Usyk defeats Fury in split decision to become unified heavyweight champion of the world

The Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk won on points against the British Tyson Fury after a titanic fight on the night of May 18 to 19 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He thus becomes the first unified heavyweight world champion since Lennox Lewis in 2000.

Published on: 05/19/2024 – 02:30 Modified on: 05/19/2024 – 02:52

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This is a feat that has not been accomplished for 25 years. At the end of an anthology face-to-face, the Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk became the first heavyweight in 25 years to unify all the belts of the competing world boxing federations after his victory by split decision against the Briton Tyson Fury on the night of May 18 to 19 in Riyadh.

The last boxer to have achieved this feat in the premier category of boxing was the British Lennox Lewis in 2000, with three belts at the time. But Usyk is the first heavyweight to hold four at the same time: already WBA-WBO-IBF champion in his category, the Ukrainian has just added the WBC title to his collection after his victory against Fury at the end of a duel referred to by many commentators as “ the biggest boxing fight of the 21st century ».

The whimsical versus the inflexible

Fury’s latest release, against Francis Ngannou at the end of October 2023, had largely cast doubt on the future of the Briton in the premier category of world boxing. A painful winner against the Cameroonian, who was competing in his very first boxing fight, Fury even ended up on the mat in the third round in a clash which was only supposed to be a health trip for him. Was the British Golgoth (35 years old, 2.06m, 34 victories, including 24 before the limit, one draw and now one defeat) finally on the decline?

He no longer had the right to make mistakes and had to convince against the Ukrainian (37 years old, 1.91m, now 22 victories including 14 before the limit, 0 defeats), who entered the Kingdom Arena decked out in a long fur coat and a traditional hat, his face closed and his gaze piercing, letting nothing show through as usual. But faced with pressure and expectations, the Briton entered the ring dancing for long minutes, displaying a serene and relaxed face.

Shedding several kilos to face Usyk, his lightest weight since 2018, Fury put on a show by taunting his opponent and haranguing the audience during the first round. But the Ukrainian, imperturbable, made good use of his exceptional mobility and his surgical precision to immediately put pressure on the Englishman (14 blows to 3). Systematically cornering Fury in the corner of the ring, Usyk did not let go of his opponent one step and gave the Mancunian a delicate first round where he was unable to deploy his boxing.

Fury close to going to the mat in the 9th round

From the 5th round, Fury finally entered his fight delivering more punches than in all of the previous rounds. The fight then began to tilt in favor of the Briton, much more enterprising, who notably managed to place a superb uppercut through the Ukrainian’s guard during the 6th round. Less dominant and struggling with his opponent’s reach, Usyk remained dangerous by landing devastating blows that hit Fury several times during the 8th round, without making him wobble.

But during the 9th round, the Ukrainian came very close to sending the Englishman to the mat after a powerful right followed by a rain of blows. Completely stunned, looking lost, Fury miraculously remained on his feet but forced the referee to start a count before being saved by the bell.

Marked but remarkably resilient, the Briton quickly got his head back on track before putting together three solid final rounds in the face of the Ukrainian’s incessant assaults. Designated winner with two scores in his favor (115-112 and 114-113) against one for Fury (114-113), the Ukrainian then burst into tears in the ring and dedicated the victory to the Ukrainian fights and his country.

For his part, Fury immediately mentioned a rematch, already provided for in the contract signed by the two boxers. “ I’m in my prime “, he already affirmed before the fight. “ Four more fights await me : the rematch with Usyk, then two Championships with Joshua and finally a rematch with Ngannou. “It now remains to be seen how the unpredictable will bounce back.” Gipsy King », he who had never tasted defeat in his career.

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