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Usyk beats Fury to become undisputed heavyweight champ

Richard Pelham / Getty Images Sport / Getty

Oleksandr Usyk is officially the king of the heavyweights.

Usyk defeated Tyson Fury via split decision (115-112, 113-114, 114-113) to capture the undisputed heavyweight championship in a back-and-forth thriller Saturday at Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Usyk is the first undisputed heavyweight champion since 2000 and the first of the four-belt era. Usyk entered the fight with the WBA, IBF, and WBO titles and added Fury's WBC belt with the victory.

Meanwhile, Fury suffered the first loss of his professional boxing career, falling to 34-1-1.

"It's (a) big opportunity for me, for my family, for my country," Usyk, who's from Ukraine, said in his postfight interview, adding, "It's a great time. It's a great day."

In a fight full of momentum shifts, Usyk eked out the win on the judges' scorecards largely thanks to a late rally in which Usyk scored the lone knockdown of the fight in the ninth round. Usyk wobbled Fury with a left hand late in the round and followed up with a barrage of punches. Fury, badly hurt, stumbled away from Usyk. The ropes kept him on his feet, but the referee eventually ruled a knockdown against Fury, who appeared to be saved by the bell.

Before Usyk dropped Fury, both boxers seemed to be in control at different points in the fight. Usyk started strong in Rounds 1 and 2, staying busier than Fury, pressuring him, and landing punches to the body. But Fury began to find his groove in the fourth, using elite movement and shot selection to attack Usyk's head and body. Fury dominated the sixth round, hurting Usyk with a right.

Usyk bounced back in Rounds 7 and 8, as he once again got in Fury's face and outboxed him. Usyk completely shifted the momentum with the knockdown in the ninth and stayed patient in the 10th as Fury recovered. Usyk and Fury traded punches in a competitive final two rounds to close out one of the best fights of the year so far.

Usyk outlanded Fury 170-157 in total punches and 122-95 in power shots. Each fighter led six rounds in punches.

Fury said afterward it was "a close fight" but he believes he should've gotten the nod.

"I thought I did enough," Fury said at the postfight press conference, per Queensberry Promotions. "But I'm not a judge. I can't judge a fight while I'm boxing it. If they would've said to me in the last round or whatever, 'You're down, go out and try and finish him,' I would've done that. But everybody in the corner believed we were up."

He added, "It was what it was. I'm not gonna cry about spilled milk. I've had plenty of victories. ... I've had this one loss in a close fight with a good man with Usyk. And it was what it was. I tried my best in there."

There hadn't been an undisputed heavyweight champion since Lennox Lewis defeated Evander Holyfield in November 1999 during the three-belt era. Usyk, a former undisputed cruiserweight champion, joins Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue as the third fighter to hold all four major belts in two weight classes.

Usyk and Fury signed a two-fight deal ahead of Saturday's highly anticipated clash and are expected to square off in an immediate rematch next, potentially Oct. 12 in Riyadh.

Usyk's promoter, Alexander Krassyuk, told ESPN's Mike Coppinger he feared Usyk suffered a broken jaw in the fight and that the boxer was being transported to a local hospital for an MRI. However, Krassyuk added that there is "no doubt" Usyk will be ready for the second fight with Fury in October.

Usyk remained undefeated with the upset victory over Fury, lifting his pro record to 22-0 with 14 knockouts. The 37-year-old captured the WBA, IBF, and WBO heavyweight titles against Anthony Joshua in 2021 and defended them twice - against Joshua in a rematch and then Daniel Dubois - before booking the undisputed title fight.

Though Fury lost Saturday, he performed much better than in his last outing. "The Gypsy King" was coming off a split-decision win over former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in a non-title bout last October in Riyadh. Ngannou dropped Fury as a massive underdog in his boxing debut and emerged as the story of the fight.

Fury, 35, had defended the WBC heavyweight title three times since winning it against Deontay Wilder in February 2020.

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