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The Debate - Boxing
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The Debate: Who wins, Tyson Fury or Oleksandr Usyk?

Our latest instalment of 'The Debate' sees boxing writers Shaun Brown and John MacDonald come to blows over who will become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world on Saturday night.

Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk

It's a fight years in the making, and one that will crown the first ever undisputed champion in the blue-riband division in the four-belt era.

Not since Lennox Lewis in 1999 has there been a fully unified heavyweight champion, but that should all change in Riyadh on Saturday night when Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk lock-horns in a bout billed as the biggest fight of the century.

The big question is who will prevail?

There's only one answer to that question, Tyson Fury, of course, writes John MacDonald.

Through a life of misadventure, I have gained three invaluable lessons... the last of which is to never bet against Tyson Fury.

While the first two pearls of wisdom - which I won't go too deeply into - took many years, and numerous disasters for me to internalise, the third required just two incidents, three years apart, for me to take heed.

The first occasion was in 2015 when the ‘Gypsy King’ travelled to Dusseldorf to take on WBA ‘Super’, WBO and IBF heavyweight king, Wladimir Klitschko.

The Ukrainian had made Germany his second home during a nine-year tenure as world champion. During that time, many capable contenders had tried, and failed, to dethrone ‘Dr Steelhammer’ and a similar fate would almost certainly befall the Englishman.

Klitschko was not without his flaws, in fact, he was cursed with the attribute which has curtailed the success of many a heavyweight: a suspect chin. However, under the tutelage of Emanuel Steward, he had perfected a style which made it almost impossible to expose the one chink in his armour.

Drawing on the amateur pedigree which saw him claim gold at the 1996 Olympic Games, the champion would utilise his pin-point accurate jab and footwork, to keep opponents at bay, and when they did close the distance, Klitschko would clinch and lean his 6ft 6ins frame on rivals.

At times, it was hard to watch, but it was even harder to beat.

While ‘Dr Steelhammer’ possessed one weakness, Fury, at that stage, had a multitude. That is not to say that the ‘Gypsy King’ was not without talent, he had plenty, but it was mercurial. A 6ft 9ins switch-hitter with nimble feet and fast hands, but the whole was often less than the sum of the parts.

Many felt Fury was fortunate to get the nod against John McDermott; he landed an uppercut on himself live on terrestrial television; he had been on the floor against, the unheralded, Neven Pajkic and again when he fought, the much smaller, Steve Cunningham.

The man from Morecambe was a mess of contradictions, whose hardest fights took place in his own mind, rather than a boxing ring.

When Fury faced Klitschko, it was a battle of perfect order against organised chaos. There should have only been one winner. Against the odds however, Fury became the first man to outbox the champion - inflicting a loss on my bank balance in the process.

Three years later, an opportunity arose to recoup the money I had lost on the Klitschko fight.

A positive test for a banned substance had derailed the career of the ‘Gypsy King’. He had been stripped of the belts he captured in Germany, had been out of the ring for 31 months and had ballooned in weight.

Lacklustre showings against Sefer Seferi and Francesco Pianeta upon his return appeared to indicate that Fury was a spent force.

Premier Boxing Champions certainly seemed to hold that opinion as they hastily arranged a fight between the Englishman and WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder. Throughout his title reign, the protected status of ‘The Bronze Bomber’ had rivalled that of the giant panda.

Bookmakers were not as certain, as they struggled to split both men on their opening lines.

The bout was scheduled for early December in 2018. Much is made of the technical limitations of Wilder, but for the most part, his right hand has compensated for them over the course of 16 years. At that stage, the man from Alabama had fought 39 fighters and stopped each of them.

I was adamant that Fury would be the 40th. He was not.

Despite being dropped twice, somehow, the ‘Gypsy King’ rose from the canvas on each occasion and appeared to have won the fight, but the judges disagreed, ruling it a draw.

Now, I understand concerns that hard living and tough fights might have taken a toll on Fury. He did not look good against Francis Ngannou, but nor did he against McDermott, Pajkic, Cunningham, Seferi or Pianeta.

I understand the case for picking Oleksandr Usyk, but there is a flaw in the reasoning: you cannot apply logic to a man who regularly defies it.

Learn from my mistakes. Never bet against Tyson Fury.

Hang fire, Oleksandr Usyk will put Tyson Fury in his place this weekend and here's why, writes Shaun brown.

Once upon a time, the actions of betting against Tyson Fury could be described as personal, foolhardy, or misjudged.

A lot of years have passed since then and the 6ft 9ins heavyweight vehicle - which has helped drive the division along with Anthony Joshua - has, of course, added mileage and worn parts.

In his nine years as one of the leading heavyweights, Fury has never faced an elite boxer! Never has he tackled an opponent who is set apart from his peers on the same scale of Oleksandr Usyk.

Wladimir Klitschko, Deontay Wilder, Dillian Whyte, Derek Chisora and surprisingly Francis Ngannou have been the biggest threats to Fury's bid to fully take over the heavyweight division.

Five opponents, seven fights, all with flaws or a trick which Fury has exposed to his advantage.

Usyk, like Fury, is something of a maverick, but conducts his business very, very differently. The former undisputed cruiserweight champion left his 200lb rivals looking for answers after he bamboozled them for years.

At heavyweight, with another 15-20lbs added to his frame, Usyk has continued to look like a generational talent.

Watching the likes of Usyk, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Naoya Inoue and Terence Crawford truly is as good as it gets in the modern era. These are boxing’s true grand masters.

But how will Usyk overcome a six-inch height difference and cope with a weight disadvantage of at least 50lbs to leave Saudi Arabia as the undisputed heavyweight champion?

The Ukrainian 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist will have to avoid being man handled early on, stay strong in the clinches, and make Fury look ponderous and stiff.

No heavyweight has managed to put together such a plan and sustain it for 12 rounds, but many of Fury’s toughest opponents have been made to measure. Usyk is cut from a different cloth though and undoubtedly possesses the ring IQ and tactical mind to pull it off.

Fury’s respect for his opponent is evident in his shape. Never before has ‘The Gypsy King’ looked so lean. That indicates that he, just like Usyk, will be aiming to use speed as well as strength.

Fury will bank on his own heavyweight power to hurt, drop, and perhaps even knock out Usyk. But that can only prevail if Fury imposes his physical attributes without being clipped himself.

Usyk can break Fury down, however, by leaving the Englishman looking for a plan b in the first half of the fight. In the clinch Usyk must leave his mark on Fury as soon as the referee breaks them apart. The hand speed of Usyk must then fire combinations off to head or body before moving into retreat.

His head and upper body movement will have to slip the Fury jab, counter, and turn his man before firing off another assault. It’s unlikely such punches will damage the lineal champion, but they must leave an impression on the judges.

Each man will also look to gain the upper hand in the first six rounds to make life easier in the second half because this looks like a banker for going the full, scheduled 12-round distance.

Fury’s attributes must work early on otherwise it could be a long night for him. There are signs, too, as shown in the Ngannou fight, that the the British fighter is on the decline.

Coming in light on this occasion and gaining praise for his conditioning is papering over the cracks. This is a 35-year-old who has abused his body, fought as a professional for 16 years and had three fights with Deontay Wilder, which will have taken something from him which he will never get back.

Listen, this isn’t Usyk’s fight to lose, - far from it in fact!

For all I say, he's literally up against it, but what he showed against Anthony Joshua was a man at home in the heavyweight division, and having constantly fought on the road he has created an impenetrable steeliness which has been strengthened after his efforts during the war between his homeland and Russia.

The saying goes that, ‘A good big man beats a good little man’. Fury is good but he’s not great. Usyk isn’t just good, he isn’t just great, he is elite, and on Saturday night Fury will quickly realise he has never faced an opponent of the Ukrainian's level.

When the 37-year-old former cruiserweight king has all the heavyweight titles draped over him on Saturday night, Fury may decide that fighting him for a second time, in the autumn, would be an exercise in futility.

Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk

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