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Oleksandr Usyk edges Tyson Fury to become undisputed heavyweight champion

Oleksandr Usyk tests Tyson Fury on his way to becoming undisputed heavyweight world champion.

Oleksandr Usyk tests Tyson Fury on his way to becoming undisputed heavyweight world champion. Photo: Getty

Oleksandr Usyk has been shorter, lighter and older than all of his opponents since he moved up to the heavyweight division.

But Usyk’s heart and skill are enormous, and he overcame a major size disadvantage against Tyson Fury to become the world’s first undisputed heavyweight boxing champion in 24 years.

Usyk defeated Fury by split decision in Riyadh early on Sunday, knocking down his hulking opponent in the ninth round and eventually earning a narrow win on two scorecards.

The 37-year-old Ukrainian is the first heavyweight to hold every major title belt since Lennox Lewis.

Usyk (22-0) added Fury’s WBC title to his own WBA, IBF and WBO belts with a spectacular late-round rally in a back-and-forth matchup between two previously unbeaten champions from a strong era of heavyweight boxing.

Two judges favoured Usyk, 115-112 and 114-113, while the third gave it to 35-year-old Fury, 114-113.

“I feel good. A lot of people prayed for me. I love you. I’m very happy,” said Usyk, , who is 15cm shorter than the 206cm Fury, and weighed in 13.6kg lighter.

“My people will be very happy. It’s a big win, not only for me but it’s a big win for my country and for the soldiers who now defend my country.”

Usyk was later taken to hospital for a scan on an injury that his promoter Alex Krassyuk refused to disclose.

Usyk started quickly, but then had to survive while the confident, charismatic Fury dominated the middle rounds.

Usyk surged in the final rounds, just as the 2012 Olympic gold medallist has done so many times in his career, taking control with a dominant eighth and nearly stopping Fury in the ninth.

Usyk hurt Fury (34-1-1) with a left hand and eventually sent him sprawling into a corner in the final seconds of the round, getting credit for a knockdown right before Fury was saved by the bell.

Fury struggled to mount a consistent attack after nearly getting stopped, and the knockdown turned out to be the decisive factor in the decision.

Fury kissed Usyk on the head after the final bell, and Usyk hugged Fury several moments after the decision was read. Fury also said he wants the rematch in October.

“I believe I won that fight,” Fury said. “I believe he won a few of the rounds, but I won the majority of them, and I believe it was one of those what-can-you-do, one of them … decisions in boxing. We both put on a good fight, best we can do.

“You know, his country is at war, so people are siding with a country at war. But make no mistake, I won that fight, in my opinion, and I’ll be back. I’ve got a rematch clause.”

Usyk is the first undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis held the honour for five months in 1999 and 2000. He is also now the lineal heavyweight champion by beating Fury, who beat Wladimir Klitschko to earn that distinction in 2015.

After moving up from cruiserweight, Usyk upset Anthony Joshua to win three title belts in 2021. He kept them through a rematch and another defence while angling for the ultimate payday of a fight against Fury in Saudi Arabia.

Usyk landed 41 per cent of his 407 punches, while Fury landed just 31.7 per cent of his 496 punches, according to CompuBox statistics. Usyk both threw (260 to 210) and landed (122 to 95) more power punches.

Usyk has now joined the elite club of fighters who held every major world championship belt at heavyweight — and he is the first to do it in the four-belt era, which began in 2007. The list of undisputed champions includes Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Mike Tyson.

-with PA

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