Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk will square off in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world. While an exact date for the long-awaited bout remains unconfirmed, both fighters have signed contracts. Speculation suggests the fight could occur on either December 23 or in January.
Boxing enthusiasts are likely relieved that the sport’s flagship division may finally have a unified champion, a feat not achieved since Lennox Lewis held all the belts in 1999. However, there is also a prevailing sense of dismay that Saudi Arabia’s sportswashing strategy has once again enticed the boxing world.
Fury has a fight scheduled in Riyadh on October 28 against former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou, who lacks prior boxing experience, in a non-title match. In recent weeks, Fury had expressed disinterest in facing Usyk and even considered fighting mixed martial artists instead of legitimate boxers. However, he announced on Friday that he will defend his WBC title against Usyk, the Ukrainian who holds the IBF, WBA, and WBO heavyweight belts.
Taking to Instagram, Fury declared, “I do what I say. I say what I do. Undisputed. This is the Gypsy King era. You can’t rabbit run anymore, Usyk – you’re getting it. Thank you to the Kingdom [of Saudi Arabia].”
“The biggest that our sport could possibly see”
Frank Warren, Fury’s British promoter, enthusiastically expressed his delight, characterizing the fight as “the biggest that our sport could possibly see” and foreseeing it as “the most significant boxing event of the century.”
Alex Krassyuk, Usyk’s promoter, who had lost hope of the fight materializing, expressed his surprise and gratitude to Saudi Arabia for making it happen. He also commended Tyson Fury for his courage.
Fury boasts an undefeated record of 34 wins, while Usyk has won all 21 of his professional bouts.
Felix Jakens, representing Amnesty International UK, voiced concerns that the fight could serve as a tool for Saudi authorities to portray a positive image of the country, while the stark reality includes human rights abuses such as imprisoning those who express dissent, practicing widespread torture, conducting unfair trials, and carrying out mass executions.