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Tyson Fury was bigger. Oleksandr Usyk was better. And, as the latter implied beforehand, skill generally trumps everything else.

Usyk overcame some shaky early rounds to score a dramatic knockdown in Round 9 and go on to defeat Fury by a split decision Saturday at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, becoming the first undisputed heavyweight champion in a quarter-century.

One judge scored it for Fury, 114-113, but the other two had Usyk winning, 115-112 and 114-113, in a rousing fight that couldn’t have been much closer.

Afterward, Fury, who insisted he deserved the nod, made it clear that he plans to exercise a rematch clause in the fighters’ contract. And Usyk, although clearly exhausted, confirmed that he has no objections to a second fight.

“It’s a great time, it’s a great day,” Usyk said when asked for his reaction after he had his hand raised.

Lennox Lewis became the last undisputed heavyweight champion when he outpointed Evander Holyfield in 1999, after which the titles became perpetually splintered. That’s one reason the fight on Saturday was so important, even historic.

Fury and Usyk certainly earned the right to fight for boxing’s biggest honor, as both had never lost and enjoyed success at the highest level of the sport.

Their performances lived up to the moment.

Fury (34-1-1, 24 KOs) started to take control of the fight around the third round, when he found a grove fighting behind his jab and landing power punches — many to the body — with surprising consistency given Usyk’s ability.

The Ukrainian didn’t get much down from that time to around the sixth round but he never stopped coming forward, evidence of a fighting spirit that would soon pay dividends.

Usyk (22-0, 14 KOs) had a strong Round 8 but then unloaded on Fury the following round, when he landed a left that buckled Fury’s knees and hurt him badly. Usyk, almost 40 pounds lighter than Fury, followed with a brutal barrage that had Fury staggering around the ring.

That might’ve been justification for referee Mark Nelson to stop the fight at any moment. Instead, Nelson gave Usyk a knockdown in the final seconds of the round, which kept Fury in the fight.

Fury, known for his recuperative powers, somehow regained his bearings in Round 10, but by that time, Usyk was rolling, outworking Fury, and landing more clean punches to earn the close decision.

The knockdown appears to have been the difference in the scoring. Had Fury lost the round 10-9 instead of 10-8, the two 114-113 scores would’ve been 114-114, meaning the fight would’ve ended in a draw.

Fury thought he did enough to win despite the knockdown.

“I believe I won’t that fight, Alexander,” he said directly to his opponent afterward. “I believe you won a few of [the rounds] but I won the majority of them. What can you do? It was one of those [bad] decisions in boxing.

“We both put on a good fight, the best we could do. His country is at war. So people were siding with the country at war. But make no mistake, I won that fight, in my opinion, and I’ll be back. I have a rematch clause.”

That fact was a significant theme in the post-fight interviews.

Frank Warren, Fury’s co-promoter, confirmed that the contact contained a rematch clause. And Fury reiterated his desire to do it again when asked if he wants an immediate rematch.

“Yeah for sure,” he said. “We’ll go back, have a little rest up, spend time with our families, and we’ll get it back in October. Like I said,

Author: Staff

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