Fury versus Usyk

Last night’s fight between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk was big, for a number of reasons. For one thing, it yielded an undisputed, unified heavyweight champion for the first time in 25 years. I am not particularly a fan of the heavyweight division; in my opinion, the welterweight and middleweight divisions generally have better fighters and better fights. Still, a unified heavyweight title is a pretty big deal.

Beyond that, the boxers are premier talents. Usyk came into the fight undefeated at 21-0, while Fury, the lineal champion, was 34-0-1. Usyk is from Ukraine, a boxing hotbed, and Fury, the Gypsy King, is a colorful character, a Traveller who stands 6′ 9″, weighs 262 pounds and is known among other things for his defensive skills. Sort of a Jess Willard only three inches taller and a really skilled boxer.

The fight, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, proved a classic. Fury won most of the early rounds and was sometimes clownish in the ring, apparently mimicking one of Muhammad Ali’s less likable traits. But Usyk, six inches shorter and with a seven-inch reach disadvantage, came on in the fight’s second half, bloodying Fury’s face and, in the 9th, stunning him with a left, followed by a barrage that had Fury out on his feet. Fury was saved by an eight-count and the bell. One might have thought he was finished, but, with the amazing resilience that is typical of boxers, he fought three more rounds in creditable fashion.

This brief video shows some highlights, including the action in Round 9:

In the end, Usyk won a split decision and is now the undisputed, and lineal, champion. The above video might cause you to wonder how anyone could have seen Fury as the winner, but, as noted above, he won most of the early rounds, and boxing is scored according to how many rounds you win. The only two-point round was the 9th, when Usyk scored his knockdown.

After the fight, Fury rather classlessly claimed that he should have won, but Usyk was favored because of international sympathy for Ukraine. Usyk missed the press conference, as he was taken to a hospital for treatment of a broken jaw, which he apparently suffered halfway through the bout and fought with thereafter. This fight illustrates why some fans think that all sports other than boxing are child’s play.

Fury said he will invoke the rematch clause in his contract; the rematch will presumably be in the fall. It should be another great fight.

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