24 years decision to become the first undisputed champion 2024

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Since transitioning to the heavyweight category, Oleksandr Usyk has consistently faced rivals who are taller, heavier, and younger than he is.

Usyk’s determination and expertise are immense, enabling him to conquer a significant size disadvantage against Tyson Fury and secure the title of the world’s first undisputed heavyweight boxing champion in 24 years.

On Sunday, Usyk triumphed over Fury by split decision, sending his formidable opponent to the canvas in the ninth round and narrowly securing victory on two of the judges’ scorecards. At 37, the Ukrainian boxer has become the first heavyweight since Lennox Lewis to hold all significant title belts.

Two Judges Scored the Fight

Usyk (22-0) secured Fury’s WBC title, adding it to his collection of WBA, IBF, and WBO belts, after an impressive late-round surge in a closely contested about between two undefeated champions from a highly competitive era of heavyweight boxing. Two judges scored the fight in favor of Usyk, 115-112 and 114-113, while the third judge had it 114-113 for Fury.

This is a beautiful moment, a wonderful day,” said Usyk, who stood six inches shorter and weighed 30 pounds less than Fury at the weigh-in this week.

Usyk began the fight with a strong start but found himself enduring a challenging period as the confident and charismatic Fury took control during the middle rounds. However, Usyk rallied in the final rounds, a familiar pattern for the Olympic gold medalist. He dominated the eighth round and almost finished Fury in the ninth.

Usyk stunned the 6-foot-9 Fury (34-1-1) with a left hand, eventually sending him sprawling into a corner just before the end of the round. The knockdown was counted right before the bell rang, and Fury struggled to maintain a consistent offense afterward. This crucial knockdown ultimately played a decisive role in the judges’ final decision.

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“This is a huge opportunity for me, my family, and my country. Glory to Ukraine!

After the final bell, Fury kissed Usyk on the head, and Usyk embraced Fury moments after the decision was announced. Fury also expressed his desire for a rematch in October.

I believe I won that fight,” Fury asserted. “While he may have taken a few rounds, I am confident I won the majority of them. It’s one of those outcomes in boxing where you wonder what more you can do. Nonetheless, we both displayed a good fight, giving it our best.

You know, his country is at war, so there’s a sentiment toward a nation in conflict. But let’s be clear: I believe I won that fight, and I’ll return. There’s a rematch clause in place.

Usyk becomes the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis, who held the title for five months between 1999 and 2000. Additionally, he now claims the lineal heavyweight championship by defeating Fury, who earned that distinction in 2015 by beating Wladimir Klitschko.

Having transitioned from cruiserweight, Usyk caused an upset by defeating Anthony Joshua in 2021, securing three title belts. He successfully defended them in a rematch and another about, all the while eyeing the ultimate prize of a showdown against Fury in Saudi Arabia.

World Championship

According to CompuBox statistics, Usyk connected with 41% of his 407 punches, whereas Fury landed only 31.7% of his 496 punches. Usyk also threw (260 to 210) and landed (122 to 95) more power punches.

Usyk has entered the prestigious ranks of fighters who have held every central world championship belt in the heavyweight division, a feat unmatched in the four-belt era that commenced in 2007. This exclusive list of undisputed champions includes legends such as Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, and Mike Tyson.

Saudi Arabia’s Involvement

The last undisputed heavyweight champion before Usyk was Lewis, who defeated Evander Holyfield in late 1999 and held the title for five months. However, he soon lost his unified status due to the territorial disputes that have plagued boxing for the past quarter-century, often obstructing significant fights.

Both Fury and Usyk had expressed their desire for this bout, and it came to fruition mainly due to Saudi Arabia’s involvement. The financial incentives offered by the kingdom proved irresistible, compelling even the typically resistant promoters and sanctioning bodies to agree. Reportedly, Fury stands to earn over $100 million from the fight.

In order to tap into the lucrative Western pay-per-view market, the fight didn’t commence until 1:45 a.m. on Sunday at Kingdom Arena.

Usyk displayed aggression right from the start, consistently penetrating his taller opponent’s defenses with body shots. Fury, true to his usual carefree style, even leaned against the ropes in a corner, playfully dodging punches as Usyk advanced.

However, Fury intensified his assault from the third round onwards, leveraging his size advantage and trademark unpredictable movement to deliver right hands following his sharp jab. Fury seemed to trouble Usyk with body shots aimed at the belt, and in the sixth round, he staggered Usyk twice with powerful uppercuts.

Heavyweight Champion

Usyk staged a comeback, causing Fury’s nose and face to bleed with a left hand. In the ninth round, Usyk continued his onslaught, landing another powerful left punch and relentlessly attacking the British star, who struggled to maintain his footing and sagged into a corner with about 10 seconds remaining in the round.

Referee Mark Nelson had the option to halt the fight, yet instead, he instructed Usyk to step back for a standing count, which was then interrupted by the bell.

At Kingdom Arena’s undercard, Australia’s Jai Opetaia successfully defended his IBF cruiserweight title with a decisive victory over Mairis Briedis in a unanimous decision. Additionally, Ireland’s Anthony Cacace secured the IBF super featherweight title by stopping Joe Cordina in the eighth round.

Earlier in the event, former light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, aged 41, made only his second appearance in the ring since 2019, suffering a decision loss to Sweden’s Robin Sirwan Safar.

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