Boxing: Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk, Undisputed Heavyweight Fight Set For 17 February In Saudi Arabia

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Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will fight for the undisputed heavyweight title on 17 February in Saudi Arabia. Briton Fury, 35, is the WBC champion with Ukraine’s Usyk, 36, holding the WBA, WBO and IBF belts. The winner in Riyadh will become the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 1999.

The bout was scheduled to take place on 23 December but Fury’s controversial encounter with Francis Ngannou last month derailed those plans. Instead on that date, in Riyadh, former heavyweight world champions Anthony Joshua and Deontay Wilder will fight separate opponents. Should Joshua overcome Otto Wallin and American Wilder beats former champion Joseph Parker, the pair could fight each other in 2024.

Fury has won 34 fights with one draw since turning professional in 2008. He has faced criticism for failing to reach terms with Usyk after a proposed bout at London’s Wembley Stadium in April fell through. An unexpected announcement in September confirmed a deal had been brokered by Turki Alalshikh, of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority.

Fury had been expected to cruise past former MMA champion Ngannou – making his boxing debut – in a non-title fight, but narrowly edged a split-decision success. The Morecambe fighter and Usyk came face-to-face following the victory, but after the fight Fury and his co-promoter, Frank Warren, suggested it would be pushed back to 2024.

“This is a historic event. The whole world of boxing has been waiting for many, many years, and they now have this fight,” Frank Warren told reporters at a press conference in London on Thursday. “For the first time this century, we will have an undisputed heavyweight champion. As a promoter I’ve been banging my head against the wall. But now we have the creme de la creme. These two undefeated heavyweight fighters.”

The last undisputed heavyweight champion was Briton Lennox Lewis, who beat Evander Holyfield in Las Vegas to defend the WBA, WBC and IBF titles. No heavyweight has held all four of the recognised world titles. In typically combative mood at the press conference, Fury referenced his 2015 victory over Usyk’s fellow Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko, which earned him the WBA, IBF and WBO titles.

“I already relieved one Ukrainian of all the belts, and now I’m going to take them all back,” Fury said. “Usyk’s a champion, I’m a champion. It’s going to be a fight for the ages.” Fury believes a victory over Usyk would cement his status as one of the all-time greats. “He’s a good boxer, slick. But I’ve seen people like him before, and when they fight the big man, they lose,” he said. “I believe we’re both destined to be here. I’m destined to become the undisputed champion, and more than that, cement my legacy.”

Usyk kept his cool amid Fury’s insults, which included taking swipes at his opponent’s height and his ear-ring. “Yes I’m a little man. I’ll speak in the ring,” Usyk said.

The contest will form part of ‘Riyadh Season’ – an entertainment events festival held in Saudi Arabia’s capital every winter since its launch in 2019 and was kicked off this year by the Fury-Ngannou clash. A number of high-profile bouts have been held in Saudi in recent years, including Usyk’s win over Anthony Joshua in August 2022.

The Gulf kingdom has been accused of investing in sport and using high-profile events to improve its international reputation. Human rights campaigners say sport is being used by the Saudi government to distract from long-standing reputation issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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