Oleksandr Usyk digs deep in thriller to down Tyson Fury and unite titles | Boxing

Oleksandr Usyk is the first undisputed world heavyweight champion this century after he defeated Tyson Fury, in a compelling fight, on a split decision in the early hours of Sunday morning. Usyk added Fury’s WBC title to the IBF, WBA and WBO belts he already owned when he was deservedly given the verdict 115-112 by the first judge and 114-113 by the third official. The middle scorecard was called 114-113 in favour of Fury – but he had been almost knocked out in the ninth round when he staggered across the ring drunkenly. He was given a standing count of eight and saved by the bell.

An absorbing and highly technical, if brutal, contest had shifted in momentum when Usyk had a dominant round in the eighth. A right hook and left cross nailed Fury. And then, suddenly surging with new conviction, Usyk landed a shuddering left which rocked Fury. Blood began to pour from Fury’s nose and he was marked up around the left eye.

Usyk poured on the pressure in the ninth and landed an incredible barrage of 14 unanswered blows. Fury reeled under the assault, swaying and stumbling helplessly, his eyes glazed. The referee could have stopped the fight but, with Fury being held up by the sagging ropes, he gave the stricken fighter time to try to stand upright before he began counting to eight. It seemed an exceedingly long count.

Fury, as always, showed great resilience in the next two rounds and he was competitive – but both the 10th and 11th were won by Usyk, who landed the harder blows. Before the last round Fury stretched his arm out to touch gloves with Usyk as he nodded in admiration.

A sharp combination from Usyk scored early but two straight right hands from Fury proved that he was still trying to win the fight. But Usyk unleashed a thrilling string of punches in a fitting conclusion to a gripping and often magnificent contest.

At the outset of the drama, waiting in their opposing corners both fighters looked to the heavens and crossed themselves just before the opening bell. It was as if they knew they were about to enter dark terrain and be pushed to the limit.

The height difference was obvious, with Fury being six inches taller, but Usyk was immediately effective as he jabbed to the body, again and again. Fury shook his head and wagged his tongue in apparent jest. But then Usyk nailed him with a jolting overhand left near the end of the round. Fury looked out at the crowd and pulled a face as he again played the joker.

Usyk began round two impressively with a slick combination. Fury found his rhythm and a right uppercut caught Usyk. The crowd roared as Fury then sank two hefty right hands to the body before settling back behind the jab. But Usyk remained the aggressor, setting a fast pace.

Tyson Fury is caught by Oleksandr Usyk. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Action Images/Reuters

Usyk moved in and out, showing his slick skills, clipping Fury with glancing blows. But the hardest punch of the third round came from Fury as he hurt Usyk to the body. The Ukrainian backed Fury briefly into a neutral corner and cuffed him with a couple of sharp shots in the fourth. Fury responded and, with his herky-jerky movement, he boxed beautifully. There was a brief clash of heads but Fury kept working the body with powerful and draining blows in the fifth. These were hard punches that threatened to dismantle Usyk.

skip past newsletter promotion

In the sixth a series of crunching right uppercuts shook Usyk to his core. Fury was in the groove, tagging the Ukrainian again and again, and at the bell he waggled his tongue at the crowd to suggest that he was now in control. He was wrong. Fury used the right uppercut to the body with punishing, repetitive force in the seventh but Usyk, resolute as ever, ended the round clipping the bigger man with crisp combinations. His brilliance was about to flourish – but great credit should also be paid to Fury, who lost for the first time in his 36th fight.

Quick Guide

How do I sign up for sport breaking news alerts?


  • Download the Guardian app from the iOS App Store on iPhone or the Google Play store on Android by searching for ‘The Guardian’.
  • If you already have the Guardian app, make sure you’re on the most recent version.
  • In the Guardian app, tap the Menu button at the bottom right, then go to Settings (the gear icon), then Notifications.
  • Turn on sport notifications.

Thank you for your feedback.

An Olympic champion in 2012, and the former undisputed cruiserweight world champion, Usyk had the severe disadvantage of being more than two stone lighter than the giant King of the Gypsies who stands 6ft 9in tall and weighed 18st 10lb. But the 37-year-old Usyk is a master technician with an iron will and clarity of purpose. Having fought 350 times as an amateur, he has never lost in 22 bouts as a professional and now has reached the summit of his remarkable career.

Lennox Lewis was the last undisputed world heavyweight champion when he defeated Evander Holyfield to win all the belts in Las Vegas in 1999. Almost 25 years later both those great old champions were at ringside in Riyadh to watch their successors. Fury was brave and admirable but the imperious Usyk can now join the pantheon of heavyweight kings.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *