladimir Klitschko to earn that distinction in 2015.

After moving up from cruiserweight, Usyk upset Anthony Joshua to win three title belts in 2021. He kept them through a rematch and another defense, while angling for the ultimate payday of a fight against Fury in Saudi Arabia.

Usyk landed 41 percent of his 407 punches, while Fury landed just 31.7 percent of his 496 punches, according to CompuBox statistics. Usyk both threw (260 to 210) and landed (122 to 95) more power punches.

Usyk has now joined an elite club of fighters who have held every major world championship belt at heavyweight — and he is the first to do it in the four-belt era, which began in 2007. The list of undisputed champions includes Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson.

The most recent undisputed heavyweight champ was Lewis, who beat Evander Holyfield in late 1999 and enjoyed a five-month reign. He soon lost a title because of the territorial squabbles that have beset boxing for the past quarter-century and routinely prevented the biggest fights from happening.

Fury and Usyk both asked for this matchup, and they finally got together in the ring, largely because of the involvement of Saudi Arabia, which made the financial rewards simply too great for the fighters' typically recalcitrant promoters and the sanctioning bodies to reject. Fury will reportedly make more than $100 million for the bout.

To reach the lucrative Western pay-per-view audience, the bout didn't begin until 1:45 am on Sunday morning at Kingdom Arena.

Usyk was aggressive from the opening bell, repeatedly getting inside his taller opponent's defenses to land body shots. Fury was his usual carefree self, even putting both arms on the ropes in a corner and pretending to dodge punches when Usyk advanced.

But, Fury picked up his attack from the third round, working his size advantage, and his typically unpredictable movement, to throw right hands behind his sharp jab. Fury appeared to hurt Usyk with body shots right at the belt, and he rocked Usyk twice in the sixth with vicious uppercuts.

Usyk rallied, bloodying Fury's nose and face with a left hand. Usyk then punished Fury in the ninth, hitting him with another concussive left before battering the British star around the ring. Fury sagged into a corner, barely staying on his feet with about 10 seconds left in the round.

Referee Mark Nelson could have stopped the fight, but he ordered Usyk away for a standing count that was interrupted by the bell.

On the undercard at Kingdom Arena, Australia's Jai Opetaia retained his IBF cruiserweight title with a clear unanimous decision over Mairis Briedis of Latvia. Ireland's Anthony Cacace also claimed the IBF super featherweight title when he stopped Welshman Joe Cordina in the eighth round.

Earlier, 41-year-old former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev returned to the ring for only the second time since 2019 with a decision loss to Sweden's Robin Sirwan Safar.


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