After seeing Oleksandr Usyk’s ninth-round win over Daniel Dubois on Saturday, Tyson Fury might be more inclined to agree terms for an undisputed world heavyweight title fight with the Ukrainian for early next year.
Usyk dominated Dubois, but his title challenger managed to land some punches in a brave attempt. Dubois’ team even insisted he should have won the fight in the fifth round.
With about 2:30 seconds to go in Round 5, Dubois threw a low right hand that left Usyk writhing in agony on the canvas. Referee Luis Pabon ruled it a low blow and allowed Usyk several minutes to recover before resuming the fight.
If it really was a legal blow, Usyk was finished by the shot. After the fight, Dubois insisted it was not low and was left complaining he had been robbed of victory.
But there is no arguing over who was the better boxer in Wroclaw, Poland, and Usyk went on to force a knockdown in the eighth round, before a brilliant straight right hand finished Dubois early in the ninth.
Yet there were moments in the fight that would have left Fury wondering about the former cruiserweight undisputed champion Usyk’s capacity to take heavyweight punches.
Also, Fury was surely encouraged to see how Dubois was able to land some punches in the sixth round, and the way Usyk, the WBO, WBA and IBF champion, seemed rattled by body punches.
WBC champion Fury is on a different level from Dubois, and the time for the two best heavyweights in boxing to meet has to be now. Between them they have beaten the former champions Deontay Wilder and Anthony Joshua, with no other serious threat on the horizon.
Fury’s profile has also never been so big following the recent release of the Netflix show “At Home With The Furys.” Usyk is a national hero, a figure of pride and hope for Ukraine, which is at war with Russia.
But the longer the first heavyweight fight for all four world titles is delayed, the less chance we will have of seeing all four belts on the line.
First, Fury is set to face former UFC heavyweight champion Francis Ngannou in a nontitle fight on Oct. 28. Then the fighters’ teams will try again to agree terms for a fight likely to be held in Saudi Arabia and to be the biggest bout boxing can offer in 2024.
Usyk and Fury, who are ranked at No. 3 and No. 6 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings, failed to agree terms on an undisputed title fight for earlier this year, over a dispute over a rematch.
Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic (16-0, 13 KOs) is another possible opponent for Usyk, but like Dubois he will not bring much threat. Hrgovic is the mandatory IBF challenger after he stopped Australia’s Demsey McKean in the last round earlier this month. Usyk might be persuaded to face Hrgovic next in a safe defense in order to hang on to his IBF belt.
That would push a clash with Fury back to the second half of 2024, unless Fury feels now is the perfect time to meet Usyk.