Finally, Tyson Fury and Alexander Usyk are set to battle for heavyweight supremacy.
Fury and Usyk have signed a deal for an undisputed heavyweight championship fight in Saudi Arabia, sources told ESPN on Friday. The competition could be held in December. 23 or sometime in January.
This isn’t just a fight for the four heavyweight titles, though. This is a once-in-a-generation matchup for the all-time greats in boxing’s glamor division. It will be a rare meeting of heavyweights ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10 (Usick No. 3; Fury No. 6.).
Before he faces his toughest challenge yet, Fury will take on the former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou On October 28, also in Saudi Arabia, to what extent Usyk is a tuneup for the showdown.
Who will hold the edge when Fury and Usyk battle for the heavyweight crown? What if Ngannou scores the unimaginable upset? Let’s break it down:
What is at stake?
Legacy as the greatest heavyweight of this era… bragging rights.
Fury and Usyk are already headed to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot, but what happens in the ring will go a long way toward cementing their place on the legendary list of all-time great heavyweights.
Fury received considerable criticism when the Usyk fight fell through in March, only for Fury to sign on to fight an MMA fighter a few months later. Now, Fury has done well by delivering not one but two marquee heavyweight events in the span of months.
He could use the Ngannou bout as a way to shake off any ring rust and get into peak shape for Usyk, a smaller, faster heavyweight who will look to beat Fury to the punch.
If Fury can bring Usyk back — he’ll certainly be a slight favorite to do so — his legacy as the greatest heavyweight of his generation will be secured. Wladimir Klitschko’s run was long, but Fury ended that reign in 2015 and would add another Hall of Famer to his resume with a win over Usyk.
For Usyk, a win would be even more memorable. He would follow in the footsteps of the great Evander Holyfield, another fighter who dominated the cruiserweight division and also went on to win a career-defining heavyweight title. Holyfield upset Mike Tyson in a heavyweight championship thriller in 1996 before the infamous “Bite Fight” rematch.
Usyk, with a victory, would make a strong case to claim the ESPN pound-for-pound throne occupied by Terence Crawford.
What about the Fury-Ngannou fight?
Mike Tyson: Fury Vs. Ngannou won’t be as one-sided as people think
Stephen A. Smith and Molly Kerim sit down with Mike Tyson and Francis Ngannou to discuss his first-ever boxing match vs. Ngannou’s mentality and strategy. Tyson Fury.
Ngannou is one of the biggest names in combat sports, and his fight with Fury will only serve to build interest in a showdown with Usyk.
But there is still some danger whenever a boxer has two fights in a row. No one is giving Ngannou, who has never boxed before, much of a chance against Fury, the all-time great, when they meet in a non-title fight. But this is the heavyweight division and strange things have happened.
That’s an incredible long shot, but Ngannou is a huge man (6-foot-4, 257 pounds) with both hands. And if he lands a clean shot, who knows what will happen?
A Ngannou upset is more likely than not: injury potential for Fury. It’s still a fight, and if Fury suffers a cut or injury, it could delay the clash with Usyk, which could happen as soon as December. 23.
“Tyson Fury is one of the greatest boxers of all time,” former UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic told ESPN’s Marc Raimondi. Miocic defeated Ngannou in 2018 but lost the rematch. “But listen, it’s a fight. Francis hits hard and he moves well. I hope he shocks the world.”
What about normal sanctioning body shenanigans?
When it comes to undisputed title fights, the rules of the four major sanctioning bodies generally govern the proceedings. But no one is going to stand in the way of a rich concession fee with such a super fight.
The WBA mandate was sorted when Usyk survived a low blow to knock out Daniel Dubois in Round 9 in August. WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman has already said Fury has no obligations at the moment.
Philip Horgovich is the IBF’s no. 1 contender and is now pressing for his shot, but he will have to wait until Fury and Usyk meet in the ring first.
Zhilei Zhang, following her third-round TKO over Joe Joyce in a rematch last week, is the winner of the WBO interim heavyweight title. This could give him a shot at a winner in the near future. Like Fury, Zhang is promoted by Frank Warren.
How do Fury and Usyk match up?
Fury is a rare talent, a boxer who can flick pinpoint jabs and box on the back foot with crisp shots. He’s incredibly light on his feet for a 6-foot-9, 270-pound man and showed his skills when he outboxed Klitschko in 2015.
Over the past few years, Fury has adapted his style. Now, he likes to taunt his opponents, using his massive size and weight to drain his enemies and break them. The Fury tactic was to great effect in the second and third bouts with Deontay Wilder — brutal beatings of arguably the greatest puncher in heavyweight history.
Perhaps Fury will use a similar approach against Usic.
Why would Usyk try to outbox a skilled boxer when Fury could use an extra 50 pounds on fight night? He can lean on Usyk and draw power from his legs.
Meanwhile, Usyk must use angles and precise footwork to time Fury with counter shots and stay out of danger. Usyk needs to keep the fight in the middle of the ring and avoid being bullied into the ropes. He already has experience fighting a big, strong guy from his 24 rounds with Anthony Joshua, who could be a bigger puncher than Fury. He’s certainly not on Fury’s level as a boxer though.
Usyk is a southpaw, which has given Fury problems in the past. Look no further than Otto Wallin’s fight, where he struggled before winning a decision.
It shapes up as a fight that either guy can win, but the slight edge goes to Fury.