Skill, Intelligence, Form: How Oleksandr Usyk Beats Tyson Fury In Undisputed Title Fight

May 10, 2024
2 weeks
Oleksandr Usyk fights Tyson Fury on May 18

Oleksandr Usyk has the opportunity to create more history on an already historic night when he fights Tyson Fury in the first undisputed heavyweight title bout of the four-belt era.

Undefeated Usyk (21-0-0 14 KO) puts his unified WBA, WBO, and IBF world titles up against WBC champion Fury on May 18 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Victory will make the Ukrainian the first fighter in history to win all four world belts at both cruiserweight and heavyweight, and only the second after Evander Holyfield to become undisputed champion in both divisions (Holyfield achieved it in the three-belt era).

It will also see Usyk join Terence Crawford and Naoya Inoue as the only fighters to be undisputed in two weight classes.

The unified champion faces a tall order – literally – against the much bigger Fury. Usyk gives away every physical advantage to the British fighter, who will possess far greater height, reach, and weight when the pair square off in the ring.

So, if Fury’s conviction that a ‘good big man always beats a good little man’ turns out to be true, what does Usyk need to do to beat his much bigger opponent?

Usyk Will Need All His Intelligence

Usyk is renowned for being one of the most intelligent fighters in all of boxing. Tony Bellew – his last opponent at cruiserweight – revealed he could see Usyk “downloading all the data” in front of him during the early rounds of their bout in 2018.

Once that data had been downloaded, Usyk used it to expose Bellew and completed an eighth-round knockout – a stoppage so devastating that Bellew later said that if he had continued, the next punch could have killed him.

That genius level of intelligence has been displayed during his step up to heavyweight, too. Usyk completely bamboozled Anthony Joshua during their first fight when he became unified champion, and again when a much-improved AJ pushed the Ukrainian closer in the rematch.

Fury will be the most skilful heavyweight he has faced, but Usyk’s ability to formulate various game plans, and adapt mid-fight when necessary, will be a major factor if he is to win.

Will Fury Struggle Against Usyk’s Skill And Size?

Possessing such intelligence is only a strength if a fighter has the skill set to execute it – and Usyk certainly has the skill.

Balletic footwork allows the Ukrainian to dance and glide around the ring, creating angles for attacks and distance for defensive work. Usyk will need his movement to be on point to counter Fury’s brilliantly effective plan of using his weight to lean and spoil.

Razor-sharp punches with both hands ensure Usyk lands with acute accuracy, while he holds plenty of speed to fire off unanswered combos, and enough power – even at heavyweight – to unsettle his opponents.

Combine all of that with an unmatched ring intelligence and it’s a recipe for the complete fighter.

While much has been made of Fury’s vastly superior size advantage, there could be an argument that it works in Usyk’s favor. The British fighter has had his best performances against big, tall fighters – Wladimir Klitschko and Deontay Wilder – who he can fight at eye level.

Not that Fury’s struggled against smaller opponents, as his unbeaten record shows, but he has sometimes found it uncomfortable punching down while handling opponents who fight on the inside, which Usyk will do. The fact the Ukrainian is a southpaw adds further awkwardness for Fury.

If Usyk can use his smaller size and great speed to eliminate Fury’s size advantage, then he will have a great chance of having his arm raised in victory.

Does Recent Form Favor Usyk Or Fury?

The form guide certainly favors Usyk. The Ukrainian was, of course, consistently brilliant during his last few fights at elite cruiserweight level, and he’s made light work of his move up to heavyweight.

After adjustment fights against Chazz Witherspoon and Derek Chisora, Usyk was scintillating to beat Joshua in their unified title bout and was similarly excellent to retain the belts in their rematch.

Since then, he comfortably dispatched the dangerous Daniel Dubois in a ninth-round stoppage, despite some controversy over a low blow.

By comparison, there’s an argument that it’s been more than four years since Fury produced a peak-level performance with his sensational stoppage of Wilder in their first rematch in February 2020.

Fury did win their trilogy bout but it was a chaotic contest that saw both fighters hit the canvas. Laborious wins over an unambitious Dillian Whyte and veteran Chisora followed.

Then came his most recent fight; an utterly disastrous performance against Francis Ngannou. Competing in his first professional boxing bout, MMA star Ngannou floored Fury in the third round and took the WBC champion to a split decision.

Even in victory, Fury lost in many ways. He was slow, sluggish, and had no answer to Ngannou’s constant front-foot pressure. Granted, the Gypsy King clearly didn’t train for the fight, and he looks in much better shape now, but he will need to be at his very best to beat Usyk.

Can he conjure up the old magic? Because if he doesn’t, a prime Usyk will be ready to pounce.