Five takeaways from Oleksandr Usyk’s win over Tyson Fury

 | Monday 20th May 2024, 11:22am

Monday 20th May 2024, 11:22am

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The dust has settled over Riyadh. Oleksandr Usyk is your undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. After a fight that lived up to the lofty billing, full of thrilling exchanges and no end of drama, the division has a sole king for the first time in a quarter of a century. 

After the heady thrill of a great boxing night, emotions run high. But having had a couple of days to process the glitzy glamour and Usyk’s hammer, I have devised five takeaways from the bout.

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Usyk Beat The Best Version Of Fury Possible

In 2024, there is no finer version of Tyson Fury than the one we saw on Saturday night. Some may baulk at that, but look at the evidence. 

‘The Gypsy King’ turned up at his lightest weight in over four years. Fury ripped in his shots with power and precision, forcing Usyk to take his best punches. He didn’t turn up in rotten shape as he did against Francis Ngannou. He didn’t play with his food like in the Derek Chisora and Dillian Whyte fights. This was a Fury hellbent on victory. A Fury who looked like getting that victory during some excellent middle rounds.

Usyk took all of Fury’s best work. He outboxed the now-former WBC champion, despite the Brit being limber, in-shape and agile. This might not have been the Fury who shocked the world, and Wladimir Klitschko, in 2015. But in 2024, you aren’t getting a better one than this.

Fury’s Excuses Have To Stop

Emotions run high after a mega-fight such as this. Just ask Anthony Joshua, whose rambling post-Usyk interview set new levels for boxing oddities. But Fury’s assertion that the new champion won the decision because Ukraine is at war was asinine. Worse, it was offensive.

One hopes that in the cold light of day, Fury will realise he got narrowly beaten by the superior man. If he fails to recognise this, a rematch will look awfully similar to the first fight. If Fury is to reign as champion again, adjustments are needed.

‘The Gypsy King’ has a devoted fanbase who will take his often-outlandish statements as gospel. But even his supporters can see that Usyk won that decision based on nothing more than being the better man over the course of the 12 rounds.

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Anthony Joshua Deserves An Apology

‘AJ’ was written off by many after losing two straight fights to Oleksandr Usyk. The Olympic gold medalist was criticised for losing his titles to “a cruiserweight”. Critics reasoned that Fury and Wilder would have no such trouble with ‘The Cat’.

Well Fury just did have awful trouble with Usyk, while Wilder’s loss to Joseph Parker has put him at the back of the queue for a title shot. Ultimately, Joshua’s losses were not proof he is “a fraud” as some social media wags put it. They were simply a case of a very good fighter losing to one who will go down as an all-time great.

Joshua doesn’t deserve scorn. He deserves praise for how he has rebuilt his career after those twin-defeats to the new undisputed champion. ‘AJ’ has gone 4-0 with three knockouts, staying active and edging back towards his best. A third fight with Usyk might be a hard sell, but Joshua is a contender again.

The IBF Are About To Make A Huge Mistake

While it was an excellent match-up on paper, there is no doubting a huge part of the attraction on Saturday was the undisputed heavyweight championship. Not since Lennox Lewis beat Evander Holyfield in 1999 has a sole heavyweight ruled the roost. Both men were present in Riyadh to oversee their successors.

But the IBF, in their infinite wisdom, are refusing to let the good times last. They intend to strip Usyk of their title and award it to the winner of mandatory challenger Filip Hrgovic vs Daniel Dubois. A fight that isn’t even the most intriguing heavyweight fight on its own card, with Zhilei Zhang vs Deontay Wilder taking place on the same night.

While the four families of boxing hoover up sanctioning fees, they often miss the bigger picture. What would make the IBF more visible? Their title being part of the richest prize in all of sports? Or it sitting around the waist of someone who, through no fault of their own, will only ever be viewed as a paper champion? I’ll let you be the judge.

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Is Usyk The Pound-For-Pound King?

No level of achievement is enough for boxing fans. As Usyk lifted the gaudy, WWE-like undisputed belt over his head, the boxing hive mind was computing. Their goal? To determine if Usyk, Terence Crawford or Naoya Inoue are the true pound-for-pound best in the world.

The three are linked by history. They are the only three men ever to reign as four-belt undisputed champions at two weights. But there is more to pound-for-pound greatness than that. There is more to it than achievement. While you could argue that Usyk’s rise has come with greater sacrifice, against better competition and with more drama; that isn’t the whole story.

Pound-for-pound imagines a world where all fighters are equal in terms of weight. Then it pits them against each other to determine an overall winner. While it is impossible to know for sure, I think Usyk would have too much for Crawford if the two were to meet. Inoue is a prickly issue. His combination of speed, concussive power and an engine that won’t stop makes him a near-impossible prospect for anyone.

Usyk has put himself firmly in the debate. It is a debate I still personally believe Inoue wins. But you’d get no argument from me if you did choose our new undisputed heavyweight boss as your ‘P4P’ number one.

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