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fury vs usyk conspiracies cuts and collapses line treacherous road to undisputed title fight
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Fury vs Usyk: Conspiracies, cuts and collapses line treacherous road to undisputed title fight

It was the cut that led to the collapse and the conspiracies: a gash over Tyson Fury’s right eye, derailing his undisputed title fight with Oleksandr Usyk on two weeks’ notice and giving way to claims that the wound was self-inflicted. These suggestions were, frankly, nonsensical. Fury looked as fit as he had ever been when he was sliced open by a stray elbow in sparring in February, finally ready to put an end to a drawn-out boxing saga but thwarted by severe misfortune. It was the latest bump on an already rocky road, and the only fear now is that there could be one last swerve. Fury and Usyk, both unbeaten, are finally set to clash on Saturday, barring any late drama. But even then, judging in fights of this magnitude has robbed the sport of clear winners before. Fury, 35, and Usyk, 37, are contracted for a rematch regardless of what happens in Riyadh, so here’s hoping there is no deflating draw, no controversial scorecard, no asterisk on any achievement. If none of the above tarnish Saturday’s main event, boxing will have its first undisputed heavyweight champion in 24 years – its first since Lennox Lewis lost that status in 2000, having secured it by beating Evander Holyfield one year earlier. How has it taken the best part of a quarter of a century to arrive at this point? Boxing’s frustrating politics have deprived fans of an undeniable king in the sport’s glamour division; greedy promoters and managers, more specifically, have done the damage. Since Lewis’s brief reign as undisputed champion, Wladimir and Vitali Klitschko, Roy Jones Jr, Shannon Briggs, Deontay Wilder, Anthony Joshua and Usyk have been among those to hold world titles. In some of these cases, the boxers held multiple belts at once and/or did so in numerous reigns. Yet, since Lewis, no man has carried all the major belts simultaneously. There was a time, not long ago, when dreams of an all-British bout to crown a new undisputed champion were far from fanciful. In February 2020, two months after Joshua avenged a shock knockout to regain the unified belts from Andy Ruiz Jr, Fury took the WBC strap from Wilder – 14 months after fighting the American to a controversial draw (see?). That summer, at the height of Covid lockdown, negotiations began for the biggest fight in British boxing history – and one of the most significant in the sport ever. Yet talks stalled, and the moment passed. “AJ” went on to stop Kubrat Pulev that December, but he lost the unified gold for a second time in 2021, when he was outclassed by Usyk. Fury would not compete again until October 2021, a month after Joshua’s loss to Usyk, stopping Wilder again in a war. Since then, Usyk has recorded two title defences, as has Fury. The Ukrainian and Joshua fought more closely in August 2022, but Usyk again beat his fellow Olympic champion after 12 rounds, and he dismissed another Briton in August 2023, climbing off the canvas to stop Daniel Dubois after suffering a controversial low blow. Meanwhile, Fury stopped Dillian Whyte in April 2022 then Derek Chisora in a pointless bout eight months later – marking his third win over his friend – before a lucky escape against Francis Ngannou in a non-title bout last October. Fury, dropped to the mat by the ex-UFC champion and boxing novice, made it to the final bell and was rewarded with a fortunate decision. Moments later in the Riyadh ring, the Gypsy King sheepishly faced off with Usyk, who had watched the fight with a startled and concerned expression from ringside. Fury had evaded a historic upset, and Usyk was acutely aware of how close the pair had been to losing their legacy fight. Yet this episode, in fact, came after a prior collapse. Indeed, Fury-Usyk was made official in September, one month before Fury-Ngannou, but several months earlier, the bout was desperately close to coming to fruition. In spring, Usyk verbally agreed to Fury’s farcical demand of a 70-30 purse split in his favour, only for talks to end due to arguments over the rematch purse split. Fury’s team accused Usyk’s of pulling out of negotiations, placing the blame at their feet. Usyk’s side admitted to withdrawing, but blamed Fury’s outlandish demands. With the Saudis’ influence increasing as the year went on, they finally got Fury-Usyk over the line in September. The deal was done after the southpaw beat Dubois, and after Fury signed to box Ngannou. Turki Al-Sheikh, a key adviser in the Gulf state, played a vital role. So did the Saudis’ money. Five months later, when Fury suffered that fateful cut so close to the initial date of the fight, Al-Sheikh acted decisively. He revealed that either boxer would face a $10m penalty if they were to withdraw ahead of the new May date, and that Joshua had agreed to step in, in such a scenario. However, Joshua would only be paired with Fury, while Usyk – who had missed the birth of his daughter while training abroad – could choose his opponent if Fury were to pull out again. Now, though, we are surely too close for such a twist. Al-Sheikh is already planning Joshua’s next move: a September date at Wembley, against Wilder, Dubois, Zhilei Zhang or Filip Hrgovic. Any of those would be a fine match-up, and Joshua has had many of them in a career for which he has never received enough credit. Fury has felt his fair share of criticism over past opponents, while Usyk’s historic undisputed run at cruiserweight and daring move to heavyweight have earned him plenty of kudos – and rightfully so. Yet we are beyond all that now. For Fury and Usyk, there is no disputing the calibre of opponent on Saturday, or the significance of this bout. If all goes to plan in Riyadh, there will be no disputing the heavyweight champion, either. Fury vs Usyk will air live on DAZN worldwide, at a cost of £24.99 for new subscribers and £23.99 for existing customers. New subscribers will receive a free month’s subscription for the above cost. You can also purchase a DAZN subscription here, with plans starting at £9.99 a month. We may earn commission from this link, but we never allow this to influence our content. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.

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