Oleksandr Usyk expecting February date to face Tyson Fury in Saudi Arabia

Ukrainian champion training in Spain ahead of heavyweight unification bout

Tyson Fury, left, and Oleksandr Usyk face off after the heavyweight fight between Tyson Fury and Francis Ngannou at Boulevard Hall on October 28, 2023 in Riyadh. Getty Images
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Oleksandr Usyk is hoping his undisputed heavyweight world title fight with Tyson Fury can take place in Saudi Arabia in February once the Briton has recovered from a bruising 10 rounds with boxing novice Francis Ngannou.

Contracts were signed in September but a proposed December 23 date in Riyadh looks sure to slide since WBC champion Fury's near-defeat to former UFC champion Ngannou in a non-title bout on October 28.

Ukrainian Usyk holds the WBA, WBO, IBF and IBO belts and both he and Fury are unbeaten. Speaking to Reuters from his training camp in Valencia, Spain, Usyk said the date should be decided next week.

"It could be February and I would very much like it to be February," he said, through an interpreter. "I was ready to fight on the 23rd [December] but since Fury got some injuries in the last fight, a knockdown, then probably it will be postponed to next year."

The long-awaited on-off fight would crown the first undisputed champion since Lennox Lewis in 1999 and the first of the four-belt era, and Usyk made clear he would take the delay in his stride.

"I'll just do more technical work. Technically, nothing changes. I just have a little more time for some additional tasks, and that's it," he said.

"I don't think about Tyson Fury at all... I think about myself, about my team, about my family. I don't need to think about my opponent. I just need to be with him, fight and that's it."

Usyk spoke of friends fighting on the front line in the war with Russia, faith and the inspiration of his late father, and warned Fury he would be taking all of that into the ring with him.

"Everything I do today – my achievements, my victories, my efforts – are focused to honour my country and my family," he said.

Usyk fought Anthony Joshua in Jeddah in August last year, retaining his titles in a "Rage on the Red Sea" rematch of the fight in London in September 2021 where he took the Briton's belts, and he carried a nation's hopes with him that night too.

"The first person who was an example for me, and who I wanted to be like and copied his behaviour, was my late father who told me that I could do it," he said.

"When I stood in the circle of the great stars in Saudi Arabia, I looked at the sky and I thought 'I know that you see me where I stand, I know that you see where I am and what I do, and I am grateful to God and to you for motivating me and bringing me here'."

The example of Muhammad Ali, a boyhood hero, provides further inspiration as he seeks to follow in the footsteps of greats.

"A man who fought for what he believed in, fought for his rights, for his loved ones, for the rights of his people, for his faith. And everything he did it for the people, for the world," said Usyk.

The Ukrainian hoped also to play a bigger role in developing the sport.

Usyk has co-founded Ready to Fight, a digital social platform to connect boxers with coaches, managers, agents, sparring partners, sports medicine professionals, promoters, sponsors, and fans.

He said the idea came long ago when he had problems finding reliable sparring partners and adequate training facilities abroad.

"This platform gives far more opportunities for the athlete and a lot fewer opportunities for those that want to deceive them," said Usyk.

Tyson Fury v Francis Ngannou - in pictures

Updated: November 08, 2023, 1:58 PM