Fury vs Usyk: British boxing great ready for ‘fight of the ages’ in Riyadh

Tyson Fury says ‘nothing compares’ with his upcoming unifying fight against Oleksandr Usyk.

Boxing - Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk - Grand Arrivals - BLVD City - Music World, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - May 14, 2024 Tyson Fury poses after the grand arrivals Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Tyson Fury has a fight record of 34 wins, 24 by knockout and no defeats [Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters]

While the rest of the boxing world is drooling in anticipation of a genuine heavyweight world title fight that will unify the division for the first time in more than 20 years, Tyson Fury insists his match-up with Oleksandr Usyk in Riyadh is all about the money.

“The truth is it’s exciting to me and attractive because of the amount of money I’m getting paid,” he said this week.

“Not because of the belts that’s on the line.”

[Follow Al Jazeera’s live build-up and coverage of the fight here.]

It is true that the self-styled “Gypsy King” – Fury is the son of Irish Travellers – will earn north, perhaps far north, of $100m from the fight but there is a sense that he may just be covering up a little bit.

Fury, now 35, knows well enough what this fight means: a place among the very greats of boxing history.

Going all the way back to Jack Dempsey in the 1920s, only 23 fighters can claim that place in the pantheon: these are great names including Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano, Muhammad Ali and Mike Tyson.

No one, however, has done it, since another British boxer Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield in 1999.

Usyk holds the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts while Fury has held the WBC title since 2020.

So is it just about the gold, pleasant though that be?

“There are so many belts on the line and nothing competes with that,” Fury said last month in direct contradiction of this week’s soundbite.

“This is the fight of the ages, nothing can compare with this. Not a show fight, not a crossover fight, not YouTube boxing, nothing.

“This is two undefeated world heavyweight championships colliding for all the belts and it hasn’t been done since whenever.”

‘My time, my destiny, my era’

Fury’s boxing path began at birth in Manchester, England. Two months premature and weighing in at just 450 grammes (1 pound)- he will tip the scales at about 125kg (20 stone) for Saturday’s fight – Fury had an early scrap to cling on to life itself.

Fury’s dad, also a boxer, liked his fighting instinct and gave him the name Tyson. Yes, after Mike Tyson.

He shot up in height – he now stands 2.06 metres (six foot nine inches) – quit school at 11 and focussed on the ring.

In 2008, at the age of 20, he made his professional debut stopping Hungarian fighter Bela Gyongyosi in the first round.

His record 16 years later reads an impressive 34 wins, 24 by knockout, and no defeats, the only semblance of a blemish being the draw with Deontay Wilder back in January 2018.

It was the first of three fights between the two, with Fury sending the American sprawling to the canvas in the next two.

The early high point of his career was a unanimous points victory over the Ukrainian Wladimir Klitschko in 2015 although that was soon followed by the lowest as he tested positive for the banned substance nandrolone and then cocaine.

It prompted a spiral in his mental health and he relinquished all of his titles: at that point the Fury had become a Whimper.

But it is a testament to his strength, and that of his wife Paris, that he came back to climb the mountain once more.

Fury has the build and the power, and the presence. He hurts people with his punches but if there is a mental weakness it may cost him.

His last outing in October, which was also in Riyadh, saw him take on UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou who was taking his first boxing match.

An overweight, sluggish Fury struggled. He was knocked down in the third round before going on to win via a controversial split decision.

That performance has not swayed Lennox Lewis who believes that Fury has the armoury to follow him as undisputed heavyweight champion.

“I’ve been watching him for a long time and he’s a good boxer,” Lewis told The Guardian.

“Tyson Fury’s got lots of different weapons in his arsenal. He has shown in the fights with Deontay Wilder he is aggressive and moves forward well.

“Those fights really showed his skill, his talent, his ring generalship.

“I would put money on Fury – as long as it is the 100 percent focussed Fury.”

The Gypsy King himself is in no doubt that this is the moment when he joins those other boxing legends.

“If Tyson Fury can’t beat Usyk, Tyson’s no good, end of,” he said.

“This is my time, my destiny, my era and my generation. Fact.”

Boxing - Tyson Fury v Oleksandr Usyk - Open Workouts - BLVD City - Music World, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - May 15, 2024 Tyson Fury during the open workouts Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Tyson Fury during the open workouts ahead of Saturday’s fight [Andrew Couldridge/Action Images via Reuters]
Source: AFP