Usyk beats Fury in Riyadh ‘Ring Of Fire’ showdown to become undisputed world heavyweight boxing champion

RIYADH: Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Usyk scored a dramatic split decision win against Tyson Fury to become the first undisputed world heavyweight champion in 25 years, an unprecendented feat in boxing’s four-belt era.

In unifying WBA, WBO, WBC and IBF world titles under his belt, joined the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Louis and Mike Tyson as undisputed heavyweight champion, the first since boxing recognized four major belts in the 2000s.

Britain’s Lennox Lewis was the last man to unify the heavyweight belts — three at the time — after beating Evander Holyfield in 1999.

Riyadh’s newly built Kingdom Arena played host to the boxing event, dubbed ‘Ring of Fire’, with a sellout crowd including several sports and entertainment figures in attendance at the 22,000-capacity venue. Wladimir Klitschko was among the legends watching along with Saudi-based football stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, who like boxing are grateful beneficiaries of Saudi Arabia’s lavish push into sports.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Minister of Sports, and Turki bin Abdulmohsen Alalshikh, Chairman of the General Entertainment Authority, were also in attendance.

Tyson Fury came out aggressively but a fired up Usyk gradually took charge and the “Gypsy King” was saved by the bell in the ninth round before slumping to his first career defeat. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)

“It is a big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country,” said Usyk, 37, who briefly served as a soldier after the Russian invasion.
“It’s a great time, a great day,” he said, adding that he was “ready for a rematch.”
Fury called it a “fantastic fight with Oleksandr.”
“I believe I won that fight, I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority of them,” he said.
“You know his country is at war, so people are siding with the country at war but make no mistake, I won that fight in my opinion and I will be back.”

Tyson Fury, left, believes he won most of the rounds against his Ukrainian opponent. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)

Caution was evident from the boxers as they exchanged punches in the earlier rounds. As they entered the third round, Tyson Fury attempted to land more hits, countered by Oleksandr Usyk’s clear dodging and significant intervention by the referee to break up an illegal clinch.

Usyk got inside with some quick combinations while Fury landed some heavy body shots. By round four, the Mancunian was taunting his ever-advancing opponent and showboating, guard down.
Usyk called two low shots in round five and got caught with a left hook as Fury continued to look comfortable, landing a telling uppercut in the following round and bobbing and weaving to stay out of range.

The cautious rhythm continued, with Fury having a clear advantage until the eighth round, when Usyk launched a strong attack from the start, buoyed by the supportive cheers from the crowd.

A Usyk barrage had Fury in serious trouble and the wobbling, bleeding Mancunian took a standing count before being saved by the bell.

A fired-up Fury came running out of his corner to start the fight, keeping the shorter Usyk back with his jab. (AN photo by Abdulrahman bin Shalhoub)

Usyk maintained this strength until the 11th round, nearly securing the win in the 10th round when Fury fell, prompting the referee to count before Fury got back up to continue the fight. The final round saw early attempts to secure a win, but the decision of the three judges favored Oleksandr Usyk, with split decision.

Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk believed that the Ukrainian was denied a knock-out victory when the referee stepped in as Fury looked about to hit the deck in round nine.
“I believe the referee saved Tyson from a knock-out and stole the ninth-round knock-out, which should have happened,” Krassyuk said.

Tyson Fury receives medical attention during his fight against Oleksandr Usyk Action. (Action Images via Reuters)

Two judges scored it for Usyk by scores of 115-112 and 114-113 while the third gave it to Fury 114-113. The victory extended Usyk’s professional record to 22-0. After his first loss, Fury stands at 34-1-1.

In the undercard fights, Swedish cruiserweight boxer Robin Siroan Safar kept his unbeaten record by beating former world light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev from Russia

Meanwhile, Ukrainian champion Daniel Lapin secured a victory over boxer Octavio Bodeter, and New Zealand boxer David Nyika convincingly defeated German Michael Seitz to keep his record unblemished as well.

British boxer Isaac Low won the international featherweight belt by defeating Afghan boxer Haseebullah Ahmadi, while British heavyweight Musa Aitoma triumphed over German Anna Amiezensev. German boxer Agit Kabayel also managed to break the winning streak of Cuban Frank Sanchez.

Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk entered the packed Kingdom Arena wearing a green cossack coat and fur hat. (Reuters)

In the lightweight division, British boxer Mark Chamberlain won the World Boxing Council title by defeating Nigerian Joshua wahab.

In the IBF and IBO featherweight championship, British boxer Joe Cordina triumphed over his compatriot Anthony Cacace.

Tyson Fury entered the packed Kingdom Arena full of confidence, not knowing what was in store for him. (Reuters)

Australian boxer Jay Opetaia reclaimed his IBF cruiserweight world title after defeating Latvian Mairis Briedis in a 12-round match, with the decision going in his favor by the judges.

with AFP

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