‘The glory of all boxing.’ Fury, Usyk & the winding road to undisputed

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‘The glory of all boxing.’ Fury, Usyk & the winding road to undisputed

Tyson Fury is wrong. He might say this is just another fight – he might need to treat it as such to make sure he wins it – but this is not just another fight. It’s the fight.

The one that boxing, the one that sport has been waiting for. That wait, finally, is over.

It’s the contest to deliver the heavyweight world champion, something boxing has been sorely missing for over two decades.

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Tyson Fury launched into a foul-mouthed tirade aimed at Oleksandr Usyk and his team following the weigh-in.

In the quarter of a century since Lennox Lewis was the division’s undisputed champion, there have been heavyweight titlists. Indeed, for many years two great heavyweights dominated the landscape, and they could not fight each other for very good reason – Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko were brothers.

In 2015 Tyson Fury began his first championship reign, upsetting Wladimir Klitschko in Dusselfdorf to win the unified WBO, WBA and IBF titles. Plagued by mental issues, Fury didn’t box again for more than two years after that.

While Deontay Wilder held the WBC belt, the others scattered. Anthony Joshua picked up those titles that Fury had once held.

But Wilder and Joshua never agreed to an undisputed fight. Then Fury crashed back into the upper echelons of the division. Shedding a massive amount of weight he took on Wilder. Fury was held to a dramatic but controversial draw when he challenged the WBC champion in 2018. He then crushed Wilder in their 2020 rematch.

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Have the mind games begun? Tyson Fury refuses to face off with Oleksandr Usyk at the press conference ahead of their huge undisputed heavyweight title clash on Saturday

Efforts to make an undisputed title fight between Fury and Joshua came to nothing after that when America’s Wilder forced his contractual rights to a third bout.

That final encounter was an epic, one of the most exciting heavyweight fights of all-time, with Fury rising from the canvas twice himself, dropping Wilder three times before spectacularly knocking out the American in their 11th round.

Meanwhile Usyk was completing his intricately planned advance to the top of the heavyweight division. The Ukrainian had become an undisputed champion at cruiserweight in magnificent fashion, beating Marco Huck, Mairis Briedis and Murat Gassiev all in their home countries.

He then outboxed Joshua to become a unified champion at the Tottenham Hotspur stadium in London.

Usyk walked away from a lucrative rematch with Joshua when Russia invaded Ukraine at the start of 2022. He returned to his home country to enlist in the territorial defence force and take up arms. When he was permitted to return to boxing, he rose to the occasion with style and determination, handling a ferocious effort from Joshua to win clearly.

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Tyson Fury reveals why he refused to face-off with Oleksandr Usyk in their final press conference ahead of Saturday’s fight

From the moment that Usyk had joined Fury as a heavyweight champion, matching the pair was the obvious fight to make. It is the two best and biggest men the sport has to offer battling it out for ultimate supremacy.

But it was not easy to get here and they still had wait even longer than intended.

Initial talks fell through acrimoniously last year and Fury and Usyk took interim fights. Usyk was uncomfortable against Daniel Dubois but stopped the Briton after recovering from a low blow (Dubois’ team still claims it should have been legal).

Fury almost had the shock of his career against former UFC champion Francis Ngannou, who stunningly dropped the Briton in the third round.

Fury steered himself to victory and, despite being primed to announce the undisputed clash, the bout to bring all four of the major titles together, for December, he needed more time to recover from that surprisingly tough bout with Ngannou.

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Actor and Director Paddy Considine is confident of his prediction in the fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk.

The Usyk fight was made for February only for another delay to arise when Fury was cut in sparring shortly before the original date. The bout had to be postponed again, rescheduled for May 18.

It’s been a long, winding road to undisputed that’s spanned 25 years. Now it has finally reached its destination.

This is the fight that matters.

“It’s a big occasion,” Fury reflected. “This is the glory of all boxing, the heavyweight championship of the world.

“It’s a very important fight.”

But to perform effectively, Fury must approach it like he has every other bout.

“We’ve done a lot, haven’t we, in our lives in boxing matches and stuff, are we’re bothered about another fight? I don’t think so,” he said.

“If it’s destined for us and it’s meant to be, it will be. And if it’s not, then it won’t be. But will I cry about it? No. Why would I cry? I thank God for the good times and the bad times.

“It’s important on the night, but when I go home it’s – forget about it.”

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Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk deliver their final messages to one another ahead of their huge undisputed heavyweight title clash on Saturday.

Fury has had mental struggles along the way. Those are battles he still has to fight.

“Just feeling up and down all the time, like a roller coaster. Always,” he said. “So short-term goals, keep training, keep eating healthy, that’s it.

“I know how to fight it now more than I did before.

“I know tomorrow’s going to be a new day, so even if I’m feeling absolutely [terrible] tonight, I think I’ll start again tomorrow. It’s a fresh, brand-new day to start afresh.”

Fury is a character like no other. At six foot nine inches tall, and over 260lbs he is quite literally larger than life. Exuberant in demeanour much of the time, intensely menacing too as he gets closer to the first bell before a fight, he is both unreal and very human all at once.

He has a connection to his supporters, especially in how frankly he spoke about his mental health when his weight rocketed after he walked away from the sport and his titles.

That made his comeback all the more remarkable. He has had to pick himself up outside the ropes, and from the canvas – from violent knockdowns administered by Wilder, repeatedly, and more recently Ngannou.

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Legendary promotor Bob Arum makes his prediction on Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk and reflects on some of the most memorable moments in his career.

While he has been put down, no opponent has managed to keep him there. He’s found a way to get up. He always has.

And he’s always been ready to fight. His inner turmoil has always melted away when the time comes to box.

“Because like I said many, many times, I’m bulletproof on fight day. I can’t be affected on fight day because the ‘Gypsy King’ is not Tyson Fury, a different mentality completely,” he said.

The will to win Tyson Fury exhibits is tremendous. But it’s a quality Usyk unquestionably has too.

As well as what he represents as an athlete and a champion, Usyk has an uncommon drive.

“I’ve prepared for this fight for 22 years. All my boxing career, I’m coming for my dream. It’s a big event for Ukraine too,” Usyk told Sky Sports.

“It’s a big opportunity for my family.”

In the build up to the fight, Fury, much the bigger man, has towered over Usyk. He’s bellowed at him, tried to drive down on him in their head-to-heads. He has been a fearsome sight and that’s just an indication of what lies ahead. All of Fury’s bulk, experience and ability will be brought to bear when they box.

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Tyson Fury’s trainer SugarHill Steward gets emotional after watching old footage of uncle Emanuel Steward with Fury at Kronk gym.

But Usyk won’t back down. He refuses to be intimidated.

“It’s not possible. Because my focus is my fight. Too much is on the line. All my power. I missed new year with my children, missed the birth of my daughter, because I’ve been in my camp. Seven months, I was, seven months,” he said.

“I have four belts coming for four children, two for my sons and two for my daughters, one each.”

He vows to make what he needs to happen happen. “I don’t believe in fate,” he said. “Fate was invented by people.

“No. It’s you. It’s not fate.

“I believe it’s possible.”

His father, who passed away, still inspires him. “My father told me: ‘Son, you can.’ I believe for my father, I believe for myself, I believe it’s possible. If you do, it’s possible.”

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Oleksandr Usyk watches on as Tyson Fury pretends to play the guitar during his media workout.

Trying to defeat Fury is one of the hardest jobs in boxing and no one has managed it yet.

“It will be a great fight because he’s a great man. It’s a big man, he’s smart. Sneaky,” Usyk said. “Oh, we have to fight.”

But as for how he’d go about accomplishing that feat he did not specify. He only had two words for what he was going to do. Something “beautiful. Amazing”.

Both men have done special things to reach this point. Both have complete faith that they’ll be the one to take the final step and go, at last, undisputed.

But only one of them can be right.

It’s one of the biggest sporting events in a generation. Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk collide for the undisputed world heavyweight championship on Saturday May 18, live on Sky Sports Box Office. Book the fight now.

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