Tyson Fury vs Oleksandr Usyk: Boxing’s Super Bowl descends on Saudi Arabia as undisputed greatness awaits | Boxing News

Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Sonny Liston, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, Leon Spinks, Mike Tyson, Buster Douglas, Evander Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, Lennox Lewis – to name but a few. Who will be next to take a seat at the table of undisputed heavyweight victors?

The stage is set, and the world’s wait is nearly over. Boxing is ready to crown its first undisputed heavyweight world champion since Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield in 1999, its quest for one supreme four-belt ruler having been whittled down to two worthy tributes.

Tyson Fury, the down-but-never-out comeback story and fleet-footed polar bear who beat a three-year absence from the ring and battles with his mental health to claim his place at the top of the sport. And Oleksandr Usyk, the multi-weight phenom, sweet science professor and Ukrainian icon who will fight for history as a beacon of inspiration for his war-stricken nation.

Heavyweight boxing boasts a spotlight and an unwavering fascination like little else in the sport, the spectacle of two not-so-average-sized men teetering on the edge of one-punch devastation remaining undefeated theatre. That neither Fury nor Usyk are mere one-punch merchants, though, has only heightened said fascination, the collision of two slick and calculated technicians clouding any hope of forecasting an outcome with conviction.

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Andy Scott caught up with British heavyweight Tyson Fury ahead of his undisputed fight with Oleksandr Usyk.

Fury vs Usyk: Head to head

Tyson Fury Oleksandr Usyk
35 Age 37
Manchester, England Born Simferopol, Crimean Oblast, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union
6’9″ Height 6’3″
85″ Reach 78″
34-0-1 (24 KOs) Record 21-0 (14 KOs)

It beckons as a long-awaited climax worthy of every cliche tag in the book. Cup final, Super Bowl, Masters Sunday, Olympic 100m final, the lot. The calibre to which fans scattered around the world plan their week accordingly, raiding local shops on a Saturday afternoon to source fight night catering before huddling in front of television screens and critiquing the use (or underuse) of the jab while knowing their only combat experience was shadow boxing in the steamed mirror after their morning shower. Everybody is an expert on fight night as mainstream and die-hards unite, and boxing wouldn’t be the same without it.

Shift workers and late-night drivers might rely on their radio for updates, guests of unfortunately-timed family gatherings might rely on subtle mobile phone updates in-between doing the electric slide at the wedding after-party, sleep-happy fans will set early Sunday alarms and switch off notifications so they can watch the fight back before the late-night viewers arise again. It is the one for which the world stops.

There are undisputed champions and then there are undisputed heavyweight champions, the latter of which can walk the earth knowing they are bigger and badder than any man by whom they pass. They are No 1, they are king.

Undisputed glory has proven historically difficult to come by. When it has arrived, disruption and dispute has followed such has been the story of fragmented belts and ‘he needs to fight him’ asterisks. So when it does arrive, it means more.

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Ahead of the much-anticipated heavyweight clash between Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, check out how other undisputed fights have turned out in the 21st century.

In 1964 Ali wrestled undisputed status from Liston before being stripped of the WBA title for agreeing to a rematch as opposed to facing their challenger Ernie Terrell, who would go on to defeat Eddie Machen to claim the vacant belt. Was Terrell a worthy champion? The jury was out, with question marks justified in 1967 when Ali cruised to a 15-round decision victory over him to snatch back the title.

Ali was then stripped of his crown in light of a suspension following his refusal to be drafted to military service during the Vietnam War, paving the way for Joe Frazier to become the next undisputed champion when he recorded a fourth-round stoppage victory over Jimmy Ellis in 1970.

Frazier’s undisputed credentials would divide opinion until he beat a returning Ali in the 1971 ‘Fight of the Century’, even then his claim for supremacy facing queries given The Greatest’s three-year absence from the ring. Frazier’s reign was eventually ended by George Foreman in 1973, before Ali restored his place at the top with a knockout victory to clinch all the belts again a year later.

Up stepped underdog Leon Spinks to produce one of boxing’s great upsets in 1978 when he stunned Ali to assume top spot, only for the WBC to rip his belt away after he fought Ali in a rematch as opposed to their top challenger Ken Norton.

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Tyson Fury believes if he became undisputed champion after his fight with Oleksandr Usyk he won’t as he has experienced different types of success before.

The three-belt era would arrive in 1983 to add another variable on the winding road to undisputed, Don King later orchestrating a path to glory for Mike Tyson as he overcame Tony Tucker in August 1987 before relinquishing his titles in a shock defeat to Buster Douglas in Tokyo in 1990.

Then came Riddick Bowe after his win over Evander Holyfield, before the New York fighter dumped his WBC strap in the bin as part of an infamous publicity stunt. Then came the world’s last undisputed heavyweight world champion in Lewis, who beat Holyfield in November 1999 before being stripped of his WBA title for agreeing to fight WBC mandatory Michael Grant rather than WBA mandatory John Ruiz.

And now behold the four-belt era, where the great Wladimir Klitschko has come as close as any man to becoming undisputed champion having previously held the WBA, IBF and WBO belts now occupied by Usyk.

Arrows had pointed towards Klitschko as the next, before an inspired Fury derailed him. For a long while Anthony Joshua had been touted as a contender after also sweeping up three belts, before an inspired Usyk derailed him. Somewhere in the middle of those encounters Fury has come and gone amid his own fight outside of the ring, while Usyk conquered the cruiserweight world. Now they meet for a place alongside the aforementioned tales of triumph.

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A look back at the best of Tyson Fury’s memorable press conference ahead of his huge undisputed heavyweight clash with Oleksandr Usyk on May 18, live on Sky Sports Box Office.

The road to this point has been no less rocky. A clash for undisputed had initially been targeted for December 23, before being pushed back after Fury’s near-defeat against former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who shockingly floored the WBC champion on his professional boxing debut.

A rescheduled date of February 17 was announced, before Fury withdrew 15 days out due to a cut he sustained during sparring. Between purse disputes, claims of cowardice, promotional disagreements and a flurry of verbal volleys both in person and on social media, it has taken time to get here. Welcome to modern boxing, where nothing is certain until two fighters step foot in a ring.

Universal frustration over delays is testament to unrivalled clamouring for a resolution to the heavyweight landscape. Knock on wood, it looks like we are finally here.

I have never heard anything that affected me like those words: ‘Heavyweight Champion of the World.’ All the world? And from that day on I want to hear that said about me,'”Ali once wrote.

The dreams of predecessors having moulded heavyweight sovereignty into boxing immortality. The blueprint for boxing cinema is heavyweight conquest. A common starting point for aspiring fighters is awe for heavyweight destruction. At the spine of boxing history is heavyweight magnificence, heavyweight controversy, heavyweight drama. Rule that, and forever you shall be remembered.

Bowe and his bin, Spinks and his shocks, Dempsey and his million-dollar gate, Ali and his greatness. Now here come Fury and Usyk as the main characters to the newest edition of the most coveted plot in boxing.

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An entertainer, an elite fighter and a beacon of hope for a war-torn country. Oleksandr Usyk could become the undisputed ruler of the heavyweight division.

We are a long way from the scene of Lewis’ win over Holyfield. Some 25 years later and it is not the glitz of Nevada but instead the opulence of Saudi Arabia that will serve as the backdrop to the biggest fight of them all. Times have changed, heavyweight boxing has changed, but victory for one of Fury or Usyk will cement them among sports iconic names, characters and athletes.

It’s one of the biggest sporting events in a generation.Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk collide for the undisputed world heavyweight championship on Saturday May 18, live on Sky Sports Box Office.Book the fight now.

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