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Undisputed heavyweight showdown: The road to Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk

A historic fight that's been years in the making, Tyson Fury will face Oleksandr Usyk to decide who will be crowned the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 1999.

Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk

Full Fight Markets

Once upon a time, the story of Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk didn't appear to have a happy ending for fight fans. And yes, for the doubters out there, you may remain sceptical until they are in the ring staring across from one another as the bell rings.

That will hopefully be the spectacle we are treated to on 18th May when the world’s two best heavyweights finally clash to decide who is greater and become the undisputed heavyweight champion.

On 29th September, inboxes across the world were greeted with news from Queensberry Promotions that Fury v Usyk had been signed. The Queensberry, Top Rank, K2 and Usyk17 joint promotion was the news boxing fans had been waiting on but like any other marquee fight, this was not a deal reached overnight.

Having inflicted a second defeat on Anthony Joshua in August 2022, Usyk told media in the post-fight press conference he was “dreaming every day” of fighting Fury. 

And having defeated Joshua, the biggest name in the division, on two occasions only Fury – the WBC champion – was the last obstacle for the unified champion to become undisputed.

‘The Gypsy King’ was eight months removed from a successful one-sided title defence against Dillian Whyte at Wembley Stadium. Usyk travelled to London and attended the event, which afterwards saw him invited up on to the ring apron having to stand firm in the firing line of Fury’s usual verbal assaults. 

Fury’s co-promoter Frank Warren’s concerns over the two fighting lay in the financial demands of both men being met. Despite this there were rumours of a two-fight agreement being floated around and a fight date of 17th December. But with Usyk having fought in August, the likelihood was we wouldn’t see it until 2023.

WBC President Jose Sulaiman gave his blessing to the fight, but the IBF had other ideas. In November, the Ukrainian was instructed by the International Boxing Federation to enter into negotiations with their mandatory challenger Filip Hrgovic. The Croat earned the spot controversially by beating Zhilei Zhang on the Usyk-Joshua 2 undercard but the feeling from many was Zhang had done enough to win.

Hrgovic, plus his representatives Matchroom and Wasserman, had now entered the fray. The road to undisputed had an obstacle to remove.

A potential undisputed meeting in December was quickly thrown out when Usyk declared he needed more time to prepare. The Ukrainian believed Fury was “afraid” to fight him. “I’ll put my fist through his face,” the Brit responded.

Fury needed a fight though. Joshua had been given a deadline of 26th September to take the spot in December, but no-one really ever believed the British mega-fight would come to fruition. The WBC title holder then did his career and legacy no favours when he opted for Derek Chisora as his dance partner at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. A fight that is banished from memories ended in the 10th round. Their unwanted trilogy was complete.

A new deadline was on the table for undisputed after Fury’s latest win. 4th March. Usyk’s promoter Alex Krassyuk served a slice of caution though, believing if it didn’t happen then it never would.

And in heavyweight boxing the purses and egos are as big as the men involved. Money has the loudest voice and Fury wanted the largest chunk. The biggest argument to back his own was that he was the name in the fight and the one who would drive sales, particularly if it was to be held at Wembley.

Krassyuk wanted 50-50 for his man. Fury’s father John told the media Usyk was “not worthy” of such a percentage. A new split of 60-40 did the rounds but the giant Englishman called for 70-30 and was now taking to Instagram to berate Usyk and his team. 

The mandatory situation was still stirring in the background. Hrgovic and the IBF were moved one spot behind the WBA when it was revealed that in the rotation process it would be the World Boxing Association and Daniel Dubois who would be next for Usyk. 

By the middle of March, Usyk’s team were turning their attention to the WBA mandatory. Krassyuk said they accepted a 70-30 split, Fury described Usyk as a “coward”. Rumours spread of Usyk’s team having concerns of what the split would be in a rematch. Frank Warren believed the opposite team were looking for a way out. It had been another fine mess boxing had got itself into.

It would still be Ukraine v Great Britain but instead ‘Dynamite’ Daniel Dubois would be carrying the hopes of Blighty into neutral territory (Poland). It would be a fight remembered for a disputed low blow above everything else.

With Saudi Arabia becoming a force in boxing, Usyk was announced as the latest signing of Skill Challenge Promotions, which raised hopes that the Middle East were about to get involved and staged the undisputed event.

With Dubois beaten and Fury nursing a wound of embarrassment after his below-par performance against boxing newbie Francis Ngannou, the door to undisputed was reopened. In November the first press conference was staged, and the wheels were officially in motion. Fury and Usyk literally went head-to-head in a fiery presser.

The road to undisputed is still not complete but the ending is in sight. 

And in May, inside Kingdom Arena, Riyadh, after a period of predictable will they or won’t they, Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will duke it out in an event which boxing - and the heavyweight division - badly needs.
 

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