Skill, Form and Intelligence – How Usyk Can Beat Fury

February 1, 2024
4 weeks

Oleksandr Usyk is aiming to write another historic chapter in his boxing career when he takes on Tyson Fury in a unified heavyweight title fight on February 17, 2024.

The Ukrainian already became the cruiserweight division’s first four-belt unified world champion, and he is one win away from emulating that piece of history in the heavyweight division.

When he climbs through the ropes in Riyadh, Usyk will be giving away plenty of advantages to Fury, especially in the size, weight, and reach departments.

But the WBA, WBO, and IBF champion will be bringing his own strengths into the fight, and if he can maximize those while exploiting Fury’s weaknesses, Usyk can leave Saudi Arabia with the WBC strap added to his collection.

Use His Full Array of Skills

It’s perhaps painstakingly obvious to expect an elite athlete in any sport to use their skills to lead them to victory, but in the case of Usyk and his hopes of defeating Fury, it’s a pressing point.

Boxing is known for its wide range of styles and Usyk is among the most skillful and stylish fighters at the top of the game. It’s genuinely difficult to see where the Ukrainian has any weaknesses. He has every shot in the book, lands punches from both hands with pinpoint accuracy, speed, and power, possesses phenomenal balance and footwork, and has genius levels of ring intelligence.

This allows Usyk and his team to formulate any number of gameplans, which he can then adapt and refine mid-fight where and when necessary. Against an opponent as tricky and skillful as Fury, Usyk will need to rely on his arsenal of physical and mental attributes to pick apart ‘The Gypsy King’, especially when the fight progresses to the later rounds.

Outsmart Fury

Tony Bellew, whom Usyk beat in a vicious eighth-round technical stoppage in 2018, offered fascinating insight from sharing a ring with the Ukrainian. Bellew was leading on all three judges’ scorecards after the first three rounds, but it was during this time that Usyk was, as Bellew put it, “downloading all the data in front of him”.

Once that data had been downloaded and Usyk knew where he could find the openings, he took control of the fight, eventually forcing the referee to step in, which Bellew said, saved his life.

That fight with Bellew follows a similar pattern throughout Usyk’s career. He never rushes his work during the early rounds and is content to fall behind on the scorecards, knowing full well that he’ll come on strong the longer the fight goes on. That demonstrates a fighter operator with complete clarity of thought.

Fury is also known to be an intelligent fighter, so the ‘Ring of Fire’ showdown could ultimately become a battle of wits. Yet, there are enough flaws in Fury for Usyk to exploit, even with the massive size and weight difference.

Rely on Recent Form

Like in any sport, recent form can count for a lot in boxing. It helps to garner confidence and self-belief – two vital psychological aspects for a fighter putting his life on the line.

Usyk will arrive in Riyadh following last August’s ninth-round stoppage win over a game Daniel Dubois and back-to-back wins over former two-time world champion Anthony Joshua. His first win over AJ in particular was a masterclass and if Usyk is able to replicate that performance against Fury then it will take something special to deny him victory.

By comparison, Fury is coming off an embarrassing split decision win over former UFC champion Francis Ngannou in the Cameroonian’s first ever professional boxing bout. It could have been a lot worse, but the Briton scraped his way to victory.

Before that, Fury secured successive wins against a past-his-prime Derek Chisora and a Dillian Whyte who frustratingly refused to engage. Then there was his trilogy win over Deontay Wilder, which was great entertainment, but Fury was well short of his best from the previous two fights. Sent to the canvas twice in the fourth round, Fury was close to losing his unbeaten record and showed great heart to recover and clinch the win.

There are also various reports that Fury is “getting turned over in sparring” during his training camp for the Usyk fight, according to former world champion and current analyst Johnny Nelson.

It’s also worth noting that Fury has been sent to the canvas seven times in his career – and not only by monsters like Wilder. He was dropped by cruiserweight Steve Cunningham on his US debut back in 2013 and by journeyman Neven Pajkic two years earlier. Then of course by novice Ngannou just four months ago.

Recent form certainly favors Usyk and he will look to capitalize on that against Fury in Saudi Arabia.